Draw from the jaws of victory at Wantage

A trip into Oxfordshire for Rovers in this their opening League fixture of the 2021/22 season. As expected, with so long a Covid-induced gap between competitive football for both sides, a cagey opening few minutes ensued but it was Rovers who quickly took the attacking initiative with winger Victor Osobu blazing his shot over from a Martell Powell pass after just two minutes play. Immediately, both striker Tony Burnett and Bradley Bell for Rovers passed up scoring opportunities following a goalmouth scramble. The home side burst into life briefly with nine minutes gone when Joshua Elms got free at the back post but his shot went well wide of the target. Rovers were a constant threat on the attack and created a clear opening for Chris Regis but home keeper Joseph Gorman was quick off his line and Regis’s shot was blocked to safety. A breakthrough for Rovers though with 20 minutes gone when a Charlie Smith Corner was worked back into the box via the combined efforts of Osobu and Regis and man on the spot inside the six-yard box was centre-back Lewis Thomas to put the Rovers in front. Down to some excellent goalkeeping and a deal of profligacy amongst the Rovers attackers the Wantage goa continued to lead a charmed life. Rovers created and wasted so many scoring chances notably on 24 minutes when Osobu clear in on goal contrived to hit the far post with his effort at goal and just 4 minutes later when Bell crashed a Jay Palmer cross into the side netting when it looked easier to find the back of the net. Before the half-time whistle sounded, Rovers scorned further clear-cut scoring opportunities through Bell, Burnett and Osobu and went in with just a slender one goal advantage to show for a half they dominated from the attacking perspective.

The question on all Rovers fans’ minds was would they be made to pay for those missed chances and the answer came just two minutes into the second half when Elms got free on the Wantage left and cut in to fire a low shot across Rovers keeper Kyle Forster and grab an equaliser very much against the run of play. Levelling the game up certainly spurred the home side into action and they enjoyed a good spell of possession but without calling the Rovers defence into any serious action. Rather Rovers gathered themselves and got back on the attack but the scoring malaise of the first half continued to haunt the visitors with multiple on-target efforts by Regis, Smith and Osobu all saved by the outstanding home keeper. A brief respite for the over-worked Wantage backline came with a corner on 80 minutes which right-back Lewis Crosbie headed well wide before a Smith free-kick for Rovers in the last minute saw Kai Phelan poke a shot over the bar.

A game in which Rovers finishing left much to be desired and two points dropped that should have been securely tied up well before half-time. The Rovers Manager and players will be hoping to improve on this showing on Tuesday night with North Leigh the visitors to Sharpenhoe Road.

Final Score: Wantage Town FC 1 (Elms 49) Barton Rovers FC 1 (Thomas 20)

Rovers Team: Forster, Palmer, Scott-Culkin, Phelan, Thomas, Smith, Powell, Bell, Regis, Burnett (Knight 80), Osobu (Lee 74).

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