Point a piece at the death
Main Rovers team news ahead of kick-off for this away league fixture was the return of left-back and skipper Garry Jones to the starting line-up. Just six minutes into the match Rovers keeper Kyle Forster found himself making a last-ditch clearance way outside his area, but it almost backfired as he presented Thame left-winger Ryan Blake with the ball which was winging its way into the back of the net when up popped Rovers centre-back Lewis Thomas to head off the line for a Thame corner. Blake took the resultant corner and found the head of team-mate James Essex who bulleted home for the opening goal. This match was so open from the first whistle that it seemed a goal-fest was on as both sides attacked with real intent. Rovers right-winger Victor Osobu made a piercing run into the Thame box after 8 minutes but his shot was turned away for a corner by home keeper Fred Chapman who had a fine match. Nathan Tshikuna was next to threaten for Rovers but allowed the ball to run out of play just as he crossed from the left. Another Blake corner might have seen Rovers fall further behind but Essex failed to find the target on this occasion. On 16 minutes, Connor Furlong, making his debut for Rovers, sent in a pinpoint cross that was bundled for a corner via some desperate Thame defending but Rovers made nothing of the corner. A minute later, Osubu was upended just outside the Thame box but his effort from the resultant free-kick was hit straight at keeper Chapman who saved easily. A couple of minutes later Rovers centre-forward Connor Vincent almost created himself a clear run in on goal but was denied by a last-ditch defensive tackle. However, Rovers efforts, having gone behind early, were finally rewarded in the 20th minute when danger-man Osobu created himself some space just inside the box and shot home left-footed to level the scores. Tshikuna was next in on the attacking action after 25 minutes but his header was easily gathered by Chapman. On 31 minutes, Thame came mighty close to going ahead when that man Essex just failed to get a decisive touch on the end of a dangerous free-kick. Charlie Smith proved to be a Rovers saviour when he headed a goal-bound Thame header off the line. With 39 minutes on the clock it looked certain that Tshikuna had put Rovers ahead with one of his top-corner specials but Thame keeper Chapman was equal to it and clawed it over his bar for a Rovers corner. So half-time came with the sides level and all involved happy to take a breather from the non-stop first-half action.
Rovers were quickest into their stride second half and were threatening a second goal from the off with the pressure telling on Thame with two quick yellow cards for Thomas Ashworth and Jordan Balogun both for late tackles. With 58 minutes gone, Osobu got all his lead-up work in carving a hole for himself in the Thame defence but his attempt to waltz round the Thame keeper failed and a golden Rovers chance went abegging. A scare for Rovers after 61 minutes when a Dan West free-kick clattered Forster’s bar and went over to safety. Chances came and went on 66 and 68 minutes for Thame’s Gregory Hackett and Blake and the game had a real open look and both teams were threatening on the break. Rovers right-back headed a Thame effort from a corner off the line before Osobu had a blatant penalty claim refused after 73 minutes. However, perhaps Rovers got their reward when it seemed Thame centre-back got the last touch to a Furlong 74th minute left-wing cross which the far-side assistant deemed had crossed the line although some standing nearer to the action felt VAR would have ruled out the score and on balance at this point Rovers perhaps deserving to be ahead. With time running down though Rovers started to live dangerously and paid dearly three minutes into added time when Hackett was allowed space down the right to fire in a low cross which West turned into goal to level the scores. Rovers were unable to fashion another chance and the final whistle sounded on a match which was a great advert for non-league football.
Final Score: Thame United 2 (Essex 6, West 90+3) Barton Rovers 2 (Osobu 20, Jewell OG 74)
Rovers Team: Forster, Jibodu, Jones (C), Thomas, Sonuga, Smith, Osobu, Dummett (Gibson 26), Vincent (McKenzie-Lowe76), Tshikuna, Furlong.