Rovers' title hopes severely dented by 10 man Larkhall. Report from Andy Harris
Rovers travel to Gillingham Town next Thursday knowing that nothing less than victory will give them any chance of securing the title after they dropped two vital points at Plain Ham as Larkhall, reduced to 10 men for most of the game, deservedly equalised 3 minutes into injury time.
The hosts began brightly but Rovers weathered the storm and went ahead on 13 minutes when a free kick from wide on the left dropped into the box and a Paulton player fired in a shot that skipper, Alex Batterick, handled on the line. The referee had no option other than to issue a straight red card and Keane Simms duly converted the penalty sending home keeper, Sam Jones, the wrong way.
It looked as though Rovers would take advantage of their numerical advantage as Tom Park was only denied by a desperate sliding block from a defender and Jordan Harvey had a header superbly touched onto the bar and over by Jones.
However in the 32 minute Rovers were caught in possession and Benji Thomas crossed from the left which eventually found Paris Grappy who scored.
Rovers almost restored their lead 5 minutes from the break as a good passing move down the left saw Dan Cottle round Jones but his shot from a narrow angle found the side netting.
Larkhall again posed Rovers problems after the restart and twice Rovers’ keeper was called upon to make saves, before on 57 minutes a good Rovers’ move down the left saw the ball crossed to Park on the edge of the box who calmly picked his spot and beat Jones low to his right to find the corner of the net.
The visitors looked to have sealed victory on 62 minutes when a corner from the right found Jack Gianella beyond the far post and he cut inside before lashing the ball home from near the penalty spot.
However the Larks were not beaten and again a poor Rovers’ pass saw Alex Jacobs collect and cross from the left and although Harvey made a great save from Grappy, the Larkhall midfielder reacted quickly to slot home the rebound for his second of the evening.
The home side always looked capable of grabbing the equaliser as Harvey did well to save from Joe Davies and substitute, Sol Lowe, went close with a shot, so it was no surprise when in the third minute of added time Rovers conceded again. They gave away a needless free kick on the edge of the Larkhall box and Jones’ kick has helped on over the visitors’ defence and Thomas had plenty of time and space to place his shot wide of Harvey and earn his side a point they fully deserved.
Team: Jon Harvey, Edwards, Gianella, Cook, Sam Cottle, Jordan Harvey, Park (Nix 65 mins), Robinson, Dan Cottle (Giles 55 mins), Hunt (Joyner 80 mins), Sims,
Subs not used: Antoniou, Taylor.