Malvern Town 2 Paulton Rovers 2: Goals from David O’Hare and Toby Stephens weren’t quite enough to take all three points as Malvern twice pegged back Rovers to share the points.

Following a minute’s silence for ex-player and manager of Malvern, Joe Rawle, who passed away this week, the game got underway in a frantic style. The visitors will have had bad memories of artificial pitches having been heavily beaten on one a matter of weeks ago, but they were soon forgotten as Rovers came out of the blocks quickly and within the first minute had played the ball wide to the right to Dan McBeam who crossed into the box but it was agonisingly just too far in front of Jemar South-Thomas to open the scoring.

With both McBeam and South-Thomas starting after impressive substitute appearances and both playing in wide positions, Rovers were able to get in behind Malvern on a number of occasions in the early minutes. With Kye Simpson playing more centrally, the front three looked sharp and in the 4th minute the second chance arrived. Fin Haines fed South-Thomas but his shot was easy for Archie Burford in the Malvern goal.

Rovers were playing with confidence and just minutes later had the lead. A long pass from Rovers’ keeper, Rob Brown, found Kye Simpson who used his strength to hold the ball up and move along the edge of the 18 yard box to the ‘D’ where he played a beautiful reverse pass to the unmarked David O’Hare who moved into the box unchallenged and casually chipped the keeper.

It was a lead that was well deserved but didn’t last long. Malvern seemed spurred into action and put together a neat move of their own in the 11th minute. Ben Hayes on the Malvern right, crossed invitingly for Jack Watts score from close range.

The goal seemed to sap some of the confidence out of Paulton and Malvern started to come into the game more and more. Their passing was accurate and in the 19th minute, Rob Brown had to make a stop from a Justin Hall strike.

It took Rovers ten minutes or so to start to get some of their mojo back again and in the 30th minute, an extended period of possession led to some neat play around the box giving a chance for Jemar South-Thomas but his shot was just wide. A couple of corners quickly followed but the hosts keeper took one comfortably and the other skimmed off the head of Rovers’ Dan Restorick and away to safety.

Rovers took the lead again in the 38th minute. Some great pressure on the Malvern defence on the lefthand side led to a sloppy pass back into the box which Jemar South-Thomas gleefully latched onto. He still had some work to do to hold off a defender but he found Toby Stephens on the edge of the six yard box and he won’t get many easier chances to put the ball into the net! Malvern had a late chance but Rovers’ defence was firm and went into the break ahead.

The opening minutes of the second half were a scrappy affair with half chances at both ends.

The hosts were starting to get the better of the possession and chances kept falling to their attack. But Paulton’s Neil Martin, marshalled his defence and they managed to keep Malvern out. Rovers themselves still looked dangerous on the break but arguably their attacks had fallen back to long balls towards Kye Simpson who was often crowded out before he could find a pass.

Both teams went close in the 71st and 72nd minutes. Firstly, Dan McBeam took a shot that was comfortable for Burford to stop then straight up the other end, Rob Brown was again called to make a good save from Jack Watts. The better chances were still falling to Malvern and in the 77th minute they got their reward. Jack Watts able to nod in the equaliser from a cross and get his second of the game. It had seemed like it was coming.

Kye Simpson had a late run at the Malvern defence halted but Rovers were struggling to contain Malvern who were pressing for a winner. They couldn’t take those chances though and the last, and somewhat controversial, move of the game came for Rovers. On for Dan McBeam, Martin Lenihan swung in a cross from the right that the out-rushing keeper appeared to get a feint touch on but his momentum took him into Joe Morgan who was flattened. The ball fell to Kye Simpson who would have had an easy pass to the lurking Toby Stephens for a good chance. But the whistle had inexplicably gone for a freekick for Malvern rather than a penalty that surely seemed to be more just.

The game ended there and the initial reaction was that two points had been lost by Rovers. Even so, there were lots of positives to take from the game, especially from the first half showing and maybe the draw was a fair result.

Jon Green