Luke McNulty starred as Tshibola Wanderers defeated bitter rivals Valentinos by two goals to one at the Folley, Cheltenham.
It was the first game of the season, and despite being without manager Dan Ramsdale it was Tshibola who took the initiative early on- pressing the Valentinos defence at every given opportunity. Step-in player/manager Chad Billy-Wrenn opted with a 4-1-4-1 formation.
It seemed to suit McNulty who looked bright early on, causing the Valentinos right back all kinds of problems. It seemed like it was only a matter of time before Tshibola would make the breakthrough, and the pressure that Tshibola were putting the Valentinos defence finally paid off as Luke Watkins won a penalty. It was the other Luke who took the penalty but unfortunately it was saved by the Valentino goalkeeper.
The rebound from Josh Pratt was also blocked. Tshibola remained well on top, and had some excellent chances to take the lead. First of all a lovely flowing move ended in Luke Watkins hitting the post, the build up play was excellent in the move as it saw Henry port playing the ball to Chad Billy-Wrenn who’s flick set up Watkins for the shot. Chad Billy-Wrenn then saw his shot fade just wide as Tshibola built momentum. Then full-back, Conor Fitzgerald who hardly put a foot wrong all game saw his effort excellently saved by the Valentinos goalkeeper.
Valentinos barely had a look in first half, but maybe should of taken the lead when Jack Conlon’s lack of concentration saw him play an astray ball back to goalkeeper Ben Francis, but the striker couldn’t find the back of the net.
Conor fitzgerald also then had another attempt cleared off the line at the end of the half- it looked destined for the net only for the Valentinos centre-back to get back to clear the ball off the line. Tshibola were well on top heading into the half-time interval which delighted step-in manager Chad-Billy Wrenn.
Tshibola continued where they left off in the first half, and in the 53rd minute they took the lead following a superb left-footed effort from winger Luke McNulty, who’d been a threat all game. Moments later it was 2-0, excellent vision from Josh Pratt found Luke Watkins who buried his effort, despite the keepers best efforts. The goal sent the managing staff and players into scenes of delirium.
After the goal Dubz and Sam Hill came on for Chad Billy-Wrenn and Josh Pratt who both put in excellent shifts between them.
It was clear that Tshibola were in control of the game, but a silly handball almost saw the fiery Adam Goodwin get sent off but the referee decided against it to the relief of player/manager Chad Billy-Wrenn. Valentinos started to come back into the game, and slack defending cost Tshibola dearly as an intelligent free-kick from Valentinos saw them pull one back, however it must be said the goal took a deflection.
Tshibola now knew they needed to find another gear, with just twenty minutes to play it was game on. Despite Valentinos now having more possession of the ball they rarely tested Francis, and Tshibola may have even extended their lead but Josh Pratt’s effort narrowly went over the bar.
In a fiesty contest it was Tshibola who picked up their first three points of the season, they will now look to push on following an impressive display against a more than adept Valentinos side.
Speaking to Tshibola Wanderers captain Joe Davies at the end of the game he said:
“It’s an absolutely fantastic effort and the side showed great intensity” He also went on further to say “Valentinos couldn’t handle us today”
When asked how his side could push on from this display, he said “Fitness is not where we would like to be ideally but as you play more games that’s going to improve, and by doing this we’ll play even better football”
Ultimately when asked about where he felt his side would finish this season, he replied “We are going to win the league and the cup this season”
There appears to be a real sense of excitement within the Tshibola Wanderers camp after today’s victory over Valentinos, and this showed during Davies’ interview.
Player ratings and Man of the Match award:
Ben Francis: 7
An assured performance from the goalkeeper, looks so relaxed and composed. A type of goalkeeper which makes you feel at ease, couldn’t do much about the goal which was deflected either.
Jack Conlon: 8
Despite a mistake which almost cost Tshibola, Conlon was solid throughout. Remained competitive throughout the game and had a shot of his own which was saved by Valentino’s goalkeeper in the second-half.
Joe Davies (Captain): 7
No nonsense type of player, put in some decisive challenges which prevented Valentinos creating any kind of problems for the defence. Commanded the defence throughout, likes to make himself heard. Great captain’s performance.
Adam Goodwin: 7
Fired up from the first minute, put in some crunching challenges but remained pretty much solid throughout. Covered well for Conor Fitzgerald when he pushed further forward in the first half. May have got himself stupidly sent off for a handball in the second-half but can’t deny how organised he is, superb.
Conor Fitzgerald: 8
So unlucky not to get the man of the match award, hadn’t it been for McNulty’s heroics he would have been it. Made excellent overlapping runs to help out in attack but remained solid in defence when called upon. His form could be key to success for Tshibola this season- unfortunate not to get on the score sheet himself too.
Elliot Lee: 7
Was quiet at the start of the game, but grew into it. Has real energy and endeavour to drive the team forward. Will only grow in confidence following an impressive display here.
Henry Port: 7
An off day for the winger, but provided sparks of brilliance. Almost started off the move which could of been goal of the season. Looked more lively in the second half. Can only get better, excellent talent.
Luke Watkins: 8
Another player who was in the mix for the man of the match award- a real confident showing from the midfielder, and got on the score sheet following great work from Josh Pratt.
Chad Billy-Wrenn (Player/Manager): 7
Started slowly, but like Elliot Lee he grew into the game. Not afraid to put a foot in, and shows great ability when on the ball. He was unlucky not to score but his effort faded the wrong side of the post. Took himself off to give instructions to players when 2-0 up. Great effort.
Luke McNulty (Man of the Match): 9
What a performance from the wide man, caused the full-back problems all game. Unfortunate to miss his first half penalty, but made amends when scoring a quite wonderful goal in the second half. Completely merits his man of the match display.
Josh Pratt: 8
Despite a quiet first half, Pratt grew into the game and in the second half he was absolutely scintillating at times. Provided an excellent assist for Luke Watkins goal, and was a real live wire throughout. A defenders nightmare.