Rovers crashed out of the FA Cup last Tuesday evening after a home defeat to a well organised Wimborne Town team who bossed the majority of this replay.
The positivity that surrounded the Rovers team after a good performance at Wimborne on Saturday afternoon was soon wiped away when the visitors struck in the third minute. A long ball down the right had Rovers’ captain, Neil Martin, scampering back towards his own goal. His back pass was uncharacteristically mis-hit by keeper Sam Jepsom, straight to Wimborne’s Matt Neale on the edge of the box. He picked out Lewis Beale to his left, who stroked the ball back into the bottom right corner of the net.
It was the just the start of a half of football to forget for Paulton. Wimborne had full control and seemingly cut apart the hosts at will with their passing and movement off the ball. A chance for Jez Bedford in the fourteenth minute went narrowly wide after a probing run by Matt Neale on the left. Several good chances also went begging with Sam Jepson also having to make a good save from a Lewis Beale header.
Rovers seemed to be too hurried into making long balls that the Wimborne defence lapped up and they barely made an impression in the visitor’s half until the latter end when they started to win a number of corners. It was from one of these that Paulton finally managed to make the Wimborne keeper work. David O’Hare swung in a cross that was defended away but only to Toby Stephens whose long range effort, although straight at Bert White, dipped awkwardly meaning he could only parry it away over the bar.
Stephens would go on to be Paulton’s bright spark in an otherwise forgettable performance. Just a couple of minutes after his strike, he placed a perfect ball over the top of the Wimborne defence that Kye Simpson was able to latch onto but his shot was blocked.
Wimborne still looked the more likely to score again and soon after Jez Bedford had hit the side netting, they doubled their lead. After winning a freekick on the left hand edge of the Rovers box, Matt Neale was able to tuck the ball into the right-hand corner after a seemingly simple setup move had split the Paulton wall allowing the space to open up. Only the most hardened of Rovers supporters would begrudge the lead that Wimborne had at half-time.
But the second half was a different affair. After a double change at the break with Jemar South-Thomas and Braeden Symes replacing David O’Hare and Leo Eglin, Rovers seemed to gain some more impetus with some neater passing of their own. Toby Stephens was again at the centre of most of the good work.
In the fiftieth minute, David Slade was able to strike from outside the box, but Bert White was equal to it. Having upped their own game, Rovers were now applying some pressure of their own and asking some questions of the Wimborne defence, but the final ball was not quite coming and any real golden openings were rare.
The game became very end to end, much like the first encounter had been on Saturday. Going into the final minutes, a goal mouth scramble nearly led to a goal for Rovers but a combination of the Wimborne defence and keeper somehow kept the ball out and at the other end Wimborne struck the crossbar.
A final push by Paulton led to some late controversy when, after a neat move that involved Jemar South-Thomas and Nick Hewlett, Kye Simpson was caught from behind in the box by a Wimborne defender that seemed to slip. The referee waived away the protests and the final few seconds were played out.
Despite an improved second half and certainly no lack of effort from anyone, it was a disappointing performance from Rovers in general. Although the performances of Toby Stephens and Jemar South-Thomas, after his second half introduction, certainly stood out.