Tuffley Rovers ended their 2018/19 away campaign in the Hellenic Premier in defeat, after a makeshift squad were beaten 2-1 at Flackwell Heath on Saturday afternoon.
Rovers travelled to Buckinghamshire without a number of first team players, including Macaulay Herbert and Warren Mann, whilst goalkeeper Luke Merchant travelled with the squad but wasn’t fit enough to play.
This meant that Manager Mark Pritchett donned the gloves and played 90 minutes in goal. Reserve team players Shay Lyons, Jack Ellis and Essa Sabally also travelled with the squad for the game – with the first two players making their Hellenic Premier debuts.
Tuffley nearly took the lead inside the opening five minutes when Will Dawes’ cross was headed against the crossbar by striker Adam Bloomfield.
Sam Hill then swung in a cross that missed everyone and bounced just wide of the Flackwell Heath post. Tuffley started very bright in the first 10 minutes or so.
Rovers were then caught with a sucker punch. In only Flackwell’s second proper attack the ball fell to Simeon Weekes on the edge of the box. Weekes was able to turn, shift the ball onto his right foot before smashing it low and beyond Pritchett to break the deadlock.
Just before the half hour mark Dom Kent had a glorious chance to level the game. After Brett James threw in a couple of stepovers to beat his man on the left side of the box, his driven cross was skied over by Kent from the corner of the 6 yard box.
Defender Shay Lyons then went down after a challenge for a header and despite carrying on for nearly five minutes, the former Gloucester City U18s man was forced off and was replaced by forward Ash Bird, who played the rest of the game at centre half.
Right on half time Mark Pritchett made a crucial stop to keep Rovers in the game. After a corner was swung in from the right, it fell to Niran Butler – who saw his effort blocked by Pritchett’s legs.
The second half started with Flackwell Heath in the driving seat and Weekes nearly added to his opener, but his effort sailed over.
Just before the hour mark Flackwell doubled their lead when Aaron Layne’s low curling effort managed to evade the diving Pritchett. Being harsh Pritchett’s starting position wasn’t great but again, that is being very harsh.
Tuffley pulled one back with a quarter of the game left when a quick free kick lead to Kieran Alder getting to the byline in the box, poking back to Dom Kent and the midfielder rifling the ball past a hapless Aaron Watkins for his 8th goal of the season.
Flackwell came close to extending their lead just minutes later, when a long ball forward lead to Adam Thomas lobbing Pritchett, but luckily for Rovers the ball went over the goal.
Pritchett made another massive save inside the final five minutes as Thomas worked a yard of space and shifted the ball to leave him one on one. Pritchett came out and stood tall to block the effort and keep Tuffley in the game.
Tuffley came within inches of heading back to Gloucestershire with a point through Tyreece Briscoe’s injury time free kick. The set piece from nearly 40 yards and out on the right was whipped towards the back post and the flight caught out Watkins, but the ball crashed off the post and was cleared for a corner.
The win sees Flackwell secure a top 10 finish and gives manager Marcus Richardson something to build on for next season, whilst Tuffley remain 16th on 34 points going into their final game against local rivals Fairford Town on Bank Holiday Monday.
Flackwell Heath: Watkins, Butler, Gregory, Layne, Edwards, Gray, Weekes (Anyadike-Thompson 63′), Taylor, Ushiro-Lumb (Baines 55′), Ceesay (Howell 59′), Thomas
Subs not used: Burton
Tuffley Rovers: Pritchett, Hill, Troke (Ellis 79′), White, Lyons (Bird 36′), Briscoe, Alder, Bloomfield (Sabally 72′), Dawes, James, Kent
Subs not used: None
Severn Sport Man Of The Match – Brett James (Tuffley Rovers)
Check out the full list of fixtures and results in and around the county this Easter Weekend right here.