Hop Leaf 1-3 Rovers
By Matthew Wade
3 goals in 5 minutes wins the game
Depending on postponed or forfeited fixtures this game was likely to be Rovers final league game of the season and Cintra Park had held up well following the wet weather in recent weeks. The Hop Leaf are enjoying a successful season and holding second position in the league table. We knew this would be a hard fought game and so it proved.
From the kick-off Rovers took control of the game and won the first corner of the game after three minutes, a short corner to Parrott created enough space for a shot that hit the side netting. The Hop Leaf responded but were limited to long range shots that went wide. Cumner seemed to have the beating of their defence and put their keeper under pressure following a through ball from Maddock. Searle looked alive to every ball that broke free and showed some deft touches working some nice one-two’s with Parrott. The game was halted as the pooper scooper was brought into play to clear the debris of some insolent dog owner.
As play restarted it was The Hop Leaf who applied the pressure but Roberts was happy to see the shot go wide right. When the ball came back down the field it was Amey who picked up the ball and laid a beautiful pass into the path of Cumner whose attempt on goal went low and wide.
In the thirteenth minute a long ball fell to Lloyd who was put forced into an error that allowed The Hop Leaf forwards to break free and put the ball in the back of Rovers net, one nil. This was against the run of play and Rovers picked up the pace immediately, when Saunders tried his luck with a 25 yard shot on goal that was stopped by the keeper. Lloyd went out to make amends in his first game back in 2016, a sweet, long range shot, from a good 35 yards, was heading for the roof of the net when only a fingertip save denied Rovers the equaliser.
Searle used his strength and skill deep in the opponents half to occupy three defenders. The Hop Leaf cleared their lines and a save from Roberts prevented Rovers going two nil down. On the half hour mark the first substitutions were made.
In the thirty-fifth minute, as The Hop Leaf chased a second goal, a mix up in defence gifted them a clear cut opportunity which fortunately they couldn’t capitalise on, this seemed to spur Rovers on as Mines won the ball and found Amey who whipped a cross into the box which was met by Cumner’s head for a deserved equaliser just before half-time. As if that was not enough and sensing The Hop Leaf were on the ropes, Vine’s long through ball found Mines who duly despatched for Rovers to take the lead. With hardly seconds on the clock until the break, Searle picked up the ball on the left and a speculative shot dropped over the keepers head and into the net to make it three-one Rovers as the whistle blew, three goals in three minutes.
Smith came on at half-time and slotted into central defence and gave an outstanding performance, breaking up The Hop Leaf attack and playing in the midfield. Maddock was having a superb game, now fully recovered from an injury earlier in the season, he was showing what he is capable of with defence splitting passes and carefully weighted through balls. Rovers continued to create chances with Arora pressing forward down the left, several crosses were inches away from being converted. The Hop Leaf did manage to breakthrough a resolute defence on occasion but Roberts was equal to anything they could throw at him, saving with his feet at close range and smothering shots from a distance.
Both teams gave no quarter in the deteriorating conditions, well suited to Wade who continued to make well-timed tackles. Wade won the ball and played to Balfe, who was showing great touches, in turn found Cumner down the right who then lashed in a cross to Mines whose shot went just wide, a move that defied the conditions.
As Rovers pushed up field, Saunders jinked down the left wing beating defenders and creating chances, time after time. Rovers were awarded a free-kick twenty yards out from goal, Amey stepped over and Mines dinked a shot over the wall and just over the bar. Both sides had their chances in the keenly contested second half, but ultimately the game had been won in the first half in those three, frenetic, minutes.
Written by Wayne Parrott