v Corsham Town (Uhlsport Hellenic League, Premier Division – 18 Dec 2021)




As one of several clubs moved into the Hellenic League from other Leagues in the summer (Corsham finished top of the Western League’s First Division in its truncated 2020-21 season), Town could be satisfied with their start to life in a different division having taken 42 points from 22 matches as the second half of the season moved forward into the busy Christmas & New Year period. A last-minute defeat at League-leaders Bishop’s Cleeve a week before returning to Gloucestershire to play Tuffley has been their only away defeat to date in the League, a run which has included commendable wins at Lydney and former-leaders Cribbs.

So the Quarrymen would arrive at Glevum Park in a confident mood, having already defeated Rovers 2-0 at their own Southbank ground in Wiltshire in the middle of August. But for the hosts it was a different situation altogether. Somehow a horrendous run of eight consecutive league defeats had to be ended or their season was in danger of collapsing into the most awful meltdown. Five of those defeats had come in home games in which their only goal had been put into his own net by an opponent. Only bottom-of-the-table Hallen had taken less home points than Rovers. Just six goals from eight home matches clearly told where Tuffley’s main deficiency lay as they prepared for this crucial fixture on the final Saturday before Christmas.

As it was, Corsham completed a League double over Tuffley and in so doing extended the Gloucester club’s alarming losing run into double figures. In truth Town’s victory was as comfortable as those achieved by most recent visitors to Glevum Park in the Hellenic League’s top division.

The Wiltshire club had conceded a very late goal to Bishops Cleeve seven days earlier. This time it was their turn to score a very early goal, as early as the second minute in fact. Rovers’ Dominik Kent lost possession of the ball a few yards outside his own penalty-area and Baldwin Igbinobaro capitalised on the error to move into the box and place a neat left-footed shot out of Jack Copland’s reach.

Losing the ball after gaining possession of it by Tuffley players was an unfortunate feature of the first half for the hosts. The normally reliable Jacob Geddes was the next to do this but without his error leading to a goal.

With six minutes gone a foul by Will Ramsey saw a free-kick being chipped into a dangerous area and a header thumped against Copland’s crossbar before being cleared. At this point Rovers had not made any incursions into the final third of the pitch. When Lewis Bainbridge was fouled on the left after ten minutes, the ensuing free-kick from Joe Shutt saw the first time that the ball had been inside Corsham’s penalty-area; although Tom Spencer reached the cross, he could only head the ball a couple of feet wide of visiting goalkeeper Rob Brown’s left-hand post.

A free-kick was awarded against Liam Wright for a push on Nathan Davis. Wright protested a bit too vociferously and received a stern talking-to from referee Craig Davenport, but Rovers’ left-back wasn’t so fortunate a few minutes later when he received a yellow card after fouling Brandon Mundy. Between those two incidents Town’s Sean Keet was sent to the sin-bin for dissent and Corsham were denied a second goal when Chris Allen’s free-kick from wide on the left went straight into the far corner but the assistant’s flag was up to indicate offside against one of the visiting forwards.

As the half-hour mark approached Shutt was fouled in a central position, and this resulted in Tuffley’s first serious shot at goal but Aaron Basford’s effort was high, wide and not very handsome.

The scorer of the opening goal then went down near the right corner-flag with what seemed to be an early case of cramp on a cold and cloudy afternoon.

Demilade Yussuf was the next Tuffley player to inexplicably lose possession of the ball and his carelessness resulted in a corner on the left for the visitors which Copland palmed over his own crossbar for another corner on the other side.

As the interval neared Shutt tried a very ambitious shot from way out on the right and immediately turned screaming with pain and clutching his left shoulder. After being treated on the pitch, it was clear that he would be unable to continue and he was immediately replaced by Lucas Price who became the first substitute of the afternoon.

In the final minute of the first half Tuffley’s afternoon went from bad to worse when Gary Higdon was bundled over by Geddes and Matt Morris blasted the spot-kick high past Copland’s right-hand side.

Town replaced Matt Swann with Ryan Bath at the start of the second half. Shortly after the resumption Nathan Davis was fouled by Yussuf to give Town a free-kick in a promising position on the left. Up to this point all Corsham’s free-kicks and corners had been taken by Chris Allen but Morris stepped up for this one and curled the ball narrowly over the crossbar with his right foot.

Mundy trotted off for the visitors and was replaced by Leigh Rogers. Jamie Cunning would later come on for early goalscorer Igbinobaro. Davis went down with what looked to be another case of cramp but was able to continue after receiving some treatment.

Tuffley were struggling to put attacking moves together but Lewis Bainbridge was a willing runner down the left until he was replaced by debutant Jurek Marszalek. Before he left the pitch Bainbridge had cut inside from the left-hand side and driven a shot wide. The same fate befell both Liam Wright and Tuffley’s final substitute, Jack Beardsell, but none of these efforts troubled Brown, who had a very quiet afternoon and did not have a direct save to make.

Leon Greenland became the second Corsham player to be sent to the sin-bin after showing dissent to the referee. His afternoon was therefore over as there were only three minutes left to play.

In the final minute Town were awarded a free-kick on the left. The ball was swung in by Chris Allen and seemed to be touched into his own net by a back-pedaling Copland. Whoever got the final touch was irrelevant really because it just put a bit of gloss on Town’s victory and condemned Tuffley to a sixth successive home defeat in the League with Corsham being the fourth side to score three goals at Glevum Park during that period.

Next up for Rovers are home local derbies against Longlevens and Brimscombe. Only an eternal optimist could see Rovers taking much from those matches based on this performance today. By contrast, Corsham are now in 6th place and just one point behind Malvern Town, Westfields and Brimscombe (2nd, 3rd and 4th, respectively).

Zero points from the last twenty-seven available is not a statistic to inspire much confidence in this Rovers team as Christmas beckons but how or when things are going to change for the better for them is impossible to predict with any confidence, a quality a lot of the Tuffley players seem to be lacking as a miserable November has evolved into an even more miserable December.