v Westfields (Uhlsport Hellenic League, Premier Div – 12 Feb 2022)




Hereford club Westfields had been storming towards the 2019-20 Hellenic Premier Division title when the season was ended prematurely with them sitting thirteen points clear of Binfield in second place as well as having an enormous goal-difference of +57.

When the following season was also abandoned because of the pandemic The Fields had only played five league games but would probably still have mounted a decent challenge, partly because their home form was so strong.

In 2021-22 they had slipped slightly from the standards they had set two seasons earlier but still arrived in Gloucester in a comfortable mid-table position of eighth having been undefeated in 9 of their 14 away fixtures so far (6 wins and 3 draws). Their long unbeaten home run was actually ended by Rovers back in October but with League-leaders Bishops Cleeve being the only other team to win at allpay.park on Widemarsh Common since then it was clear that the Rovers, with ten home defeats behind them already, would need to put in a stellar performance to achieve a league double over their visitors from one of Gloucestershire’s neighbouring counties.

As it was, Westfields reversed the scoreline of the meeting between the two clubs in Hereford in October and condemned their hosts to an eleventh home league defeat of the season. That five of those eleven defeats have been by a single goal shows that the line which separates taking something from a game and nothing from a game is a very thin one. Having said that, this was not a match Rovers deserved to win. Their passing was often sloppy and they failed to create enough openings for their forward players. Indeed, had it not been for the agility and concentration of their goalkeeper, they would have lost by a bigger margin.

Rovers got the game under way by kicking towards the open end of the ground with Joel White replacing Jacob Geddes as captain, the latter having been named in Evesham United’s match-day squad for their home match against Highworth Town on the same afternoon.

Jack Copland had to be alert to grab the ball following an early Westfields free-kick and a few minutes later he bravely dived to take the ball off Jamie Bird’s feet as the forward closed in on goal. It wouldn’t be the only interaction between these two players in the first half. Down at the other end Rovers won two corners in quick succession on the left but couldn’t create anything from them.

With twelve minutes gone Joe Shutt had a shot which Matt Apperley saved and within seconds Westfields had turned defence into attack with a devastating break down the right-hand side. A long ball forward saw Harry Summers outpace Warren Mann and when the cross came in Josh Hunt dived forward to head the ball firmly into Tuffley’s net.

A few minutes after the goal Westfields won a free-kick on the right and several players confronted each other angrily with Liam Wright (for Rovers) and Hunt (for Westfields) each being shown a yellow card. Westfield’s Bird took the kick which Copland acrobatically tipped over his crossbar for a corner.

The visitors continued to search for a second goal. Harrison Iddles, the Fields’ best player on this cold and windy afternoon, fed Bird but the shot went high over the frame of the goal. Bird’s next effort was on target but Copland again leapt to prevent a goal at the expense of a corner-kick.

In the closing minutes of the first half Keanu Cooper went down injured in the Tuffley half but was able to continue after treatment. When Rovers won a corner on the right just before the interval, White jumped to meet Josh Aldridge’s flag-kick but could only head the ball wide of the goal. So Westfields went in at the interval one goal to the good.

Aldridge, Aaron Basford and Jack Beardsell combined well early in the second period but there was no end product, a familiar story to the hosts’ afternoon in front of goal which doesn’t only typify this match; only 17 goals scored in 17 home league games is clearly not good enough to be picking up points regularly.

Wright, already on a yellow card, appeared to catch Hunt on the head with his boot but survived appeals to the referee by some of the Westfields players that this was worthy of another card which would have ended the Tuffley defender’s afternoon. Rovers immediately took off Joe Shutt with Ashley Bird coming on to replace him.

With twenty minutes left Warren Mann was cautioned when Westfields won a free-kick on the right, but it was a visiting player who was next to incur the referee’s wrath with Bird being sent to the sin-bin for ten minutes for dissent. By the time he came back on, Copland at full stretch diving smartly to his left had denied Hunt a second goal.

Rovers brought on Liam Smith for Dominik Kent and Westfields used up valuable seconds by bringing on Ruslan Zakhardav as the clock ticked round to ninety minutes. Shortly after Mr. Butler’s whistle drew the proceedings to a close. The club from Hereford deserved their victory but Rovers will still be looking nervously over their shoulders wondering and maybe worrying just how many points they might be able to glean from their final six matches of the league season.