Shinnie’s goal enough for Luton

September 16, 2018

After a number of bright first half saves from Jack Bonham, Shinnie bulleted a low volley home on the hour mark, as the hosts claimed all three points on offer and condemned Rovers to a first defeat in the month of September.

Named in Rovers starting eleven was three changes to the side that faced Plymouth last weekend. With his return from international duty, captain Tom Lockyer slotted straight back into the heart of the Rovers defence, while both Joe Martin and Ed Upson returned to the fold.

In the early flurry, a free header from Matty Pearson from a corner rose steeply over the Rovers goal – as the attempt didn’t cause too much concern from Jack Bonham, who was able to watch the ball sail high and wide.

Bonham was called into further action inside the opening fifteen minutes, as a searching cross from the left meandered into the Rovers area. The delivery found Jorge Grant, who was able to leap in the air to steer a powerful header towards goal, which was met by a strong save by Rovers ‘keeper, who managed to push the ball away from danger.

There were anxious moments to come for Rovers, who had to withstand pressure from the hosts, as Luton managed to get the ball into the net thanks to Jack Stacey poking home a cross at the far post. The was goal quickly ruled out by the officials, as it was deemed that Stacey pushed Tony Craig in his attempts to connect with the delivery.

As the half-hour mark approached, Tom Nichols was introduced from the bench, replacing Sam Matthews, in what was a tactical switch.

For the second time during the opening forty-five minutes, Rovers had to rely on a smart stop from Bonham to keep the scores level. The move was instigated by Elliot Lee, who managed to create a shooting angle after cutting inside from the left. With an obstructed view of goal, Lee attempted to curl an effort to the far post, which was met by a strong hand from Bonham to push the attempt away from danger.

Moments later, Luton again threatened, as deep cross wrangled its way to the unmarked Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu. From close-range, the midfielder connected with a first-time volley that boasted a lot of power, but Bonham had his near post covered to make a routine stop.

As the clock ticked down as the interval approached, the busy afternoon for Bonham continued. The Rovers shot-stopper was alert to dash off his line to close down the shooting angle for Mpanzu, with Bonham deflecting the midfielder’s goalward effort, with Glen Rea ballooning the rebound high over the target.

After the break, Rovers started in a positive fashion. A direct forward run from Chris Lines allowed the midfielder to draw in a number of defenders, before guiding a pass to Ollie Clarke. Clarke was able to win a corner, which Lines was tasked with taking, as his inswinging delivery narrowly avoided Tony Craig inside the six-yard box.

There were encouraging signs for Darrell Clarke’s side, as an efficient break forward lending the opportunity for Kyle Bennett to slide a pass through towards Tom Nichols. The striker held his run to stay onside, but the pass from Bennett was a touch too heavy and ran into that grateful arms of Luton goalkeeper, James Shea.

While creating chances at the other end, Rovers did had to be alert in defence. A quick venture forward from the hosts led to the ball falling to the feet of Mpanzu, who saw his fiercely struck strike deflected away from goal by a brave block from Ollie Clarke, who threw his body at the attempt from ten yards.

The deadlock was broken on the hour mark, as a free-kick from the right was only half-cleared by the Rovers defence, with Andrew Shinnie rifling home a driven volley to open the scoring.

Rovers looked to respond and a flighted set-piece from Chris Lines asked questions of the Luton defence. The delivery sailed to the far post where an array of players lept to meet the ball, with Tom Lockyer winning the aerial duel, but could only force his header past the goal frame.

The advantage for the hosts could have been doubled and the game entered the final twenty minutes. A winding run from Elliot Lee saw the striker break into the Rovers area and was able to steady his balance to produce a low shot towards goal the saw Bonham dive to his left to tip the shot wide.

As the contest wound down to the final ten minutes, there was a lengthy break in the action as Eunan O’Kane was injured after a clean tackle but an awkward collision with James Clarke; after lengthy treatment, the Luton substitute required a stretcher to leave the field of play.

With eleven minutes of stoppage time signalled as a result of the delay, it was Andrew Shinnie who again troubled the Rovers defence, as the attacking midfielder broke into the area and forced Bonham into making a save down low.

Rovers did muster a late chance, as a well-aimed cross from Tom Lockyer narrowed missed Gavin Reilly, who saw the cross header away from him as he poised himself to head towards goal.

Rovers XI: Jack Bonham (GK), James Clarke, Tom Lockyer (c), Tony Craig, Joe Martin, Ollie Clarke, Chris Lines, Ed Upson, Sam Matthews (27′ Tom Nichols), Kyle Bennett (72′ Alex Jakubiak), Stefan Payne (52′ Gavin Reilly).

Subs: Adam Smith (GK), Tom Broadbent, Daniel Leadbitter, Stuart Sinclair, Alex Jakubiak, Gavin Reilly, Tom Nichols.

Luton XI: James Shea (GK), Dan Potts, Sonny Bradley, Matty Pearson, Jack Stacey, Elliot Lee, Andrew Shinnie, Glen Rea (c), Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Jorge Grant (74′ Eunan O’Kane (87′ James Justin)), James Collins.

Subs: Harry Isted (GK), James Justin, Alan McCormack, Harry Cornick, Aaron Jarvis, Eunan O’Kane, Alan Sheehan.

Attendance: 8,912 (519 away)

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