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April 20

uhlsport football kitPremier Division 

Flackwell Heath 2 Tuffley Rovers (away view)
After local rivals Longlevens’ win over Reading City on Good Friday, Tuffley Rovers place in the 2019/20 Hellenic League Premier Division was secured, which was probably welcome news for manager Mark Pritchett, as he took a depleted squad to Buckinghamshire for his side’s last away game of the season. With Paul Carter suspended, Warren Mann injured and a plethora of other players – including Macaulay Herbert, Jake Rhodes and Rhys Davies – unavailable, Pritchett was dealt a significant blow with the non-availability of two other players.

Regular keeper Luke Merchant had picked up an injury against Shrivenham seven days earlier, and although he travelled to Flackwell, he was unfit. Current second choice, Dan Brabham, who has been the club’s reserve team keeper since January, was not available to make his debut, which left Pritchett without a keeper to select. The consequence was that Rovers’ manager donned the gloves, not for the first time during his three-year tenure, whilst centre-back Shay Lyons was handed a first start in the Hellenic League, after one previous substitute appearance. Sam Hill, Adam Bloomfield, Dominik Kent and Brett James were all restored to the starting line-up in the other changes following the defeat at home to Shrivenham seven days previous. If there was a relative degree of inexperience on the pitch, the substitutes bench was home to three players with just four competitive first team starts in 2018/19, with Ashley Bird (who had made regular appearances from the bench, but only three starts) joined by Essa Sabally and Jack Ellis, who recently turned 18 and was included in the squad for the first time.

Rovers almost took the lead inside the opening five minutes, as Will Dawes’ cross was headed against the crossbar by striker Adam Bloomfield, with the ball cannoning away to safety. Moments later, Sam Hill swung in a cross that was just out of Bloomfield’s reach and missed everyone, before bouncing narrowly wide of the Flackwell Heath post. The story of Rovers’ season may well be one of profligacy being followed by costly lapses and after those early chances went begging, they were punished with almost the hosts’ first real chance of the game. As the ball went deep into Rovers territory the ball fell to Simeon Weekes on the edge of the box. The Flackwell Heath man was able to turn Luke Troke too easily, before shifting the ball onto his right foot, taking him beyond Lyons, before smashing a shot low past Pritchett’s dive to make it 1-0 after ten minutes.

Just before the half hour mark, Kent had a glorious chance to level the game, following wonderful work from James, who turned two players inside out, before putting a glorious ball to the back post, only for Kent’s charging run end with a shot skied high over the Flackwell Heath goal from just five yards. Lyons then picked up an injury, after challenging for a header, and although he tried to continue, his first start ended early. Without a recognised defender on the bench, and with limited options on the pitch, Lyons was replaced by forward Ash Bird, who filled the breach in his first ever game at centre-half. Bird started well, winning his headers and making a couple of timely interventions, and his side got through to the interval without too much trouble, although Pritchett had to be alert to keep out Niran Butler’s effort.

Rovers returned to play without any further changes after the interval, but the hosts started brightly and Weekes nearly added to his opener, but his effort sailed over the Rovers goal. With Flackwell Heath busy around the park, Rovers were looking to counter-attack effectively and the game as played at a high intensity, despite the heat on a warm afternoon. Unfortunately for Pritchett his side were struggling to find an equaliser and then fell further behind, on 52 minutes. Aaron Layne drifted in from a wide position, before curling an effort that was close Pritchett, but the Rovers keeper was unable to get across to it and the ball arrowed into the bottom of the net to make it 2-0 to Heath.

Within ten minutes, Rovers pulled one back as a quick free kick found Kieran Alder and after he did well to keep the ball and find his way to the byline, he turned the ball back to Kent, who smashed the ball past Aaron Watkins and into the roof of the net, for his eighth goal of the season. Adam Thomas’ lob over Pritchett almost extended Heath’s lead, but the ball landed on the roof of the net with the Rovers’ boss back-pedalling, and they had another chance with ten minutes remaining, although this time Pritchett produced a good stop, spreading his body to keep out Thomas’ effort.

As the game moved deep into a period of injury time, Tyreece Briscoe very nearly salvaged a point, albeit fortuitously, as his free-kick was slightly overhit, leaving Watkins stranded, only for it to cannon back off the frame of the goal. When the final whistle sounded moments later, Flackwell celebrated three points that consolidated their position in mid-table, whilst Rovers are left knowing that the results from their game and Longlevens’ on Easter Monday will determine whether they finish 15th, 16th or 17th in the league table, after a season that had looked to be taking them into a much more perilous outcome until the turn of the year.

One West

Easington Sports 2018/2019 Uhlsport Hellenic League Division One West Champions
Picture by Edwin Barson @ebarsonphotos

Easington Sports  1  Cirencester Town Development 0 - Report  Steve Smith, Banbury Guardian 
For the first time in the club’s history, Easington Sports will be playing premier division football in the Uhlsport Hellenic League next season. 

Sports will go up as Division One West champions following their final day victory at Addison Road. Craig Robinson grabbed the only goal of the game as Sports beat Cirencester Town Development 1-0 in front of a bumper crowd. 

One goal always looked as though it was going to be enough on a roasting day, on a drying pitch which made it difficult to create chances from open play. And it was from a set-piece that Robinson, who hit the winner last week, produced what proved to be the game’s decisive moment in the second half. 

Up to that point both sides had struggled to create openings with defences on top and neither keeper seriously troubled although Sports were always the side looking most likely to break the deadlock. 

Sean Snelling blazed over from Callum Convey’s low cross, while Dan Watkin went on a typical marauding run before exchanging passes with Tom Smith only to shoot straight at Connor Whitlock. Joe Coleman released Andrew Stidder, Whitlock’s clearance hit the striker but went wide. 

Sports broke the deadlock on the hour mark when Convey’s near post corner was headed home by Robinson. 

Sports twice went close to doubling their advantage with Whitlock being caught out both times. Joe Eyre was foiled by Max Arnold after beating Whitlock to a loose ball and Owen James just failed to take advantage of the keeper’s error when his goal bound shot was blocked by Sam Walsh. 

Sports should have made the points safe when they were awarded a late penalty but the referee should have played the advantage when he blew too early for a foul on James before the ball entered the back of the net. Stidder stepped up but Whitlock kept his spot-kick out. 

That set up a tense final few minutes but Sports should have been awarded another penalty when James was clean through. Walsh brought him down inside the box, the assistant took up a position for a penalty but the referee awarded a free-kick just outside the box and sent Walsh off. 

In the end, it was Robinson’s goal which proved decisive and the final whistle signalled jubilant scenes at Addison Road. 


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