Bristol Rovers drew their fifth successive league game in an entertaining clash against promotion-chasing Scunthorpe United at the Memorial Stadium.
The visiting side came close to taking the lead just 12 seconds into the tie with Rovers goalkeeper Joe Lumley pulling off a smart save to deny Duane Holmes volleyed effort. The hosts, however, dominated the opening period having long spells of possession and at times threatening to run away with the game. A lack of clear-cut chances and solid defending by “The Iron” limited Rovers attacking options with home debutant Bob Harris impressing in the left back position in the absence of first team regular Lee Brown. Defensively, it wasn’t hard to see why Scunthorpe are in and around the top of the league, central defensive duo David Mirfin and Murray Wallace dominated aerially throughout the first half despite the best efforts of the Bristol Rovers forward line.
The stalemate was however broken in the 39th minute with Ollie Clarke making the most of one of the host’s many first-half corners, the lively midfielder headed in past Luke Daniels who did well to get a hand to the powerful effort. Clarke could well have been claiming his second goal of the match had he been able to poke the ball into the back of the net in a similarly frantic goal line scramble slightly earlier in the match, Rory Gaffney was also guilty of not making his chances pay.
The match opened up for Scunthorpe in the second half, manager Graham Alexander having clearly made his frustrations known at half time to his players. The usually lively Paddy Madden was restricted throughout the match with Stoke loanee Ryan Sweeney remaining as solid as ever in “The Pirates” defence. He was however powerless to resist as a poor back pass by substitute Ellis Harrison allowed Madden a clear sight at goal – Tom Lockyer unlucky to poke the ball into his net under pressure from the dangerous Irishman. Scunthorpe showed their promotion credentials during the period after their 73rd minute equalizer as they pushed for a late winner. Rovers did well to hold firm against a side that had scored 58 goals in just 32 league matches and contained dangerous 18 goal top goalscorer Josh Morris. Ultimately, the match ended with the visiting side on top, midfielder Sam Mantom had the ball in the back of the net only for his effort to be disallowed for offside to Rovers relief.
1-1 seems a fair result in a game of two halves for Rovers, the same problems seem to be plaguing the side since top goalscorer Matty Taylor left for the red side of the City. Despite having strengthened defensively, The Gas are struggling to finish off important chances, in what is a polar opposite to the free-scoring beginning of the season. The man of the match was deservedly awarded to bearded midfield enforcer Stuart Sinclair who was playing in an unfamiliar left wing position, although Chris Lines and Bob Harris also had a steady if not unremarkable game. In a match from which there were more positives than negatives, Rovers can reflect on a run of three unbeaten home games against the top three sides in League 1 which not only serves as proof that they can battle it out with the big boys but also shows that there is still enough fight in the squad to secure a play-off place and perhaps stake a claim for a third successive promotion.
Feature Image Credit: Chris Clements on Wikipedia