Tonight marks the third chapter in the battle for supremacy this season between Gloucester’s two Hellenic Premier sides, Tuffley Rovers & Longlevens. After two competitive games at Saw Mills all roads lead to Glevum Park for the match dubbed “El Glossico.”
The two sides met back on the August Bank Holiday weekend and played out a very even 1-1 draw. A goalless first half was followed by a Brett James opener, when he leapt onto a high ball into the box. And just when it looked like Rovers would be leaving Saw Mills with a deserved three points, a 94th minute corner was headed onto the Tuffley bar twice before Shaun O’Connor bundled the ball into the net. It was an exciting end that showed how dramatic football can be.
Switch to Saturday and the Bluefin Challenge Cup. Two different looking line ups played out another competitive and grueling grudge match. Substitute Chris Manners broke the deadlock for Tuffley in the second half before a long ball was chased down by Brad Vanstone and he calmly fired Longlevens level. Then with just over 10 minutes to go that man Shaun O’Connor once again had a say as he leapt onto a poor clearance to fire the hosts into the next round.
That brings us onto tonight. Glevum Park will be rocking I am sure and I am hotly anticipating yet another tactical and competitive game. It will be close and I wouldn’t be surprised if it is just one goal between the sides. Longlevens will be buoyed by Saturday’s win and with the better start to their Hellenic Premier season out of the two Levens will be looking to leave Tuffley with the three points and bragging rights. For Tuffley they have had a rocky period thus far and after going 7 games without a win they stemmed the flow with a hard fought 2-1 win over Lydney – the Severn Sport Saturday Live match from two weeks ago.
So where will the match be won and lost tonight? Based on what I have seen this season I have earmarked three key battles to watch (a note, at this stage I am not aware of any team news and who is available. I know some midweek games sees usual starters declared unavailable. So we will go based on the squads that played out that cup tie on Saturday).
Battle 1: Sam Hill (Tuffley Rovers) vs Shaun O’Connor (Longlevens)
This is set for a lively battle. Sam Hill has been unbelievable at right wing back for Tuffley and has proved time and time again that he is as good going forward as he is at the back and is always on the radar when it comes to the Severn Sport Team of the Month.
I would anticipate that Shaun O’Connor will play on the left hand side of the Longlevens midfield and with his record in this fixture he would be more than a handful for Sam Hill. From what I have seen of both players they are both hard working, they both give you everything and the never give up. This one is hard to call but the emphasis will be on Hill to keep O’Connor at bay, especially when he has played a decisive role in both meetings so far.
Battle 2: Joel White (Tuffley Rovers) vs Dave Merrick (Longlevens)
This battle contrasts the first in every way. Battle 1 is your Featherweight boxers showing speed and agility, this is the big Heavyweight fight. On commentary during Tuffley Rovers vs Lydney two weeks ago I was telling Kelsey De Maria about how much of a fan I was of Joel White. He is technically gifted, he picks passes, he threads the play together in the centre of the park for Rovers and can score as well as create. His goal against Lydney was stunning. The technique was superb and the volley was too hot for the keeper to handle. He threatens moments like that every game and on the day he got it perfect.
I am also a fan of Dave Merrick at Longlevens (as it’s been pointed out by his teammates that he tends to get MOTM from me a lot) and its because he makes being an attack minded box to box midfielder look easy. He has scored goals this term and looked the real deal time and time again. I also described him on Twitter a few days ago as being so elegant it was like watching a lion on the prowl for a mate. This battle is set in the centre of the park between two of my favourite players.
Battle 3: Macaulay Herbert (Tuffley Rovers) vs Brad Martin (Longlevens)
The battle the end all battles. This is simply the best striker in Gloucestershire against the man who (for me) is the best defender in Gloucestershire. With how the sides will line up (both tend to go with the 5-4-1/5-3-2 that turns to three at the back when in possession of the ball), it will mean that Martin will find himself up against all of the defenders, so probably Foxwell and maybe Anson if he starts, but the battle with Herbert will be the one I will be keeping my eye on.
Having played 7 a-side with Macaulay Herbert I have seen first hand just how athletic and how good this guy is. I had no idea how this would appear in an 11 a-side environment but after watching him play this season he impresses me every single game. His positioning has improved the more he has played, he is composed enough with the ball at his feet to play his way out of trouble whilst having the defensive mentality of “when in doubt, get it out.”
Brad Martin is a player that has caught the eye and turned heads throughout the opening months of the season here at Severn Sport. He scores goals, he has the ability to create for his teammates and he has the ability to hold the ball up. He can take (and score) free kicks and if he was to become more of a bully in the air he would be very close to the total package.
You could be foolish to think that if Herbert and Rovers keep Martin quiet then they stand a better chance, as Martin hasn’t scored in the two previous meetings this season, but if they can stop him getting in amongst in and isolate him then they will go very close.
So that’s the three key battles as chosen by me. Find out who comes on top when Tuffley Rovers host Longlevens tonight at Glevum Park. Kick off 7:45pm. However, if you cannot make it you can follow our live updates on Twitter & Facebook via the Goalshouter app.