Paulton Rovers 0 Westbury Utd 1: Paulton, having gained no points from their previous five games, were in desperate need of a win against their relegation rivals.

Westbury have fared little better, securing just two points from their previous five. It was easy to see why both of these teams have struggled at the wrong end of the league table for much of this season, as the early play was scrappy and short on quality.

It was Westbury who settled more readily and started to take the game to Paulton. Dan Restorick received an early booking as he brought down United’s Jasper Jones, while Harry Barter was shown a clean pair of heels by the lively Daniel Demkiv. Paulton, relying largely on breakaways at this point, threatened for the first time as Kyle Tooze fed Wayne Nderemani, whose cross shot was blocked.

Ed Butcher got in a great sudden cross which evaded Paulton’s forwards while defender Sam Pashen saw a speculative long range shot fly over the bar. Following two Westbury corners, Ryan Bole had successive shots blocked or saved by Frankie Phillips in the Paulton goal.

Then after 28 minutes, Westbury scored a crucial goal. Persistent play by Charlie Walton and Harvey Flippance on the right allowed Walton to get the ball across the face of the Paulton goal and the unmarked Demkiv was able to beat a despairing Phillips at his lefthand post.

Phillips also made a good save as he pushed a dangerous free kick away for a corner, then comfortably held an overhead shot from Flippance. As the first half drew to a close, Rovers gained some control. Good passing between Dan Cottle, Butcher, Oliver Sully and Tooze gained a corner. Cottle was fouled but Butcher, usually so reliable, drove the free kick wide.

The second half continued to be uninspiring as a lack of enterprise allowed defences to dominate proceedings. The ball spent a lot of time in the air. Westbury, determined to hang on to their advantage, were resolute in defence or were grateful as Rovers, building with good passing from the back, often gave the ball away with successive misplaced passes.

Jonathan Hill in the United goal comfortably saved a shot from Cottle – one of only two saves he was required to make all night, while a relieved Phillips saw a Westbury forward astonishingly shoot wide with the goal at his mercy. Paulton, aware of the game slipping away, tried manfully to create something, but United quickly and repeatedly closed them down and continued to create the better chances.

Nderemani, skilful and competitive, was given some rough treatment by the Westbury midfield and was replaced by the vociferous Martin Lenihan, who tried hard to inject more energy into Rovers’ play.

But Phillips continued to be the busier goalkeeper as United’s forwards benefitted from their better ball distribution. As the minutes drifted away, Westbury predictably employed the ‘game management’ tactics that would see them over the line.

Overall, the Whitehorse men deserved their victory. The Paulton faithful trooped home to their mugs of cocoa, realising that Rovers have it all to do!

Next first team game: Saturday, 24th February - Bishops Cleve (away) kick-off 3pm.

Noel Avis