v Cribbs FC (Uhlsport Hellenic League, Premier Div – 26 Feb 2022)




Cribbs FC was one of five clubs transferred to the Hellenic League’s Premier Division after playing in the truncated 2020-21 season in the Western League’s top division. Their record when that season was cut short was seven wins and two draws from twelve matches, an identical record to the team Tuffley Rovers had played just seven days earlier, Westbury United. Only Bradford Town from this formerly Western League quintet had a better record than Cribbs when the latter arrived in Gloucestershire for what would be Rovers’ penultimate home league match of the season.

The club based in the Bristol suburb of Henbury had made an impressive start to life in the Hellenic because only Westbury, Corsham, Malvern, Bradford and League-leaders Bishops Cleeve had gathered more away points than Cribbs, whose nine victories on the road included a 5-4 success at Malvern and a 5-0 win at Shrivenham as well as a 4-3 loss at Cleeve, against whom they had also scored three times in their home fixture.

So Cribbs, one-time league-leaders themselves early in the season, arrived at Glevum Park in good form having only failed to score in three of their thirty-three league matches so far and, ominously for Rovers, those blanks had all come in home fixtures. Only the division’s Top Two had scored more times than Cribbs; only Calne had scored fewer goals than Tuffley.

As it was, a late, deflected goal cruelly deprived Rovers of a point which they would have richly deserved for a defiant and disciplined defensive display against in-form Cribbs, whose narrow victory kept them in touch with the clubs who will contest the end-of-season play-offs.

The sun was shining weakly on a chilly afternoon in Gloucester as visitors Cribbs got the match under way kicking up the slope towards the end of the ground where the dressing-rooms are situated.

It was the hosts who nearly took an early lead after Aaron Basford had been fouled on the left. Sammie Hicks took the resulting free-kick which was fumbled by Aaron Greatbanks in the visitors’ goal and he was fortunate that no Tuffley forward was following up to pounce on the rebound.

When Cribbs had their first serious attack down the right Steve Murray passed to George Kellow whose shot was saved at the expense of a corner.

Tuffley’s Dominik Kent was injured midway inside the Cribbs half but was able to continue after receiving treatment on the pitch.

The wind was making it difficult for both teams to pass the ball accurately but despite this disadvantage Harri John and Ashley Bird combined to set Joe Shutt free on the right. Shutt retained the ball for several seconds before dancing past a defender and getting a cross in but Hicks, finding space beyond the far post, was unable to get a clean shot away.

The play was becoming rather scrappy until the closing moments of the first period when Kellow found himself running clear on goal and rounded Jack Copland in the home goal only to then inexplicably miss the target completely with the goal gaping in front of him. Then when Tuffley won another free-kick on the left, again taken by Hicks, Greatbanks punched the ball away to safety.

In the second half referee Nat Wormleighton’s yellow card seemed to spend more time being waved in the air than in his pocket. Josh Bennett was cautioned for bringing down Kent with an over-zealous challenge before Jack Beardsell received the same punishment for the latest of a number of fouls he had committed. Not long after this incident Ryan Cainey was also booked for a foul on Bird. The same fate befell Shutt for fouling Nick Jones and his team-mate Warren Mann would also be later cautioned for foul play.

Cribbs brought on Charlie Dashfield and Bevan Cross and would also bring on Javier Biazquez for Bennett. Rovers’ response was to send on Tomos Shyamapant who had been scoring goals for fun in their Under-18 team but who was unable to make much of a contribution to this match because the visiting defenders were so hard to get the better of.

The pressure from Cribbs was growing with Rovers only making occasional forays into their half of the field. Copland made a stupendous save from an overhead kick by Steve Murray which looked as if it was going to break the deadlock until the young goalkeeper flew to his right to turn the ball away for a corner.

The breakthrough came inside the final five minutes. Cribbs’ captain Jake Hodgson tried a speculative shot from the left-hand side of Tuffley’s penalty-area and the ball was deflected up and over a goalkeeper whose handling had been faultless all afternoon; he had no chance to reach the ball after it had ricocheted up and out of his reach.

Immediately after the goal Shutt dragged a left-footed shot wide and Rovers then won a series of corners without being able to make any of them count.

Despite a number of bookings this wasn’t a match which got out of the referee’s control. Both teams needed the points for quite different reasons. Cribbs have now scored in eighteen successive away league matches this season but Tuffley can feel aggrieved that the gutsy way they kept Cribbs out for so long was not rewarded with at least a point, the point which would have virtually guaranteed their safety.