v Malmesbury Victoria (Buildbase FA Vase, First Qualifying Round, 11 Sept 2021)




After exiting the FA Vase at the first stage in the four previous seasons, Tuffley Rovers finally won an FA Vase tie, albeit having made incredibly hard work of their 4-2 victory over Hellenic League, Division One opponents Malmesbury Victoria.

Shorn of their three Cheltenham Town work experience signings for the FA Vase tie, Rovers made several changes to the starting line-up as Warren Mann, Harry Walker, Sam Mendes, Liam Smith, Lucas Price and Dion Ellis-Clark all started in six changes to the line-up that had won at Calne Town 72 hours earlier.

The much changed line-up didn’t seem to affect Rovers, who made a blistering start to the game and lead as early as the 8th minute, when Harry Morgan advanced with the ball before unleashing a beautifully struck effort from 25 yards that sailed past the despairing dive of Archie Walsh, before striking the frame of the Malmesbury goal and rebounding into the net.

Rovers were on the front foot and there appeared to be a gulf in class, so it was no surprise when the lead was extended on 21 minutes. Wonderful hold-up play from Aaron Basford was followed by a pivot one way then the other, before he delivered a dipping cross into the Malmesbury Victoria area which Walsh could only tamely punch away, straight into the path of the returning Price, who buried the ball with a crisply shut first time shot.

At that stage the tie only looked to be going one way but Rovers have developed a nasty habit of giving away soft goals and when one of their attacks broke down the speed of the hosts’ counter-attack caught them out and Alfie Presley produced a composed finish to make it 2-1 after 27 minutes.

Just three minutes later it appeared that the game might have been restored to normal order, as Morgan collected a loose ball from Mann’s corner and turned to fire home beyond Walsh and make it 3-1. The joy was relatively short-lived, though, as just four minutes later another pacy break ended with another goal, with Harrison Archer netting on this occasion, to make it 3-2.

Price and Morgan then had half-chances as the first period drew to a close but neither could convert and it remained 3-2 at the interval.

Unlike the first 45 minutes, which had been full of chances, the second half turned into a far more sober affair, with both sides perhaps wary of the threat posed by conceding the next goal, and it looked like the game would end without a further score, save for one good stop from Jack Copland, albeit from a chance that was ultimately adjudged to have come in an offside position.

As it was, it took until almost the final moments of the game before further incident and as Malmesbury pushed for a late equaliser Walsh came forward for a corner kick and when the ball was half-cleared, Lewis Bainbridge beat the Malmesbury keeper to the loose ball, before evading his attempt to pull him back and then racing upfield towards the empty net and tapping the ball across the line to make it 4-2; a scoreline that was deserved but might have been far more comfortable for the visiting team, although Rich Cox was undoubtedly happy simply to record his first ever win in the competition and set-up a tie against Wessex League side Fleet Spurs in the next round.