Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Rock on young Rubies!

Gloucester v Cheltenham. Whether it is football, tiddlywinks or two raindrops rolling down a window pane, it matters.
So that is what took me over to Tuffley Rovers' Glevum Park ground for last night's County Cup quarter-final game - a chance to see the Rubies take on our true rivals.
If we had played anyone else at this stage, I would have given it a miss, but I wanted to see us play Gloucester, and hopefully beat them.
A look at the two teamsheets - I must confess - didn't raise my optimism as our side was very young, two pros in Harry Hooman and Bags Graham, and the rest made up of scholars, while the Gloucester side was very strong.
Their record appearance maker Tom Webb - playing against two former Beaufort School pupils, Brad Poole and Zack Kotwica, who he has taught PE - veteran Neil Mustoe, old enough to be the dad of most of our players, and the likes of Matt Rose, Matt Coupe, Will Morford, Darren Edwards, Mike Green, Matt Lock and Darren Mullings are all experienced campaigners at Conference National or regional level.
So let's have none of this 'it wasn't a strong Gloucester side' because it was - yes, they had youngsters like Keiran Mace and George Lloyd out there as well, and a debutant goalkeeper in Chris Humphries, but they fielded a lot of experience at Conference North level and above.
With that in mind, I could not see a Cheltenham win coming - but was happily proved wrong by a superb display from our youngsters.
Right from the off, the young Rubies showed no respect for their elders, and got stuck in right from the off, which was superb to see.
Brad Poole was the star of the first half, making some superb saves, including an amazing one from Darren Edwards, and Matt Williams and Harry Hooman provided a solid pair of centre-backs.
We were well organised by Russ Milton - almost mirroring the first team with Charlie Hitchings and the two Joes, Hanks and Turley, playing the parts of Pack, Penn and Summerfield, and Josh Swales in the role of Darryl Duffy, minus the accent.
He put in a good shift, while the midfield trio did well to support him, and when we got the ball to Bags out left and the hard-working Owen Donaghue out right we did cause problems.
The full-backs, Keiran Thomas and Michael Gonzalo, got up and down the line and supported the wide men very well and stood up in the tackle also against Steve Davies and Lock out wide for City.
The longer the game went on, the more frustrated the Gloucester team became that they were not able the quell the youthful enthusiasm of our side, and after more good saves from Poole and some near misses from ourselves extra time was looming.
Lock and Coupe were booked for tackles, while Thomas also went in the book, and Swales was lucky not to join them for an over-zealous but commited challenge.
Both sides, I was told, wanted to go straight to penalties, but the GFA said that rules were rules, so extra time it was, and, again I am ashamed to say, I expected the tiredness to take its toll on the Ruby boys.
We had brought on Jacob Morgan, a player I have always liked the look of, a tidy wide player who always puts in a good shift, and Kotwica, a tall forward who seemed to relish the lone role in attack.
Lock finally found a way past the inspired Poole with a long-range effort, and I am sure then that City thought they were going to run away with it.
But no. Still our lads would not lie down, and Morgan showed great technique and coolness to volley in the equaliser four minutes after Lock's superb strike.
Bags Graham, after his disappointing cameo at Swindon on Saturday, had dome well and caused problems on the left, and he then settled the game in our favour with an electric run, check-back and excellent finish for a superb winner.
We then held on for seven minutes, clearing several corners and showing real determination not to concede, and got the win.
The youngsters were a credit to themselves, the club and their gaffer Russ Milton - and the watching Mark Yates was delighted as he left the ground.
It's not for me to say whether any of them will make it, but they certainly have the right attitude and aprroach to the game, and they will now get the chance to face Bishop's Cleeve in the semi-final.