Finchampstead Rovers vs Bracknell Athletic Youth
On Saturday 29th September, Finchampstead Rovers welcomed Bracknell Athletic to The Memorial Ground on Saturday, as a low, Autumn Sun brushed away the early frost. And it was the home team that were first to settle, maintaining possession and a territorial advantage throughout much of the first half.
With right back, Sam, threading the ball purposely through the Bracknell midfield, winger Kamran was able to collect and run at the defence time after time, linking up well with Ajay. But despite winning three corners in the opening 15 minutes, Rovers were unable to get the final shot away.
However, the early pressure would eventually tell. Rover's keeper, Luke C, distributed the ball early to find Jake M in space. He could push forward unchallenged, then a crisp one-two with Lucas C afforded the space for Jake to chip a ball over the top of the onrushing Bracknell defence for George to collect at full pace – he just needed one touch to close in on goal, then slid the ball low into the left corner giving the keeper no chance. 1-0 Rovers.
Rovers certainly deserved the lead, and the nature of the goal, constructed right from the keeper with sharp passing, will surely have pleased the coaching team.
The home team continued pushing forward looking for a second, but on 25 minutes Bracknell ominously popped a ball over the top for their number 9 to run onto. He controlled the ball well, side stepping and slotting the ball into the net to equalise against the run of play.
Would this be a wake up for Rovers, dominant until now?
A classy, diagonal through ball from Oliver was collected again by Kamran on the right wing resulting in a dangerous cross which the Bracknell keeper did well to gather under pressure with Lucas C bearing down.
And it was Lucas C that showed great skill next as he danced across the Bracknell penalty area beating three defenders, but again Rovers were unable to finish his inviting lay off, and moments later his driving shot was well taken by the Bracknell keeper.
By now though, Bracknell were growing in confidence, and a flying Jake M had to intervene bravely to clear the ball as Bracknell’s striker and Rover's keeper Luke C were on collision course, challenging for a 50/50 ball.
In a bright opening to the second half, Nathaniel shot marginally wide having run onto another penetrating through ball from the Rover's midfield. But straight up the other end a Bracknell free kick from just outside the box found their striker in space, only for his header to loop wide.
As the Rovers coaching team called for calm, a returning Luke L delivered, strong in defence and composed on the ball. Then it was another superb run from Nathaniel, this time using his pace to carry the ball from the centre circle all the way to the opposition’s 15-yard line, but under pressure his curling shot flew just wide.
Inspired again, Rovers never stopped looking for the winner, with Lucas S varying the distribution from midfield, and a brace of powerful shots from Ajay on the right that just wouldn’t quite tuck inside the far post. Moments later, Leo was through on goal like lightning, but a determined Bracknell defence were able to scramble the ball away before he could shoot. Left winger James collected the loose ball and crossed it back into the danger zone, only for Leo's follow up header to find the keeper.
Then in the closing minutes of the match, Bracknell managed to poach the ball deep into the Rover's half. A quick pass released the Bracknell forward to play a deft lob into the far corner of the goal, and a clearly disappointed Rovers could only reflect on what might have been, in a game where they created so many chances.
After the match a philosophical Rovers Coach, Simon Cutler, mused "Despite some stunning creative attacking play, the Rovers managed somehow to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, but many lessons learned and we march on!".
Next week, Rovers have a chance to make their mark on the Cup, having drawn Eversley & California in the first round.