Scorers: Manu x2, Gilly, Dec, Josh.
Rovers got back to winning ways after a hard fought 5-3 victory over a competitive Ardwick team who have proved troublesome opponents in recent fixtures.
After a poor first half performance in last week’s fixture, Rovers knew that it was imperative to not repeat that this week. From the first whistle, Rovers battled well and quickly had a stonewall penalty shout turned down after Gilly beat their full back to the ball and was booted in the shin.
Soon afterwards, more good passing football resulted in Bills being hacked down in the opposition penalty area. Again, this appeal was waved away which left Rovers frustrated, particularly when the exact same thing happened on the opposite side of the box a few minutes later with Bills once more being left flat on the floor.
Determined to get some reward for their first half dominance, Rovers had a great opportunity to open the scoring, although Manu could only find the Ardwick keeper’s hands when squaring for what would have been a tap in for Bills.
Luckily, with only a couple of minutes left in the first half, Tom Dale received the ball in the centre circle. Spotting Gilly sprinting from his own half, Tom played an inch perfect through ball for Gilly to latch onto and after just beating the keeper to the ball, he rounded him and slotted home from a tight angle to make it 1-0.
Knowing that the opposition would come out with renewed intensity in the second half, Rovers avoided mistakes of previous games and kept them from troubling the goal in the early stages of the second half. After fabulous battling from Bills down the left, Rovers earned a corner which Bills whipped in. After Ardwick’s keeper parried, Gilly and Tommo outmuscled their defenders and Tommo sent the ball across the six yard box which was met by Manu, who tapped in for 2-0.
A pattern then emerged in the game which was repeated until the final whistle. Each time Rovers scored, Ardwick reduced the deficit at the other end with a goal on the break. After Manu’s goal, Ardwick wasted no time in halving Rovers’ advantage and the scoreline was 2-1.
Following another attack, Rovers earnt a corner. Bills registered yet another assist with a typically pinpoint delivery, which was smashed home on the volley by Dec for 3-1.
Again, Rovers quickly had their lead cut in half when lapses in concentration led to an Ardwick winger being left unmarked. Finding his teammate, the ball was slotted past Ric to make the scoreline 3-2.
As the second half continued, Rovers always looked the more dangerous of the two sides. Dominant in midfield with the immense Tom Dale and Haani coming off best in each battle and showing touches of brilliance on the ball, Rovers were in the ascendancy.
At points, the game became very stop-start with free kicks awarded repeatedly to both teams. More green penalty shouts were turned down but fortunately for Rovers, a long throw from Gav was met in the box by Josh. Showing great composure, he calmly slotted past the keeper to make it 4-2.
In the closing minutes of the encounter, Josh turned provider this time when finding himself put through on goal. On several occasions this season, Rovers have failed to convert similar chances, with the wrong decisions being made. Setting a fine example, Josh drew the keeper out and despite having a decent chance to score himself, he unselfishly squared to Manu who made no mistake in converting into the empty net to make it 5-2.
The day’s final goal came in more questionable circumstances after what looked like a foul in the build up. Despite Rovers’ having been penalised for an exact replica of this earlier in the half, Ardwick were allowed to continue and got a final consolation goal to end the game 5-3.
Despite a threadbare squad with only 12 players, Rovers can take heart from this performance against a side that narrowly defeated them in the semi-final of the cup only a few months earlier. If the desire, attitude and selflessness displayed on the pitch in this victory continues in future games, Rovers can consider themselves contenders for silverware this season.
2. Tom Daniels
7. Tom Dale