v Westfields (Uhlsport Hellenic League, Premier Div – 26 Oct 2021)




In stark contrast to their last trip to Hereford, Tuffley Rovers produced a display full of resilience, tenacity and opportunism to record a memorable win away at Westfields; a side who hadn’t previously lost a home Hellenic League side since joining the competition at the start of the 2019/20 season.

After a below par performance in their FA Vase defeat against Street FC on Saturday, Rovers made several changes to the starting line-up, with Archie Woodall, Joel White, Josh Aldridge, Jamal Lawrence and Brennan Denness-Barrett all available again. Jacob Geddes captained the team again on his 18th birthday.

Josh Hunt had an early chance for Westfields, who started the game very much on the front foot, but it was deflected wide. On 12 minutes Matt McDonald hit the target but Rovers’ young keeper Jack Copland made a comfortable but important save to keep the scores level.

It wasn’t a case of one-way traffic and Rich Cox’s side carried a counter-attacking threat, with Joe Shutt prominent. In the 17th minute his cross just eluded Denness-Barrett and Aaron Basford was unable to turn the ball home from an acute angle.

Clear chances were few and far between, although Hunt, McDonald and Joe Davies all going close for the hosts, whilst Denness-Barrett had a half chance for the visitors before the game arrived at the half hour mark.

Copland has been an increasingly important figure in the young Rovers team and was tidy throughout. Minutes before the interval he showed his value to Cox’s side as he dived at the feet of hunt, who found himself through on goal but was forced wide by the keeper’s alertness, before scrambling back to his feet to save the second effort from the same player.

That proved to be the best chance of the half and the teams went in with the score 0-0.

The second period was a different affair, with Westfields dominating possession and holding a territorial advantage. Copland denied Daniel Stoneman after he found space for a shot, before the same Westfields played combined with McDonald, before the latter drew another save from the Rovers goalkeeper.

Rovers’ veteran Warren Mann was then booked for a crude challenge on Stoneman and was perhaps lucky to stay on the pitch after a second foul moments later, but the match official, Mr McMahon, had been consistent in his efforts to encourage a competitive affair and the full-back stayed on the field. Shortly after he was replaced by Liam Wright.

What followed was something akin to a siege on the Rovers goal, with Richard Greaves twice heading over, before Hunt and substitute Cawley Cox were both denied by last ditch defending.

The action seemed to be a lengthy prelude to a win for the hosts, but the game was to take a decisive twist on 85 minutes, as Cox’s side produced the decisive moment in the game.

After successfully defending a succession of set-pieces, Rovers broke once again and although their previous attempts to breach the hosts’ defence had been fruitless, Jamal Lawrence latched onto substitute Sam Mendes’ through ball, used all his experience to hold off a challenge, creating a yard of space, and then hammering a rising shot beyond Havard and into the roof of the Westfields net from a difficult angle but with all the aplomb of a player whose quality is so obvious when he appears in a Rovers shirt. As he wheeled away in delight he disappeared from view as his teammates formed a mass of bodies, with Lawrence at the base of the pile, in a moment of wild celebrations.

In the remaining moments Rovers defended stoutly, with Geddes, Woodall and White superb and ably supported by Copland behind them, as they saw off a series of attacks from the hosts, who sought to recover a point when all three might have seemed destined to stay at the All.Pay Park.

Hunt and Stoneman had late half-chances to drag Westfields back into the game but a side who had lost 9-1 when they last visited Hereford, in a trip to the hosts’ near neighbours Lads Club on 9 October, showed an improved resilience and 8 points from a possible twelve since that mauling.

After what felt like an eternity, Mr McMahon sounded a whistle that ended the tie, helped move Rovers up to 13th in the Hellenic League table and meant that the squad have already accumulated 19 points from 14 games this season. Their hosts, meanwhile, dropped one place in the league and will next travel to Corsham Town at the weekend, before hosting league leaders Cribbs FC in a week’s time.