Rovers barren run comes to an end
October 24, 2018
The Gas faithful saw their side score their first League One goal since the win over Coventry City last month, when Ed Upson was alive at the front post to scramble home Sam Matthew’s corner just over 10 minutes from the break.
That same amount of time after the interval and the lead was doubled, with Michael Kelly’s dangerous left-sided delivery unfortunately sliced into his own net by Will Nightingale.
AFC Wimbledon piled forward and fired a number of long balls into the Rovers’ box, but Tom Lockyer and company held firm to take a precious three points.
There were three changes to the side that drew with Oxford United here on Saturday, with Kyle Bennett and Matthews’ impressive second-half performances off the bench earning them a go from the start on Tuesday night.
Elsewhere, Daniel Leadbitter was also brought in to take Joe Partington’s place at right-back, who dropped down the substitutes.
After a scrappy opening five minutes in which neither side really got their foot on the ball, AFC Wimbledon went inches away from taking the lead when James Hanson drove a low effort from range that beat Jack Bonham before ricocheting off the Rovers upright.
There was another heart in mouth moment not too soon after, as the ball fell kindly in the box to Jake Jervis with only Bonham between him and the net, but the Rovers stopper got down superbly to smother his effort.
As we passed the 20-minute mark, The Gas were still yet to carve out a clear goalscoring opportunity and were having to remain alert at the back, with Tony Craig standing strong to block Kwesi Appiah’s header after he was really well found by Anthony Hartigan’s set-piece delivery.
The visitors came knocking again and Craig was there to deny once more, on this occasion clearing Appiah’s half-volley off the line.
The game had to wait until the 33rd minute before the hosts came close to a goal and it was with the aid of a deflection as Liam Sercombe’s long-range strike rebounded behind for a corner, but from that, Rovers finally broke their league goal drought and took the lead.
Matthews whipped in a menacing corner towards the near post that the Dons struggled to deal with and caused an almighty scramble, with the ball being bundled home by Upson for his first league goal for the club and Rovers first in the division since beating Coventry City 3-1 back in September.
That was to be the final moment of note in the first half, as Rovers headed into the break with a slender lead.
The second period was barely 10 minutes old when Darrell Clarke’s men doubled their lead, once again not in the tidiest of fashions.
Kelly curled in a dangerous ball from the left, aimed towards Tom Nichols, but before the forward could get on the end of it Will Nightingale stuck out a leg and turned the ball into his own net.
Rovers seem settled and reassured in possession after gaining their two-goal cushion, as Matthews continued to make himself a nuisance on the right, finding Ollie Clarke infield who carried the ball forward, beating a few men before demanding a decent stop with his deflected strike.
The visitors however did go in search of an equaliser and come close to one when Ben Purrington found Appiah with a great ball across the box, but the forward fluffed his lines and sent the ball wide.
The Dons and Appiah did then have the ball in the back of the net from a corner, but their celebrations were abruptly ended by the linesman’s flag.
Following those scares, Rovers pushed forward themselves as Bennett slid a nicely weighted pass down the left for Nichols who then fired a good ball at the near post that Sercombe tried to glance across goal but he couldn’t get it on target.
With the 70th-minute nearing, D.Clarke made a double switch, introducing Alex Jakubiak and James Clarke in place of Bennett and Matthews.
Rovers backline had held strong all afternoon and were having to withstand a number of high balls into their box as their opponents sought a goal of their own, skipper Lockyer and Craig were proving particularly resilient in the heart of defence.
On the 83rd minute, the Gaffer made his final change as Nichols left the field to an applause from the Mem to replaced by Stefan Paye in a straight swap up top.
There continued to be a late barrage from The Dons but they were to find no way through, with Rovers pinning a very much craved three points to the League One table.
Rovers XI: Jack Bonham (GK), Daniel Leadbitter, Tom Lockyer (c), Tony Craig, Michael Kelly, Ollie Clarke, Liam Sercombe, Ed Upson, Sam Matthews (James Clarke, 68′), Kyle Bennett (Alex Jakubiak, 68′), Tom Nichols (Stefan Payne, 83′).
Unused Subs: Adam Smith (GK), Joe Partington, Chris Lines, Alex Rodman.
Wimbledon XI: Joe McDonnell (GK), Ben Purrington (Mitchell Pinnock, 80′), Deji Oshilaja (c), Will Nightingale, Scott Wagstaff, Anthony Hartigan, Kwesi Appiah, Jake Jervis (Joe Pigott, 61′), James Hanson, Tom Soares, Rod McDonald.
Unused Subs: Tom King (GK), Tennai Watson, Terell Thomas, Liam Trotter, Alfie Egan.
Attendance: 7,184 (268).