Well, despite this being an FA cup tie between two teams who've enjoyed a certain rivalry over the years, the sky offered no portents as the game kicked off. The Cherries started the livelier with Buxton (on his home debut after rejoining us from Pompey) supplying a couple of useful crosses which Supa should have done better with. However, Rovers survived this early pressure and began to roll out their game plan of chasing and harrying us at every opportunity, with the result that the game became a rather scrappy affair. Although the visitors rarely threatened, we couldn't seem to break them down. Too often crosses from both flanks were overhit. I thought we were missing Hayter who was warming the bench, with Purches being drafted into midfield.
Mr. Ross soon booked a couple of their players and the general consensus among the home faithful was that the ref was having a good game. However, there was little else to enthuse the fans until the 37th minute when Wade Elliott enlivened what had become a drab encounter with a piece of individual brilliance. Receiving a somewhat bobbly pass from Browning midway inside the Rovers' half, and with his back to the goal, Wade turned his two markers and set off on one of his trademark runs. I wouldn't say the visitors' defence parted like the Red Sea as the lad ran at them, but it parted enough to encourage him to have a go from 25 yards. His left-footed shot was so sweetly struck that Miller in the Rovers' goal stood rooted to the spot as the ball flew into the left-hand corner of the net. It was, as they say, effing brilliant! (No wonder the goal was shown three times in the BBC's FA Cup round-up later that night!).
We ended the half well on top but without making any clear-cut chances.
I felt that if we scored again, the Gas would fall apart and we would run out handsome winners. And a chance came only 3 minutes into the second half. Feeney made ground down the left, turned the ball back onto his right foot and supplied a pin-point cross for Elliott at the far post. His first touch was deft and with only the keeper to beat, Wader crashed the ball goalwards, only for it to rebound from the crossbar with some force.
Other chances came and went and, although we were dominating the game, the fact that we were only one goal to the good meant that Rovers were always in with a shout. Indeed their fans were in exceedingly good voice and very nearly had something to cheer about around the hour mark when Buxton, who had had a typically steady game until then, dwelt too long on the ball and allowed Haldane to race clear with only Moss to beat. Now Mossie had had very little to do until then, but he certainly earned his money by spreading himself to block the striker's shot. A real let-off.
A few minutes later the visitors screamed for a penalty when Carl Fletcher appeared to scythe Gilroy down in the box. From where I was sitting it looked like a reasonable shout, but that nice Mr. Ross saw it differently. He booked Gilroy for diving!
Things got worse for the Gasheads not long afterwards when Elliott once more threatened their goal. As he jostled with Austin on the edge of the penalty area, the Rovers' defender appeared to shove him and the ref had no hesitation in producing a red card. Now I know that he was the last man and he deprived Wade of a scoring opportunity, but I would have thought yellow a more appropriate punishment. However, perhaps the law doesn't allow this. Anyway, I thought it was harsh.
Nothing came of the resulting free kick and, even with 10 men, Rovers still thought they could get something out of the game. Indeed, as so often happens, the 10 men played purposefully and made SOD bring on Tindall and Mayer to bolster things up near the end. Predictably, they won a corner and we all held our breath as the ball bounced in the box, only for a header to sail harmlessly over the bar. However, apart from that scare, we ran the clock down quite comfortably.
All in all, we did enough to win the game without really getting into our stride. We kept a clean sheet and continued our unbeaten run, so it would be churlish to complain at the narrowness of the victory. We're showing a consistency and mental strength that we used to lack, even when we're not playing as well as we can. And the main thing is that we're in the hat for the next round!
AFCB: Moss, Purches, Broadhurst, C Fletcher, Buxton, Cummings, Browning, Elliott, O'Connor, S Fletcher, Feeney
Subs: Stewart, Tindall (for O'Connor, 87), Hayter (for Feeney, 84), Maher (for Elliott, 90), Stock
Ellis Griffin, Chertsey