O’Leary hails perfect end to pre-season after hattrick in Tuffley win

Tuffley Rovers player/assistant manager Alex O’Leary praised his side for the perfect end to pre-season, after scoring a hattrick in Rovers’ 4-1 win over Oldland Abbotonians this evening.

Two free kicks and a penalty saw O’Leary notch up a hattrick of set pieces from left back and ensured Tuffley would build on Saturday’s 6-1 win over Undy AFC as they get closer to their 2018/19 opener. 

O’Leary opened the scoring with an in-swinging free kick from the right hand side just before the half an hour mark, one of very few goal-scoring opportunities in the first half. His delivery travelled through a crowd of bodies and found its way into the bottom corner at the far post.

Right on half time Ash Bird was brought down in the box and O’Leary confidently smashed it down the middle to double Tuffley’s lead.

Bird then got in on the act after neat work down the right hand side lead to an inviting cross to the back post, leaving Bird a simple header.

Oldland Abbotonians pulled one back via a deflected effort but an 86th minute free kick by O’Leary rounded off the scoring and gave him a hattrick to accompany his second full 90 minutes in a row.

O’Leary was delighted with his side as well as his individual display this evening. We spoke to O’Leary at full time.

“Last season was very stop start for me so its just a case of bedding myself back in. I’ve lost a lot of weight, a stone and a half through pre-season and I’ve been working hard in my own time so it’s coming together nicely. I’m not the finished article but it was nice to score three goals today.”

O’Leary also praised the rest of the Tuffley Rovers squad ahead of their season opener at the weekend and praised how settled they have become towards the end of pre-season.

“I’m very happy with what we have got. We have a young side. I mean, tonight in our starting XI we had six 19 year olds and a further two who are under 21 so its a very young side and they have a chance to develop and grow whilst playing at this level. There is a real opportunity for these boys. Everyone is buying into it, from training to going out for dinner together as a group we are all pulling together and we can’t wait to get started.”

We asked O’Leary about who could be title challengers in the Hellenic League and what Tuffley’s aims are for the season. He was full of praise for the rest of the Gloucestershire sides, in particular Rovers’ FA Vase opponents Longlevens.

“We will give every team a game this year for sure. You can’t really call it at this stage as no one has kicked a ball. We know in ourselves that is going to be really tough for us to potentially win it. I mean a lot of the sides who will in and around it pay a lot more than the likes of us and Longlevens who don’t pay their players, but the likes of us and Levens and a couple of the others always compete and we have competitive sides. In regards to Levens we are looking forward to playing them early in the league and in the Vase, we know them all well and its good for local football to have these local derbies.”

“Mark will get his side up for the games and we are looking forward to it. In terms of the season our aim is to finish above where we did last season {10th} and have a good cup run. If we get that then we will be happy.”

Other positives on the night for Tuffley Rovers included precious minutes for full back Sam Hill on his recovery from injury, another goal for Ash Bird and another impressive run out by winger Essa Sabally who was a constant threat.

O’Leary told us that going into the season opener on Saturday Tuffley’s only fitness concern is Courtney Hamilton who is still a couple of weeks away from match fitness.

Tuffley Rovers kick off their 2018/19 Hellenic Premier season away to Royal Wootton Bassett. Kick off is at 3pm and if anyone would like to attend Rovers are taking a player and fans coach to the game. Contact the club or Neil Spiller on social media for more info.