v Fairford Town (Uhlsport Hellenic League, Premier Div – 30 Nov 2021)




Fairford’s wins over Lydney and Hallen, ten and six days earlier, had moved them first above then five points clear of the Gloucester club. The worry for Tuffley Rovers was that if their own miserable run of form continued other clubs might also leapfrog them in the table. Apart from winning at Lydney, this Town had also picked up three points at Thornbury and Chipping Sodbury, in addition to getting a valuable point at both Malvern and Westbury. So, Rovers’ home record, with just two victories from seven matches, looked as if it would again come under considerable pressure.

This was not a match for the purist. Tuffley suffered an eighth consecutive defeat while Fairford continued their recent good form with a 1-0 victory thanks to a second-half strike from Connor Jakeways. This result leaves Rovers looking nervously over their shoulders at the three clubs immediately below them, one of whom they play in their next fixture. Town’s three league victories in eleven days move them up into 12th place in what is quite a congested middle third of the Hellenic Premier Division table.

Rovers have only scored in three of their last seven league matches and one of those was an own goal. That they failed to give visiting goalkeeper Sam Ayres a busier evening is indicative of their recent difficulties. Although the team often looks solid defensively, they just aren’t creating enough chances at the other end of the pitch.

Yet, despite the way the evening panned out, the early signs were promising for the hosts with an immediate attacking intent; Liam Wright went on a strong run down the left in the opening minute and a minute later the debutant full-back on the other flank, Will Ramsey, did much the same in exchanging passes with Brennan Denness-Barrett before firing in a cross which was cleared.

George Peare and Ross Langworthy were prominent for the visitors in the early stages with both having shots which cleared the crossbar, before another Langworthy shot was comfortably claimed by Jack Copland. Giving the ball away cheaply nearly proved to be Rovers’ undoing but Langworthy could only drag his shot wide of Copland’s left-hand post after running down the left channel towards goal.

Neither goalkeeper had been seriously tested in a somewhat tame first played played in chilly and windy conditions, with persistent rather than heavy rain driving across the pitch from south to north.

With ten minutes of the second period gone Aaron Basford finally forced Ayres into some action with a low shot which the goalkeeper pushed away for a corner. Only a minute later Fairford took the lead when Jakeways steered a cross from the right away from Copland’s right-hand side and into the bottom corner of the net.

Immediately after the goal Archie Brennnan was cautioned for a foul on Dominik Kent, at which point Rovers brought on Scott Jordan for the industrious Demilade Yussuf, who again had a useful outing in the first team. Jordan had only been on the pitch for three minutes when he collided with the Fairford goalkeeper. It seemed accidental but the Tuffley man was given a yellow card anyway by referee Joe Kidd.

With former Fairford Town man Jack Beardsell coming on for Joe Shutt, to give Rovers another option in attack, his former club responded by bringing on Ian Herring for Jamie Reid and Dan Bailey for Tom Golledge. An injury to Town’s right-back Callum Preece, who had had a good match, saw Biag Mazzotta come on for the closing minutes.

As the match entered added time Fairford substitute Herring became the third player to be cautioned by the referee and although it wasn’t clear exactly what had happened Tuffley’s Wright appeared to suffer the same fate.

Despite some late huffing and puffing from the hosts, Town held on to their lead fairly comfortably because Rovers continued to find it difficult to create any serious chances and this has now become a major cause for concern because although their midfield players worked hard they just weren’t giving enough service to their forwards. Fairford, by contrast, have had three good wins in the closing days of November without conceding a single goal and they can now look forward to a December schedule which gives them home fixtures on the first three Saturdays of that month and the opportunity to continue their climb up the table.

For Rovers there is the increasing concern of where their next point is coming from but, when that happens, there is no reason why they can’t go on a decent run of their own because their squad certainly contains players with enough quality and ability to do just that.