THIS game hadn’t long started when it became apparent why Cribbs are towards the top of this league, writes Noel Avis. Rovers were under pressure from the start, largely from Cribbs’ left back Josh Bennett who could hurl a throw in as if it were a corner. 

Rovers’ defenders were coping well with Cribbs’ strong running forward players, but Jack Dancey was forced to bring down Lynford Bhebhe as he threatened to get round the back. It wasn’t until the 8th minute that Paulton managed to mount an attack of their own as Ed Butcher earned a corner. Paulton managed fleeting attacks as Dan McBeam, Rovers’ beat player in the first half, and then Martin Lenihan, both with good control of the ball, enjoyed some possession. 

It became clear that Cribbs, a big team, were the more dominant in the air, yet Rovers continued to lump the ball towards Jamarni Langlais, who, though a skilful and willing runner, struggled to impose himself against such tall defenders.  Lenihan, with some great vision, created an opening for Langlais, whose shot was charged down. Dan McBeam and Ed Butcher made promising runs but Mc Intosh Boyd in the Cribbs goal remained largely untroubled.

Neil Martin, Rovers’ captain, was incensed as Jacob Brown, Cribbs’ centre forward, tried to win a penalty by diving. After half an hour, Rovers came under real pressure as they failed to clear their lines. Only Frankie Phillips, with some splendid saves and startling goal line clearances kept the score at 0-0. Throughout, Jack Dancey, Dan Restorick, Nick Hewlett and Martin were composed and steadfast.

As Paulton began to impose themselves toward the end of the half, the extra minutes allowed by referee Jake Woolley gave Cribbs’ Harris Feltham, benefitting from Brown’s trickery, the chance to fire firmly past Phillips and give the Bristol team a 0-1 lead.

Nonetheless, Paulton’s confidence improved after the break. Their pattern of play became more controlled and Joe Hall started to demand the ball from his defenders, playing more constructively with Dan Cottle, Lenihan and Butcher. Cottle shot just wide. Butcher’s free kick was deflected for a corner. Then Butcher had a good claim for a penalty as The was pushed off the ball, but still managed to force the Cribbs keeper into a save.

Man of the match: Martin Lenihan – constant encouragement and tireless play in midfield.