v Malvern Town (Uhlsport Hellenic League, Premier Div – 9 Nov 2021)




The Worcestershire club visiting Glevum Park was deservedly promoted into the Hellenic League’s top division after finishing first in both of the curtailed seasons of 2019-20 and 2020-21 and being a massive twelve points clear of the second-placed club when that second season ended. Furthermore, the Hillsiders have made a very solid start to life in a different League and arrived in Gloucester sitting comfortably in 4th place with ten wins, four draws and just two defeats from their sixteen league matches so far, one of which was a remarkable 3-3 draw with Tuffley in Malvern on the 5th of October from which Rovers somehow took a point after being 0-3 down at the interval.

This one went to form and there was never any likelihood of a repeat of the high-scoring draw in Malvern thirty-five days earlier.

Rovers were able to welcome back the calm assurance of Jacob Geddes in defence and the vast experience of Warren Mann, albeit in a different role to the one he has normally taken in the past. They also brought in Dan Greenhouse in goal to replace Jack Copland and the debutant was quickly involved having to race off his line in the opening minute to grab the ball from Town’s Joe Bates before facing a penalty-kick a minute later after Bates had been tripped by Archie Woodall. Matthew Turner, who worked tirelessly for Malvern all evening, drilled the spot-kick low past the goalkeeper’s right-hand side.

It couldn’t have been a worse start for the hosts, who were trying to repair the damage caused by three successive league defeats in which they only scored twice while conceding ten times.

Although Aaron Basford had a shot blocked in the 6th minute, most of the action was at the other end of the pitch and that pattern continued throughout the first half. Before ten minutes had passed, Bates had headed over Dave Reynolds’ free-kick from the right and soon Kyonn Evans was also off target after cutting in from the right to get a shot away.

All Rovers could offer in return was a crisp shot from the left by Basford which went into the side-netting and a tempting cross from Joshua Aldridge on the right which no home player could connect with. Bates then nearly increased Town’s lead with a blistering shot from 20 yards which brought a stupendous save from Woodhouse.

As the half-hour passed Malvern’s Curtis Smith received a yellow card but a second goal for the visitors wasn’t far away and, when it came, it was stunning. Reynolds controlled the ball about 25 yards out and hit a sublime shot with his left foot which flew over Greenhouse’s head and nestled in the top corner of the net.

Bates became the second Town player to receive a caution but it wasn’t long before Warren Mann received the same punishment and there was still time for Basford to receive a yellow card before the half-time whistle went with the visitors firmly in control.

Early in the second half Joe Shutt cleared the ball off his own goal-line after Reynolds and Bates had combined well to set up the opportunity, then a few minutes later Turner pushed the ball forward for Bates to run on to and calmly steer Malvern’s third goal past Greenhouse with his left foot.

Rovers brought on Sam Mendes for Basford and Dion Ellis-Clark for Aldridge. Malvern also made two changes as the match entered its final quarter, bringing on Louis Loader for Evans and James Febery for full-back Smith. Tuffley’s final change saw Dominik Kent come off with Demilade Yussuf replacing him. All these changes had little or no effect on the outcome because Malvern were firmly in control and had been even before the changes were made.

The longer a losing (or winning) run goes on, the closer it is to ending. The worry for Rovers is that they have made recent changes to the team and slight changes to the formation they use but this has had no bearing on recent results which have seen November start with three league defeats. The three clubs immediately below them are now too close for comfort and something has to change…and quickly.

For Malvern Town it is quite different. They have consolidated 4th place in the table and have a game in hand on League-leaders Bishops Cleeve and know that they can hit the top spot if they win that match in hand. Malvern were one of the favourites to become champions and this latest showing at Glevum Park showed exactly why. Things aren’t quite desperate for Tuffley yet but somehow this miserable run has got to end before their league position becomes a matter for real concern.