PAULTON ROVERS 1 POOLE TOWN 2
Late strike earns play off rivals three vital points.
Match report from Andy Harris - photos from Haydn Jones.
With both sides pressing for a play off position this always promised to be a tight encounter and so it proved with a goal less first half of few chances that the visitors just edged.
Indeed it was 14 minutes before anything of note occurred and then Town skipper, Michael Walker, who had an excellent match, was lucky to escape a card as he hauled back James Billing who looked to be going clear in response to a pass from Lee Bryant who was making his first appearance in a Rovers’ shirt for several seasons. Two minutes later and Dan Cann went down under a challenge from Rovers’ defender, Stuart Tovey, in the box but play was waived on. The first shot on target came on 18 minutes as Rovers’ young keeper, Scott Lewis made a fine save, low to his right, to deny Carl Preston. Rovers had another escape minutes later when Marcus Mapstone’s clearance went across his own goal and just wide of the far post. Lewis then produced further fine saves from Preston and then with an outstretched leg to deny Cann, while Walker, whose aerial power caused the home defence problems all afternoon, sent a header wide from a corner.
Fortunately for the decent sized crowd the second period produced more in the way of action as Mapstone sent his header from a Dan Cleverley free kick just wide and Poole’s Steve Devlin sent a neat through ball for Marvin Brooks that was thwarted by Lewis diving bravely at the striker’s feet. Rovers almost took the lead in the 52nd minute as substitute, Ryan Gay, saw his deflected cross drop just over the bar with visiting keeper, Grant Fisher, well beaten. Town had the ball in the net in the 53rd minute when Carl Preston slotted home for the visitors only to see his effort ruled out for offside.
Two minutes later and Rovers went ahead with a neat passing move down the left and the ball into the box was well controlled by Gay who set up Billing to fire into the top corner from the edge of the box.
The lead lasted just 6 minutes before a corner from the right saw Poole skipper, Mike Walker, use his considerable height to head home and although a defender hacked it clear the assistant correctly adjudged it had crossed the line.
Both sides went looking for the winner, Gay had a shot easily saved and Craig Loxton saw his fierce free kick just clear the bar while at the other end Lewis produced yet another save from a Walker header.
Town eventually grabbed all 3 points in the 84th minute with a superb 20 yard volley from Devlin after Rovers only partially cleared a long throw in from the right by Dan Cann.
With 2 minutes remaining tempers flared and both Adam Mahdi (Rovers) and substitute, Steve Smith (Town) were given straight red cards for an off the ball incident that led to an unseemly melee.
Rovers face a tough week, travelling to Gosport Brough on Saturday, followed by a visit from Sholing on the Tuesday with yet another play off hopeful in North Leigh calling the following Saturday.
Rovers: Scott Lewis, Stuart Tovey, Jack Allward, Nick Dunn. Marcus Mapstone, Josh Jeffries (Scott Brice 88 mins), Adam Mahdi. Craig Loxton, James Billing, Dan Cleverley (C), Lee Bryant (Ryan Gay 50 mins).
Man of the Match: Mike Walker (Poole Town)
Rovers' Star Man: Ryan Gay (chosen by Match Sponsor The Somerset Guardian)
Referee: Matthew Rushton
Assts: Nigel Sykes / Adrian Matthews