v Roman Glass St George (Uhlsport Hellenic League, Premier Div – 3 Nov 2021)




Tuffley Rovers’ season has seen a series of very promising performances punctuated by a similar number of disappointing outings, very much as case of contrasting fortunes, and their latest defeat, on a cold Wednesday evening at the Gloucestershire Football Association’s Almondsbury headquarters, proved to be something that could serve as a summary moment, representing the season to date, for the casual observer.

Rich Cox has overseen a conveyor belt of starting line-ups that has usually resulted in four, or more, changes between fixtures, often due to injuries, illness or absence. Against Roman Glass the side named continued that theme, with no fewer than six changes from the eleven who started against Westbury United the previous weekend, and there was further disruption when Jamal Lawrence pulled up in the warm-up, to be replaced by Aaron Basford, who had originally been one of those to lose their place from the weekend defeat.

If there were fears that Rovers might struggle against a Glass side who were placed one point and two places above them at the start of the evening, those were quickly dismissed, with Cox’ side taking control early on and forcing their opponents to defend resolutely in the early stages.

Such was the positivity of Rovers’ start it came as something of a surprise that the hosts’ keeper Kieran Hodges wasn’t forced into action, but the final ball was often flashed across the goal or lacked the quality that might otherwise have turned a healthy share of possession into goals.

As it was it took until the 12th minute for Rovers to lead, when Joe Shutt found enough space to hit a low shot that squirmed through Hodges’ hands and into the bottom corner of the net, to make it 1-0.

What followed for the next 20 minutes was a spell of pressure that was sustained and it seemed inevitable that Rovers would eventually create the chances needed to extend their lead. However, in keeping with some recent performances, some excellent football wasn’t converted into clear chances and Hodges wasn’t forced into any serious action, in part due to some solid defensive work from those in front of him.

It was something of a surprise then that Roman Glass equalised, shortly after the half hour mark, when Shaquille Smith worked enough space on the left-hand side of the Rovers penalty area to fire a powerfully struck shot, from a fairly tight angle, that flew past Jack Copland and into the net, to make it 1-1.

Three minutes later it was 2-1, as Louis Ward stepped out of the defence and when no-one closed him down he unleashed a stunning shot, from all of 35 yards, that flew beyond Copland’s despairing dive and into the net. It was a stunning strike that gave the hosts a lead that defied the pattern of the game but served as punishment for Rovers’ profligacy in attacking positions.

The early stages of the second period were played out in Rovers territory but there was little by way of significant goalmouth activity until the 58th minute, when Ward met a corner with a powerful header that drew a sensational full-length diving save from Copland to keep it at 2-1.

Sam Mendes then had the first real chance for Rovers in the second half as he latched onto Shutt’s floated cross but he was at a full stretch and Hodges dived at his feet to deflect the ball away from goal.

On 64 minutes the match turned again in favour of the hosts, as Neikell Plummer pounced on a loose ball, after Copland had blocked Jonathan Walker’s shot and he tucked the ball home from close range to make it 3-1.

Mendes had another effort on goal, this time a free-kick which drew a comfortable save from Hodges but it was a rare opportunity on goal, in a game where Rovers’ early ascendancy had long since been forgotten.

When Plummer scored his second goal, having danced his way through an almost absent Rovers rearguard, in the closing moments of the game, the outcome was sealed and am evening that had started so positively ended with a defeat that was arguably a fair reflection of a game that promised much but eventually delivered little.

There was time for Mendes to serve up an almost identical free-kick on Hodges’ goal, in the closing moments, but when the referee sounded the final whistle Rovers slipped to a third defeat in four competitive games, with just nine points taken from their last eight league games, despite some much improved form after a difficult start to the season.