v Hereford Lads Club (Uhlsport Hellenic League, Premier Div – 9 Oct 2021)




Tuffley Rovers’ trip to Hereford Lads Club should have been an opportunity to extend a run of positive form that had only been punctuated by a lame defeat away at Brimscombe & Thrupp three weeks previous, but instead turned into a historically disastrous and humiliating defeat that made this Saturday seem like a case of “after the Lord Mayor’s show”, following the point earned at Malvern Town in midweek.

With forwards Yeshaya Lomotey and Jamal Lawrence both unavailable following the spectacular midweek trip to the HDAnywhere Stadium, manager Rich Cox was forced into changing his line-up but he opted to make further changes by recalling Tristan Haswell, Lucas Price, Brennan Denness-Barrett and Aaron Basford to the starting line-up, with Liam Wright, Liam Smith and Billy Romais all relegated to the substitutes’ bench as part of a tactical change.

What followed was an opening twenty minutes that Cox will want to forget and that became the pre-cursor to a humiliating defeat that the Rovers manager will never want to see repeated. Adam Newbury almost opened the scoring within two minutes, but his dipping volley went narrowly wide of Adam Clark’s goal, but it wasn’t long before the hosts had the lead, as Adam Hockey latched onto Levi Ellis’ quick throw and produced a terrific low shot that went beyond Clark and into the bottom corner of the Rovers net.

After 10 minutes it was 2-0, as full-back James Hancocks advanced out of defence, played a one-two with Hockey and then curled a superb finish beyond Clark and into the roof of the net.

Clark them made a save to keep out an effort from Ellis and it momentarily looked like Rovers had re-gathered their composure when a smart attack ended with Joe Shutt hitting a well-struck shot that beat Steve Bell in the Lads’ goal but cannoned away off the crossbar.

That was but a brief respite, as minutes later it was 3-0 when Hockey broke free again, before crossing low into the path of Ellis, who bundled the ball home from close range.

Hockey was causing Rovers’ defence all sorts of problems and both Ellis and Cam Peters had chances to extend the hosts’ lead after the wide man had created space for himself again.

Rovers then looked to have found a way back into the game, with Josh Aldridge and Shutt combining to put Denness-Barrett clear and the young forward slotted the ball under Bell’s dive and into the corner of the net to make it 3-1.

Shortly after, Kalum Wildig had to be withdrawn for Lads Club, following injury and replaced by Kiea Cowley, and although Newbury had another chance that Clark saved, Rovers looked to be building some momentum in the hope of mounting another famous comeback.

Five minutes before the interval those hopes were raised when Dom Kent burst through the defence and was pulled down Dawson, giving Basford the chance to make it 3-2 but his penalty was far too close to Bell, who dived low to his left to push the ball away from the net.

What followed was a calamitous moment for the visitors, when the ball was played back to Clark who miscued his kick straight to Peters and although Woodall and Jacob Geddes both made desperate attempts to stop Peters scoring, the ball eventually fell to substitute Cowley, who smashed the ball home from close range.

If Cox had hoped that the half-time interval would bring an opportunity to rectify what had been a disappointing afternoon’s work, to date, what followed after the break was hardly believable.

After Jordan Burke had given Hockey the chance to earn another assist that saw Cowley make it 5-1, on 49 minutes, then Hockey again turned provider moments later, with Peters the beneficiary this time, turning the ball home from close range to make it 6-1.

On 55 minutes Rovers almost reduced the arrears, as Denness-Barrett became the second player to strike the frame of the goal, but it was a ray of hope that was quickly extinguished as Cowley latched onto more good work from Hockey to make it 7-1, and complete his hat-trick in the process, after 62 minutes.

Hockey then claimed yet another assist, as he set up Peters to make it 8-1 on 66 minutes and Rovers were probably relieved to see his superb performance end a few minutes later, when he was replaced by Sam Pearson, although the substitute almost immediately produced a rasping drive that went only marginally wide of the goal.

Such was his influence, it appeared that Hockey’s withdrawal made the game a more even affair and Rovers had half-chances but as injury time started Ellis, who had started the move for the first goal of the afternoon, found himself on the end of a chance which he tucked away to make it 9-1 on an afternoon to forget for Cox and his charges.