The long-awaited return to competitive action saw Rovers travel into Essex to face Isthmian Premier League side Bowers & Pitsea FC in an Emirates FA Cup Preliminary Round tie. The match was played on a pristine artificial surface and playing conditions were good with fine weather aplenty. Rovers started without their defensive lynch-pin Lewis Thomas who suffered an injury in midweek so up stepped club stalwart Paul Andrews to fill the gap. It was backs to the wall stuff from the get-go for Rovers with the home side well on top and Rovers hardly able to play their way out of their own half. The only surprise to everyone was that it took Bowers so long to get their noses in front. With 20 minutes gone, Rovers keeper Niall Cooper was a busy man and kept the scoresheet clean with a point blank save from home full back Tom Stephen followed by a tipping save to prevent a goal from the resulting corner. The pressure was telling and Andrews found himself in the referee’s notebook when he had a couple of digs at the home side’s attacker Billy Knott on 27 minutes. The inevitable was delayed until the 33rd minute when Dan Trendall, a constant thorn in the Rovers side, cut in from the left side and let loose with an unstoppable shot which Cooper in the Rovers goal could only stand and admire. Bowers almost doubled their lead just two minutes later when a cracking free-kick effort from Knott smashed against a Rovers post and rebounded to safety. Both McKenzie and Knott for the home side had good efforts at goal before Bowers doubled their lead when Bowers star man Quentin Monville fired home a low free-kick which Cooper got a finger-tip to but failed to prevent it crossing the line after 41 minutes. Half-time then followed to grant Rovers a few minutes of respite.

Bowers went straight into offensive mode as the second half got underway and Josh Rusoke fired well wide from good position before Cooper almost presented Bowers with a gift from a poorly-taken goal-kick. Rovers however went further behind on 52 minutes when Andrews nudged Trendall in the box and a penalty-kick ensued and up stepped Knott to establish a 3-goal cushion for the home side. Home defender Callum Leahy might have added to the scoreline but headed wide with and hour gone before Rovers Manager Tony Fontanelle tried changing things with a series of substitutions. But still the Bowers chances came and went with Max Cornhill the sinner when he fired wide from a through pass on 63 minutes. Rovers first clear-cut chance of the match fell to striker Connor Vincent but, with just the keeper to beat, and on a narrow angle, he dragged his shot wide of the target after 67 minutes. Rovers then went further behind, again from a Knott penalty after 68 minutes with, this time, the Rovers offender being centre-back Kai Phelan. With 73 minutes gone, Jay Palmer, on as a substitute for Rovers, then won a penalty for his side but it wasn’t Rovers day as Vincent saw his well-struck kick touched round the post by home keeper Lamar Johnson. The visitors did finally get a goal on 81 minutes when a low left-wing cross from Victor Osobu was turned into his own netby defender Leahy. Their was to be further salt rubbed in the Rovers wounds when Bowers substitute Kamal De Bourg scored a cracker with just 4 minutes remaining to bring up a nap hand of goals and complete the day’s scoring action. A very disappointing away day for Rovers and much food for thought for the Rovers management team with the commencement of the league program just a week away when Rovers have a home opener against Coleshill Town.

Final Score: Bowers & Pitsea FC 5 ( Trendall 33, Monville 41, Knott pens 68 & 73, De Bourg 86) Barton Rovers 1 (Leahy OG 81)

Rovers Team: Cooper, Jibodu (Palmer 73), Ward, Smith, Phelan, Andrews, Osobu, Dummett, Vincent (Oyeniran 80), Powell, Williams (Hall 57).

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