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Slimbridge gain the derby day bragging rights over Tuffley

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Hellenic Premier Division

Tuffley Rovers 2 Slimbridge 3

Slimbridge fought back from a 2-0 deficit to win a five-goal thriller at Tuffley, writes Tim Blake.

With the wind at their backs, Tuffley Rovers took a two-goal advantage, before Sam Blackie pulled a goal back for Slimbridge straight after their second goal, and just before the break.  Second half strikes, from George Neill and Jack Smith, saw the Swans complete their first double of the season and move up to seventh in the Hellenic Premier League. 

The early period of the game belonged almost exclusively to the hosts, with Henry Birkett off target with a free-kick with four minutes on the clock, before Jake White’s effort was wide three minutes later. 

It was 15 minutes before Slimbridge edged themselves into the game, when George Neill set up Theo Clayson for their first shot on the Tuffley goal, but Clayson scuffed his shot on the bumpy surface, and Rovers’ former Forest Green youth keeper Luke Merchant could make an easy save. 

On 19 minutes, Karnell Chambers broke through the Slimbridge backline, and despite looking suspiciously offside, dinked the ball well over Parker to put Tuffley into the lead. Neill was proving pivotal to the Slimbridge attacking options, and his good work set up Rudi McKinnon on 23 minutes for an effort which was blocked. 

Tuffley continued to benefit from the wind blowing behind them, and Bradley Bevan was off target on 39 minutes, with a great effort that looked as if it might sneak in the post. 

As the half drew to a close, Neill had another dangerous run and shot just off target for the Swans, before Tuffley doubled their lead – a cross from the Tuffley right was met by Connor Walters, who looped his header past Parker to double the advantage. 

But the Swans went straight back up the pitch, and in stoppage time, pulled a goal back. Ben Hands’ powerful effort was spilled by Merchant, and Blackie was on hand to convert from close range. 

To start the second half, Slimbridge shuffled their pack, with Bogdan Mara being replaced by Harrison Reeves, and with Ben Hands moving into the defensive back line. The decision paid off handsomely. 

The second half, was dominated by Slimbridge – Blackie and Clayson combined well only for Clayson to find the side netting, and Reeves, was just off target with an hour on the clock as the visitors put pressure on the home side. 

On 65 minutes, a lovely passing move saw Neill spin and place a sweet volley past Merchant to level things up, and the pressure ramped up again. 

Smith was unlucky when he couldn’t get the ball out from under his feet, before bringing a great save from Merchant a minute later. 

After Edji Mbunga, on for Clayson, had won a corner for the Swans, Smith was left in too much space in the Tuffley box and drove home the third, just five minutes after the equaliser had been recorded. 

After Mbunga had another good effort saved, Tuffley went down to ten men when Daniel Lander was sin-binned with 15 minutes left to play. 

Slimbridge were breaking well as Tuffley pressed, and on 80 minutes, were in a 3 on 1 break which saw Reeves hit the side netting when the game could have been put to bed. 

With 6 minutes remaining, Bradley Bevan made a good run on the Slimbridge goal, but was thwarted by a superb Parker stop to maintain the visitor’s lead. 

There was still time for some further Slimbridge efforts – Mbunga was the latest Swans to find the side netting two minutes into stoppage time, before McKinnon and Neill brought a brace of good saves from Merchant as the game eventually played out eight minutes of stoppage time. 

Speaking after the game, Charlie Hitchings was full of praise for the side – “We’re really happy, especially because it was also a local derby – the conditions were really tough out there, that wind was a big factor in the first half. We knew it would be a game of two halves, and luckily we got the goal before half time, so we were delighted with that and we got a good reaction from our fans as we were walking off, so we’re buzzing and it was a good result.

“We showed good character to come back from two down, especially to get that one before half time – two nil is a difficult score, because if they score and it goes to 2-1, the momentum swings. So our half time team talk was positive – we knew the second half would be different as they would find it difficult to get out because of the wind, so yes, we were delighted. 

“I thought George was brilliant, he took his goal really well – it was a lovely touch and finish, he was a handful from start to finish – we needed someone today to hold the ball up, and he wrestled their centre halves. 

“I thought Sam Blackie did really well, he covered so much ground, and Ellis at the end with that save was absolutely brilliant. 

“We were good all round – Harrison did well when he came on and made an impact, and Handsy dropping in at centre back as well was brilliant.”

SLIMBRIDGE: Parker, Turner, Prictor (Hunt 87), Blackie, Hitchings, Mara (Reeves 45), McKinnon, Hands, Neill, Smith, Clayson (Mbunga 64) 

Goals: Blackie 45+1, Neill 65, Smith 70 

Supporters Club Man of the Match: George Neill 

Slimbridge have a GFA Challenge Trophy Tie on Tuesday when they travel to Moreton Rangers (7.45pm), before returning to Thornhill Park on Friday (7.45pm) when they entertain Pershore Town in a Hellenic League Premier fixture. 

Slimbridge Under 18’s recorded a massive victory in their GFA Under 18 County Cup tie at Bishops Cleeve Colts on Sunday, running out 18-1 winners. 

Will Tainton scored six goals, with Kieran Bennett pitching in with five. Noah Freckleton chipped in with a hat trick, while James Tainton, Devon Morgan, Evan Coombes and Kieran Grinyer on target.

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