v Street (Buildbase FA Vase, First Round – 23 Oct 2021)




Tuffley Rovers’ hopes of matching their best ever run in the FA Vase competition came crashing to an abrupt end, as they missed out on a place in the Second Round Proper, for only the third time in their history, as an inconsistent performance against Somerset side Street saw them eliminated via a 4-1 scoreline.

Having come into the game off the back of an important 3-2 Hellenic League victory over Chipping Sodbury Town in the week and on a run of only two defeats in their previous twelve competitive fixtures, confidence was high in the Rovers camp, although manager Rich Cox was deprived of several players, including the in-form Joshua Aldridge and Joel White, top scorer Brennan Denness-Barrett and Jamal Lawrence, who had been in excellent form during the victory over Chipping Sodbury. In all, five changes saw Warren Mann, Liam Smith, Liam Wright, Laurie McNally and Sam Mendes return to the starting line-up against a Street side who had been playing Southern League football until 2018/19.

The visitors had won 6-4 against Bovey Tracey in the previous round of the competition and on that occasion their striker Harry Foster had scored a hat-trick. In the early stages of this tie he was a pivotal figure once again, using his physical strength to good effect, unsettling the Rovers defence and creating opportunities for others, although he was perhaps lucky to escape sanction in the early moments of the game, with his challenge on Rovers’ keeper Jack Copland, who came to collect a high ball 12 yards out, unnecessarily late, with Rovers’ Mendes and fellow midfielder Dom Kent taking issue with the Street captain.

Rovers young squad were perhaps unsettled by this physical approach and struggled to get a foothold in the game during the early stages. Once they did settle their possession based game worked to good effect, allowing them opportunities to hold a healthy share of possession, but without penetrating the visiting defence, whose keeper Liam Norris was rarely involved in the early action.

Copland, by contrast, was called into action on a couple of occasions, diving full length and bravely at the feet of Jordan Lovibond to deny him a goal, before pushing a Skiverton effort away from goal shortly afterwards.

As it appeared Rovers were becoming more comfortable and might assert a little control, the game took a decisive turn, with Street netting twice in the final seven minutes of the half.

First, Anele Ncube rose highest to head the ball down and into the Rovers goal from five yards out, giving the visitors the advantage on 37 minutes. Then, just three minutes later, Copland saved a shot after Rovers failed to clear, only to see Foster follow up and bury the ball into the Rovers net from close range, making it 2-0.

The interval saw Liam Wright withdraw, having missed the previous two games through illness, and replaced by Xander Jones, albeit a few minutes delay, with the Rovers replacement not ready to enter the fray at the start of the half.

Once Jones had finally joined the action he looked in good shape and for a few moments Rovers looked like a side who might get themselves back into the tie. As it was, Street then became the more dominant side and Rovers were forced into some occasionally desperate defending to keep the arrears at two goals.

As it was, the next goal came on 65 minutes, as a clever pass from Sam Mendes put Aaron Basford through on goal and although Norris saved the first effort, the former Evesham United man didn’t waste the rebound, firing it powerfully into the net to make it 2-1 and all to play for.

For eight minutes the tie looked in the balance but it was to turn emphatically in Street’s favour when Lovibond unleashed a rocket from 35 yards that flew past Copland and high into the Rovers net on 73 minutes. At 3-1 the tie looked over.

It was all but over on 78 minutes when Kyle Strange capitalised on some poor defending to race clear and roll the ball under the advancing Copland to make it 4-1, a score that ensured, when the 90 minute mark arrived, Rovers were left to rue a missed opportunity and Street advanced to the next round of the competition.