Sunday, October 12

Taunton and District Sunday League Division One

STAPLEGROVE (0) 0 : 5 (1) ROVERS

The start of the club’s Under-15 team season in 2013/14 season saw the team deliver what was then a stunning first performance of the season to finally end the hoodoo held over the side by that exceptional Wembdon team. Wind the clock on twelve months and we have a much changed Rovers Under-16 side.

We have lost four of last year’s squad because their parents feel two games a weekend is too much in what is the exam year, another two have opted to play two years up and play in the Rovers Under-18 team and two others have left us.

Manager Clive Jones had a real headache putting together and eleven for the belated first game this season – what with the afore mentioned missing plus the fact that Exwick Villa (who have four players from the Rovers squad) had a Devon County Under-16 Cup tie on Sunday morning at Braunton! On top of that, two other regulars – both who played in the cup final winning team at the end of last season, had family commitments, so is was ‘bare bones’ for the 14-man squad assembled for the first game against a Staplegrove side that always give us a hard time and a Staplegrove side that had won their first two games this season including a famous home win over Wembdon on match day one!

As it was boss Jones signed on three before the game and called on three of Simon Fry’s Rovers Under-15 squad (Kieran Fry, Connor Pengelly and Jordan Lovibond), signed on Oliver Searle (Kentisbeare U15 Div 2 side), called back into action Will Birley (also Kentisbeare U15s) and Jordan Biss (unattached on Saturday’s) and gave a debut to Ryan Harder (Moors U16).

The others to play were stalwarts – Devon Under-16 goalkeeper Harrison Burton, County team-mate and manager’s son Sam Jones, Oliver Elsworthy, Mitchell Dart, Tom Mortiboys, Ryan Shrewsberry and the imperious club captain that is Tom Badcott – with all this talk of how proud we are about our four in the County Under-16 side how on earth does not young Badcott also make that exulted company?

Rovers made a solid start at Staplegrove with Harder and Badcott looking a very comfortable back pairing and, together with Ryan Shrewsberry the manager was able to play his favoured ‘three at the back’ system with Harrison ‘safe hands’ Burton behind them. Mitchell Dart showed nice touches, Sam ‘the general’ Jones made things tick fro central midfield, Ollie Elsworthy worked the flank really well – as did Will Birley on the left side, whilst Kieran Fry was tasked with working alongside the talented Jones and he had a stunning game – scoring two superb goals and earning applause from all sides of the ground when it was his turn to come off during the second half. Connor Pengelly gave a typically honest Jordan Lovibond, who has made such a big impact since his summer arrival at the club – primarily as an Under-15 player – did very well as did Jordan Biss who once again showed why he invaluable to the cause putting in a hard working shift in central midfield – at one stage the substitution was county player Jones off and one time Rovers keeper Biss on – to run the midfield!

Rovers took the lead 20 minutes in with a glorious strike from Fry. The youngster first won the ball 25 yards from goal, transferred the ball to his left foot and then drilled it into the top corner – an exceptional goal befitting of any level of the game! That was the way it stayed through to the interval. The home side played well, but got little change out of the impressive Badcott/Harder combination. There were two moments of concern, both caused by set piece delivery into the area, but Rovers stood firm and got to the break with that Fry goal advantage.

After the break there was more end-to-end play until young Fry doubled his tally with a crisp volley after good work involving Dart, Elsworthy and Lovibond.

Two became three when Jones rifled home a stunning strike that gave the glovesman no chance. Jones then bagged a second to make it four before the scoring was completed by young Lovibond – and how much did he enjoy his goal on the ground that a year on he played on a week-by-week basis!

The Rovers goal survived a few scares late on – one goal saving clearance was made by Ran Shrewsberry who had a superb second half.

So a nap hand clean sheet success for match day one – all 14 players – did well.

Harrison Burton (assured with his handling and distribution), Ryan Harder (an exceptional first appearance in a Rovers short), Tom Badcott (imperious – is there a better central defender in this age group?), Ryan Shrewsberry (grew in confidence as the game went on and made that stunning late goal-saving clearance), Sam Jones (showed just why he is in this years Devon Under-16 team), Mitchell Dart (used the ball intelligently and was always available to receive a pass), Oliver Elsworthy (as ever, worked his socks off down his flank and, when played through the middle in the second half showed great hold-up awareness), Kieran Fry (superb during each minute he was on the pitch – a master class playing a year up), Connor Pengelly (put himself about and made himself available as a front line leader), Tom Mortiboys (showed some classis central striking touches, laid good ball off and showed how much we will miss him this season with him being unable to pay every week), Will Birley (back playing and playing well in the team, intelligent ball use and hold up play), Jordan Lovibond (for a lad making his debut with players he had never met before the game and playing a year up, this was a very good show), Jordan Biss (made his presence felt and played his part with an assist – once again proved that when given the chance he never lets his team mates down), Ollie Searle (came along to run the line and was given a second half cameo slot that he took full advantage of and proved he is comfortable in such company).

Obviously there have been terrific changes to the squad this season – but we do still have the Exwick lads, Dan Foweracre, Bailey Jason-Ryan and Josh McLean and of course both Owen Buxton and Phil Andrew were unavailable for this game.