Rovers ease into second round
August 9, 2017
Rovers progress in the Carabao Cup thanks to a victory at the Mem over Cambridge United.
Billy Bodin fired Rovers ahead just twelve minutes into the contest, with a fine finish in a move that was started by a pinpoint accurate long-range pass from Lee Brown, with the winger doubling Rovers’ advantage with a strike in the final few minutes of the first half.
Ellis Harrison added Rovers’ third goal on the hour mark, finishing from close-range following a cross from the left, as Uche Ikpeazu pulled a goal back for the visitors, but a fine strike from outside the box from Liam Sercombe on his home debut restored Rovers’ three goal advantage.
The victory secures Rovers’ place in Thursday’s second round draw, with the prize of potentially being drawn against a Premier League side in the next stage of the competition.
Heading into the tie at the Memorial Stadium, Manager Darrell Clarke made three changes from the side that were narrowly defeated on the opening day of the season at the Valley.
Ryan Sweeney and Daniel Leadbitter replaced James Clarke and Tom Broadbent, while Tom Nichols made his first start for the club in an attacking line that included Ellis Harrison and Billy Bodin.
During the opening exchanges, Daniel Leadbitter looked to make up for lost time after missing Saturday’s season opener and started the game brightly with a pacy run down the right that saw the defender knock the ball past two Cambridge players before drawing a foul from Harrison Dunk.
The first opportunity of the game fell to Rovers and was started by a clever run into the box from Tom Nichols, who broke to the byline before squaring a pass to Ellis Harrison, with the forward blasting a side-footed effort narrowly wide of the post.
Harrison’s effort was quickly proceeded by the opening goal, as a perfectly weighted pass from Lee Brown penetrated the visitor’s defence, with the delivery falling at the right height for Billy Bodin to control and advance into the area before executing a finish beyond Dimitar Mitov.
The chances kept coming for Rovers, who enjoyed the majority share of possession during the first forty-five minutes, as Tom Nichols took advantage of ample space outside the box to fire a long-range effort towards goal that veered slightly off-target from twenty-five yards out.
Nichols was again involved in the opposition area, as the striker received the ball after a neat combination of passes on the edge of the box, but with just the ‘keeper to beat, the striker couldn’t quite control the ball to get a close-range shot away.
With three minutes of the first-half remaining, a purposeful run by Stuart Sinclair allowed Rovers to break into the Cambridge box, with the industrious midfielder waiting to find Billy Bodin with a pass, which the winger controlled and was able to hold up the ball to plot a path to goal, eventually powering home his second goal of the game.
The second half began with Rovers having to deal with a succession of corners from the right-hand side, with the trio of Harrison, Lines and Sercombe all doing their defensive duties to usher the ball clear on three separate occasions.
Joe Partington was introduced from the bench on with forty-minutes remaining, slotting in as a straight swap for Daniel Leadbitter.
The second half lacked the chances of the first, but sprung into life as the game reached the hour mark, as Ellis Harrison found himself in the right place at the right time to benefit from a dangerous cross from the left, with the striker applying a powerful header from close range that Mitov knew little about.
Just five minutes later the visitors were able to reduce the deficit, as Uche Ikpeazu broke into the Rovers area and was able to keep his balance to divert an effort past the advancing Adam Smith.
After a frantic period of both ends of the pitch, Rovers were able to once again restore their three goal advantage, with midfielder Liam Sercombe charging at the Cambridge defence, avoiding numerous challenges before directing a sweetly struck right-footed shot that soared into the top corner to register his first goal in the famous blue and white quarters.
There was a late chance for Rory Gaffney, as the striker was picked out with a delightful cross from Bodin, but rushing to attack the ball late, Gaffney couldn’t keep his close-range header from rising over the crossbar.
Rovers: Smith, Brown, Sweeney, Lockyer (C), Leadbitter (51′ Partington) Sercombe, Lines, Sinclair, Bodin, Nichols, Harrison,
Subs: Slocombe, Broadbent, Telford, Moore, Bola, Partington, Gaffney
Cambridge: Mitov, Taylor, Legge, Ikpeazu, Azeez, Dunk, Osadebe, Amoo (68′ Carroll), Elito (68′ Brown), Lewis (68’ Deegan), Darling
Subs: Iron, Carroll, Deegan, Mingoia, Berry, Harris, Brown
Referee: Kevin Johnson
Attendance: 4,114 (114 away)