Scorers: Gilly, Tommo, Haani.
Rovers were cruelly defeated via a penalty shootout and crashed out of the County Cup after drawing 3-3 in normal time against a hard-working and pacey Ultim8 side which featured some familiar faces.
Uncharacteristically slow to start the game, Rovers hadn’t created much going forward in the opening stages and struggled to find the scintillating attacking quality seen in the second half of last week’s encounter. The wet conditions and extremely heavy pitch no doubt had a part to play in that and strong tackles were flying in from both sides.
After Ultim8 had pressed forward, they were rewarded with a corner. This was floated in and Ricci appeared to collect it but the ball slipped out of his hands and landed at a member of the opposition’s feet inside the six yard box, who converted for 1-0.
Knowing that they needed to do better, Rovers soon improved. Soon after going 1-0 down, Bills beat a defender to flick the ball on towards the Ultim8 goalkeeper. Whilst it looked like easy pickings for the keeper, Gilly had other ideas and chased the ball down, beating the goalkeeper to it and winning the subsequent battle which left both players on the floor. Clambering back to his feet, Gilly slotted the ball home to equalise.
Unfortunately for Rovers, a repeat of the first goal occurred soon afterwards. As a free kick was sent in, Ric spilled the ball in the harsh conditions and an Ultim8 attacker gratefully tapped in to restore their lead, making it 2-1.
In the final few minutes of the first half, Rovers were comfortably the better team. If there had been better decision making in the final third, Rovers could have had a couple of goals but unfortunately the right passes weren’t made.
However, with one minute to go until the interval, Tommo collected the ball from Josh on the right flank. Driving forwards, he sent in a looping cross that the opposing keeper struggled to deal with and ended up pushing it into his net. Rewarded for their improved play, Rovers went in at half time 2-2 knowing that they would need to step it up in the second half.
With poor starts to the second half being something Rovers had been guilty of recently, everyone knew the same could not happen today. An improved display followed and everyone battled well.
At the back, it wasn’t easy against a team that were very quick on the break but Dec particularly was responsible for some excellent tackles which helped keep the scores level.
A few minutes into the second half, more good build up play down the right presented Rovers with a great opportunity. With bodies queuing up, Tommo found Bills who then found Haani. Even though there was lots of work still to do, Haani beautifully angled the ball in to the bottom corner from the edge of the area to give Rovers a 3-2 lead.
Typically, as Rovers continued to move forwards, the opposition hacked down their opponents each time. With this fouling limiting further chances, more poor decision making and passes played too late meant Rovers could not find the net again, with Ursus coming closest.
With a few minutes to go, another Ultim8 attack was rewarded with a goal after some good build up play. Rovers can at least take heart from the fact that this was the only goal they conceded from open play against strong, athletic opponents who were decent on the ball. One more chance for Ultim8 followed, but they failed to hit the target and the full-time whistle was sounded with the scores level at 3-3.
The lottery of a penalty shootout followed, which saw Bills, Dec, Josh and Tom Dale all convert for Rovers. Unfortunately for those in green, all five of Ultim8’s takers found the net and although Kyle hit the target with the final penalty, their keeper pushed it wide to seal Rovers’ fate.
Next week sees Rovers take on Manchester Maccabi, who sit top of the table. Undoubtedly, it will be a very tough test but Rovers have had an excellent start to their league campaign and can head into the encounter with confidence.