v Thornbury Town (Uhlsport Hellenic League, Premier Div – 6 Nov 2021)




For the fourth successive home league match Rovers would face an opponent moved into the Hellenic League’s Premier Division as a result of a big restructuring of non-League football in the summer.

The two clubs did meet on the opening day of the season in August when Jamal Lawrence’s late goal was only a consolation for Tuffley in a narrow 2-1 defeat. Thornbury, like some of the other newcomers to this division, have found it tough going at times, especially in away fixtures, but if there is a form pointer they did get an excellent draw a week before coming to Gloucester at the Hereford Lads Club, an opponent Rovers also played away quite recently with a very different outcome. Rovers’ main concern would be playing well enough to not suffer a third league defeat in the last seven days.

With both teams losing in midweek it was inevitable that one would be happier whatever the result was in this match; and it was the visitors who left the field with smiling faces after a 3-1 victory on a cold and windy afternoon which was as every bit as comfortable as the score-line suggests.

Rovers named Dominik Kent as captain in the absence of Jacob Geddes. Although Dom might well become a regular skipper in the future, it became clear during the afternoon that Tuffley missed Jacob’s leadership as well as his defensive and organisational qualities.

It was Rovers who made the more confident start with Sam Mendes and Liam Wright having shots saved in the opening minutes as well as Brennan Denness-Bassett blazing an early effort over the crossbar. Thornbury did not have a significant effort on goal until the 10th minute when Luke Franklin’s effort comfortably cleared the crossbar at the dressing-rooms end of the ground.

Rovers were forced to make an early change when Liam Wright went down in a heap after 15 minutes near his own penalty-area and was unable to continue after treatment so was immediately substituted by Jack Beardsell.

Town won several corners in the first half and from one of them Toby Bennett’s flag-kick from the right sailed past the far post where Tom Bradley was waiting to plant a firm header, possibly slightly deflected, past Jack Copland in the home goal. Only two minutes later Bradley connected with another right-wing corner but could only head the ball up in the air, after which it was cleared.

Rovers’ cause was not helped when Aaron Basford raced towards the right corner chasing a loose ball and one of his boots connected with a Thornbury defender. After several players confronted each other referee Roger Smith took Basford to one side and pulled a red card out of his pocket before showing it to the Tuffley forward, who walked disconsolately towards the changing-rooms as play resumed. The Thornbury defender who had been so angry received a yellow card. It did look like an unnecessarily reckless challenge so the official probably took the right action but it left Rovers not only chasing the game but chasing it a man down with more than half the match still to play.

Pressure from Thornbury increased as they sensed the opportunity to make their numerical advantage count as half-time approached. Sure enough a second goal did come before the half-time whistle blew; Craig Lancastle worked hard to cross the ball from the right but it was slightly over-hit; Brandon Benjamin retrieved the ball and when his shot was pushed out by Copland Jacob Farthing was there to prod the loose ball into an unguarded net.

With less than ten minutes of the second period played Thornbury were out of sight when Farthing burst into Tuffley’s penalty-area to drive the ball firmly past Copland. Rovers brought on Harry Morgan for Sam Mendes and, a bit later, Lucas Price for Lewis Bainbridge but the white shirts of the visitors continued to look dangerous and they had a fourth goal disallowed for a marginal offside.

For the second Saturday in a row a Tuffley player went down injured with all three substitutions having already been made. A week ago it had been Archie Woodall; today it was Laurie McNally who had to play on.

As time ran out there was suddenly a flurry of attacking activity from the hosts. Denness-Barrett was fouled as he made his way into the Thornbury box from the right. Town’s Ollie Rawnsley needed treatment for a facial injury before the free-kick could be taken. The kick was half-cleared to Woodall, who improvised brilliantly with a cheeky back-heel which was going wide until the scorer of Town’s opening goal, Bradley, unluckily deflected the ball into his own net.

A minute later Rovers won a free-kick in a central position on the edge of Thornbury’s box but the kick only led to a corner not a serious goalscoring opportunity. For Rovers this late attacking intent was, sadly, too little too late.

So a league double over Rovers for Thornbury, who are now in 17th place only two points behind the Gloucester club. Rovers have followed a home win with two home defeats and with two more home fixtures coming up in quick succession it is vital that they kick the losing habit as quickly as possible to avoid being dragged into the uncomfortable territory below them.