v Hereford Lads Club (Uhlsport Hellenic League, Premier Division – 29 Jan 2022)




The Gloucester club’s hopes of moving away from serious trouble at the wrong end of the table had been boosted by taking four points out of six from Shrivenham and Bishops Cleeve in their previous two home league fixtures, but the Lads Club arrived in Tuffley with fourteen more points than their hosts from the same number of matches. Added to this, the Hereford club had the memory of inflicting Rovers’ worst defeat of the season by winning 9-1 at their own ground back in October.

The visitors had adapted well to life in the Hellenic League’s top division but, interestingly, had yet to draw an away game having five wins and eight defeats from their thirteen matches on the road so far. Rovers had lost nine out of fourteen at their Glevum Park home and could not really afford to let the number of home defeats reach double figures because they knew that they could still be caught by the division’s bottom two clubs, Calne Town and Hallen.

Rovers avenged the calamitous afternoon they had endured at Hereford in October but on a cold and blustery afternoon in Gloucester there was never any chance of a repeat of the goal-fest of the Autumn. Tuffley won only their 4th home league match of the season but it was enough to lift them into 16th place above the Towns of both Lydney and Chipping Sodbury. By contrast, the Hereford Lads continued their odd statistic of not having drawn an away match in the League this season, this being their ninth away defeat to go with their five victories.

The hosts kicked off playing towards the open end and that seemed to be a good tactic because home goalkeeper Jack Copland was able to get enormous distance on his goal-kicks and clearances. So, most of the early action was in the Hereford half and this included a yellow card for a Hereford defender for a horrible lunge on Harvey Greenslade as Rovers’ number nine made progress down the left channel. When Sammie Hicks drove the resulting free-kick into a dangerous area visiting ‘keeper Steve Bell had to be alert to palm the ball out of danger.

Near the quarter-hour mark referee Simeon Stoodley fell over near the centre-circle with no player near him and really ought to have had a word with himself about ‘simulation’! Ten minutes later James Cuthbertson and Henry Dyde exchanged passes as they attacked Rovers’ right-hand side and this resulted in a close-range header by Tom Dawson which Copland grabbed confidently.

With 25 minutes gone Luke Wright cut in from the right and tried a left-footed shot which saw Bell scramble across his goal-line to clutch the ball by a post. Despite these moments, chances at both ends were few and far between in an opening half which could be described as uncompromising. With half-time approaching the Lads won a free-kick on the left and when Adam Newbury swung the ball across to the far post Copland tipped it away for Hereford’s first corner of the match. Dyde’s corner was blocked only for Levi Ellis to blast the loose ball high over the crossbar.

Whatever was said by both coaches during the interval made an immediate difference. Joshua Aldridge replaced Sammie Hicks at the start of the second half and, just as in the first half, Rovers had the better of the early exchanges. There was certainly more bite in the tackling and Ashley Davies was carded for fouling Ellis.

Finally, the breakthrough came in the 56th minute. Rovers won a corner on the left which Aldridge swung over to the far post and when the ball was headed back across goal by Joel White, Tuffley skipper Jacob Geddes had a simple downward header from close in to give his team the lead. This was quickly followed by a Davies shot which went wide before Hereford brought on Glenn Segust for Will Loughman.

It is said that a team is never more vulnerable than when it has just scored. To confirm that, the Lads drew level with a sensational goal as Olly Price cut in from the left and hit a screamer into the far corner.

A few weeks ago some Rovers’ heads might have dropped at conceding a goal like that but not now. As the second half reached its midway point, a clear foul in the box by the visiting goalkeeper on Ashley Bird saw a penalty awarded, for which Warren Mann took responsibility and he blasted the spot-kick fiercely to Bell’s right with the goalkeeper diving the other way.

Hereford brought on Florian Stanescu for Ellis and Rovers responded by replacing Bird with Basford and, in the closing minutes, Kent with Smith.

A home win was sealed when a low shot from Greenslade was parried away by a falling Bell and Shutt, following up, had an easy tap-in to give Rovers a two-goal cushion which they held on to fairly comfortably as the clock ticked down the final minutes.

Rovers thought they had made it 4-1 but Dominik Kent’s tap-in was disallowed for a foul on Bell by Ashley Davies as Joe Shutt’s crisp cross came in from the left touchline.

As the final whistle blew you could hear the screams of delight from the home players. They knew how important these points were. The Lads from Hereford were a big and strong team all over the pitch and although the first half was not pretty, and even they lost a lot of battles in the second half, Rovers’ neat passing and good positional play was a far cry from that shown during the dreadful eight-match losing run at home between the end of October and the middle of January.