A Season in Review – October 2023

Jun 4, 2024 | 2023 A Season in Review, News

Next in our review of the 2023/24 season is October

The Memorial Stadium                                                         
Tuesday 3rd October 2023

Bristol Rovers 3

McCormick, (25), Hunt (45), Brown (85)

Port Vale 0

Referee: Benjamin Speedie                                     
Attendance: 7,364    
Away fans: 378

Manager Joe Barton was forced to make four changes to his starting XI for this game, with several players out through injury, and he was only able to name six substitutes.

Of the quartet left out, only Antony Evans was fit enough to take his place on the bench, while Sam Finley, John Marquis and Luke Thomas sat the game out.

In came Luke McCormick for his first start of the season, likewise Chris Martin and there were recalls for Jevani Brown and Ryan Woods.

Harvey Vale kept his place at left back for this game against the team bearing his name (not Port!) and there was a Grant in each squad; Josh for Rovers, who was named skipper for the night and Conor for the visitors.

Ryan Loft, who left the Mem for Vale Park on transfer deadline day, was nowhere to be seen, though he was named in each lineup on the back of the programme, No 18 for Rovers, No 9 for Vale.

Both sides had early chances; for Rovers, Aaron Collins saw a tenth minute shot saved by Connor Ripley with his knees and the shot stopper also saved from Martin.

At the other end the lively Ben Garrity hit a shot that drifted wide of the target. Collins again went close for Rovers and his curling free kick from out on the left seemed destined for the top corner of the net until a timely intervention from Ripley saw him turn the effort behind for a corner.

Brown hit a shot over the bar before Barton’s side took a 25th minute lead. Martin played in Brown down the right and his cross into the box saw McCormick find the back of the net with a glancing header.

Vale, always looking dangerous on the break, were reduced to ten men on 38 minutes when Jesse Debrah, booked earlier in the game, fouled McCormick and collected his second yellow card of the evening.

Rovers took full advantage of their numerical superiority and claimed a second goal in first half stoppage time. Collins was the provider on this occasion and when he crossed from the left the unmarked Jack Hunt volleyed home from six yards out

Vale made a quadruple substitution at the start of the second half in an attempt to get something from the game. However, Rovers managed the game well and always looked in control of proceedings.

Vale (Harvey) went close to increasing the lead on 62 minutes but saw his shot saved by Ripley and then the visitors fashioned a couple of chances through James Wilson who saw his angled drive saved by Matt Cox, and Conor Grant whose effort was also saved by the keeper.

With five minutes of normal time remaining, though, Rovers made sure of all three points when Brown hit a 25 yard shot past Ripley and into the top corner of the net to register his first Rovers goal.

It was his last action of the evening as he was immediately substituted by James Gibbons. Rovers played out the last couple of minutes of added time with ten men after Evans was injured and led off the pitch by the medical staff. Hopefully, he will be fit for the upcoming trip to Oxford!

Bristol Rovers: Cox, Hunt (Gordon, 90), Taylor, Grant (Hoole, 86), Vale, Bogarde, Evans, McCormick (Evans, 62), Collins, Brown (Gibbons, 86), Martin (Sinclair, 86).

Substitute: Hall

Port Vale: Ripley, Cass (Balmer, 46), Sang, Smith, Garrity, Devine (Thomas, 46), Ojo, Arblaster (Lowe, 46), Massey (Wilson, 75), Plant (Grant, 46), Debrah.

Substitutes: Leutwiler, Walters.

It’s a fact

Former Rovers striker Ryan Loft wasn’t in the Port Vale squad

Skipper: Grant then Evans

Yellow cards: Grant

Number of substitutes used: Five

Time added on: Nine minutes

Time added on: Cumulative time added (league): 95 minutes

Cumulative time added on: (cups): 27 minutes

League Position: 11th


The Kassam Stadium                                                              Saturday 7th October 2023

Oxford United 2

Bodin (13), Long (81)

Bristol Rovers 1

Collins (89)

Referee: Simon Mather                                            Attendance: 9,439     Away fans: 1,475


For the second time in a matter of weeks Rovers’ manager Joe Barton named an unchanged starting XI for this lunchtime kick off against Oxford United but, once again, he was only able to name six substitutes.

Rovers began brightly and James Beadle, Oxford’s on loan goalkeeper from Brighton & Hove Albion, made a smart double save in the fifth minute to deny Rovers a goal.

Chris Martin then directed a header wide of the target as Rovers dominated the opening ten minutes of the game. However, as so often happens, the team under the cosh hit back and took an unexpected lead.

Ruben Rodrigues played in Billy Bodin and the former Rovers player turned and volleyed an unstoppable volley past Matt Cox. Bodin’s celebrations were muted but there was no doubting the fact that he enjoyed scoring against his former club.

Undeterred, Rovers played their way back into the game and Jevani Brown fired a shot wide of the mark before Aaron Collins saw his shot saved by Beadle.

Collins had the ball in the Oxford net with 38 minutes on the clock, but before anyone could celebrate an equaliser his effort was ruled out for offside.

At the start of the second half the home side sent on Stan Mills, son of former England international Danny, and changed their shape by playing a back four as opposed to a back three.

The introduction of Mills, who played out on the right, saw Oxford create a number of goalscoring opportunities and while Cox saved comfortably from Mark Harris, there were crucial blocks by Connor Taylor and Lamare Bogarde from Rodrigues and Cameron Brannagan respectively.

Rovers’ task became much harder just after the hour mark when Brown picked up his second yellow card in the space of five minutes and the subsequent red saw him trudge disconsolately to the dressing room.

Cox then touched a shot from substitute Josh Murphy over the bar and the same player really should have doubled his side’s lead in the 69th minute but, in a one on one situation against Cox, failed to find the target.

The second goal did arrive nine minutes from time, though, when Sam Long headed home following a corner from the right.

With a minute to go of normal time, though, the ten men pulled a goal back thanks to Collins who rifled a shot into the roof of the net and, with an additional eight minutes added on, there was still hope of a share of the spoils.

However, referee Simon Mather took centre stage in time added on, by dismissing two Oxford players from the field of play. First to go, in the 95th minute, was Oisin Smyth. He had only entered the fray as an 88th minute substitute, but in the seven minutes he was on the pitch he’d managed to be booked twice.

A minute after his dismissal fellow substitute Mills received a straight red after he lunged in to tackle Sam Finley on the halfway line.

After all that there was one final chance of a Rovers equaliser, but Beadle saved well from Sinclair to deny Barton’s side a deserved point.

Oxford United: Beadle, Long, Moore, Brown, Leigh, Brannagan, McGuane, Stevens (Mills, 46), Rodrigues (Smyth, 88), Bodin (Murphy, 58), Harris (O’Donkor, 70).

Substitutes: Thornley, McEachran, Eastwood.

Bristol Rovers: Cox, Hunt (Hoole, 75), Taylor, Grant, Vale, Woods, Bogarde (Evans, 58), McCormick (Finley, 58), Brown, Collins, Martin (Sinclair, 84).

Substitutes: Hall, Gibbons

It’s a fact

Former Rovers striker Billy Bodin was in the Oxford starting XI

Skipper: Grant

Yellow cards: Martin, Brown (2), Martin plus manager Joe Barton

Red card: Brown

Number of substitutes used: Four

Time added on: Twelve minutes

Time added on: Cumulative time added (league): 107 minutes

Cumulative time added on: (cups): 27 minutes

League Position: 13th



The Pirelli Stadium                                                   Saturday 21st October 2023

Burton Albion 4

Lubala (26 & 43), Powell (81), Baah (84)

Bristol Rovers 1

Evans (7)

Referee: Christopher Pollard                                               Attendance: 3,591     Away fans:

James Gibbons and Grant Ward were welcomed back into the starting lineup for this game at the Pirelli Stadium while Connor Taylor was selected for his 50th league start for Rovers.

The home side went close to taking the lead on five minutes when a corner taken by Joe Powell struck the woodwork. Rovers hit back quickly, though, and took a seventh minute lead as Antony Evans pounced to score his first goal of the season.

The strike came courtesy of Chris Martin playing Aaron Collins in down the left and his cross saw Evans stoop to head past goalkeeper Max Crocombe, the ball going in off the post. Crocombe, by the way, became the 13th New Zealand international to face Rovers in a league match.

That was as good as it got for Rovers in the opening period as their goal seemed to stir Burton into action and it came as little surprise when the equaliser arrived after 26 minutes.

When Tom Hamer delivered a low ball into the box Congolese striker Beryly Lubala got ahead of Taylor and diverted the ball past Matt Cox.

The same player added a second goal before the break when he turned sharply to latch on to Matt Helm’s cross and fire into the net from close range.

Manager Joe Barton made two half time substitutions, sending on Sam Finley and Tristan Crama on in place of Ward and Scott Sinclair, though his side might well have conceded a penalty shortly after the restart when Gibbons appeared to handle in the area.

Fortunately, referee Christopher Pollard didn’t see the incident and Rovers went on to apply a great deal of pressure on the Burton defence. Goalkeeper Crocombe came to Burton’s rescue when he blocked an effort from Chris Martin at his near post, but just when it seemed that Rovers might get back on level terms, their task was made more difficult as they were reduced to ten men on 64 minutes.

Midfielder Ryan Woods, the recent loan signing from Hull City, appeared to lead with his arm when contesting an aerial challenge with Helm and was shown a straight red by referee Pollard.

Although Finley did test Crocombe with an effort that was comfortably saved, Burton finally capitalised on their numerical advantage by scoring twice in the space of three minutes.

Powell scored the first, with 81 minutes on the clock, with a shot from 25 yards that flew past Cox and three minutes later Kwadwo Baah completed the rout when he was set up by Lubala and blasted a shot high into the roof of the net.

On an afternoon when the football world was saddened to learn of the passing of probably the country’s best ever player, Sir Bobby Charlton, this performance simply wasn’t good enough from Rovers.

Barton will know that things need to improve, and quickly and whilst admitting that the red card changed the course of the game it’s the second match running that a sending off has damaged his side’s chances of collecting an away win

Burton Albion: Crocombe, Hamer, Moon, Sweeney, Seddon, Powell, Baah (Gordon 90 + 3), Gilligan (Bennett, 66), Oshilaja (Harper, 89), Helm, Lubala (Stockton, 89).

Substitutes: Blackman, Walker, Caprice.

Bristol Rovers: Cox, Gibbons (Bogarde, 76), Taylor, Grant, Vale, Evans (Marquis, 76), Woods, Ward (Finley, 46), Sinclair (Crama, 46), Martin (Gordon, 85), Collins.

Substitutes: Hall, Hoole.

It’s a fact

Former Rovers defender Ryan Sweeney started for Burton and former goalkeeper Jamal Blackman was on the bench.

Skipper: Grant

Yellow card: Bogarde

Red card: Woods

Number of substitutes used: Five

Time added on: 15 minutes

Time added on: Cumulative time added (league): 122 minutes

Cumulative time added on: (cups): 27 minutes

League Position: 17th


The Memorial Stadium                                                          Tuesday 24th  October 2023

Bristol Rovers 1

Martin (83)

Stevenage 1

Reid (40)

Referee: Matthew Donohue                                                 Attendance: 7,143     Away fans: 228

Defeat at Burton the previous Saturday left Rovers facing a crucial week in which they had two home league fixtures to try to turn their season around.

The visit of Stevenage, whose manager Steve Evans was highly critical of our final day promotion in 2022, gave them an opportunity to register a third consecutive home win.

Manager Joe Barton made changes to his starting XI following the Burton debacle. Naturally, the suspended Ryan Woods was missing, and Grant Ward was injured, while James Gibbons, Harvey Vale and Scott Sinclair all failed to make the cut.

Into the side came Luca Hoole, Tristan Crama, Sam Finley, Lamare Bogarde and Jevani Brown. They, along with their colleagues, participated in a one minute’s applause in memory of Sir Bobby Charlton ahead of kick off.

The game got off to a slow start and there was very little goalmouth action for fans of either side to get excited about, though the visitors did create a chance with 20 minutes on the clock when Kane Hemmings played in a ball from the left that saw Jamie Reid fire wide of the target.

There was another opportunity for Stevenage on the half hour mark when Taye Ashby-Hammond’s goal kick found Hemmings who forced Matt Cox into a fine save, the keeper stretching high to his right to keep his goal intact.

Although Rovers won a number of free kicks soon afterwards, all within shooting range, they were all blocked by opposition defenders while another free kick, at the other end of the pitch, saw Jake Forster-Caskey pick out Carl Piergianni whose headed effort was saved by Cox.

Five minutes before half time Stevenage took the lead when a Jordan Roberts ball into the box caused problems for the Rovers’ defence and when Cox collided with Connor Taylor it afforded Reid the opportunity of firing a shot into an empty net.

Barton’s response was to make two changes ahead of the start of the second period and he sent on Vale and George Friend in place of Josh Grant and Lamare Bogarde respectively. There was also a change for the visitors who replaced Guyana international Terence Vercooten with Nathan Thompson, one of three Stevenage players with that surname!

Rovers almost conceded again on the hour mark when Piergiannji’s powerful header hit the upright, much to the relief of Rovers’ defenders.

Barton’s side continued to struggle against determined and workmanlike opponents, though they managed to conjure up an equaliser with ten minutes remaining. Substitute John Marquis played the ball into Chris Martin some 40 yards out and although there was a suspicion of hand ball by Marquis, play was allowed to continue.

Martin looked up and saw keeper Ashby-Hammond off his line and fired a long range effort over him and into the net to register his first goal in a Rovers shirt.

Cox saved well from Roberts before the final whistle, but Rovers managed to hold on to claim a point they probably didn’t deserve.

The game proved to be the final one in charge for Barton. His departure was confirmed just two days later, but one can’t help wondering if the decision to dispense with his services was taken at the final whistle of this underwhelming performance.

Bristol Rovers: Cox, Hoole (Marquis, 79), Taylor, Crama, Grant (Vale, 46), Evans, Finley, Bogarde (Friend, 46), Brown (Gibbons, 90), Martin, Collins.

Substitutes: Gordon, Sinclair, Hall.

Stevenage: Ashby-Hammond, Wildin, Vancooten (Thompson (N), 48), Piergianni, Butler, Thompson (L) (Burns, 66), Roberts, Freeman, Forster-Caskey (Thompson (B), 69), Reid, Hemmings (List, 67).

Substitutes: Hegyi, Pressley, Neal.

It’s a fact

Former Rovers loan player Paul Raynor was on the Stevenage bench in his capacity as assistant manager.

Skipper: Finley

Yellow cards: Finley, Evans, Collins, Taylor, Gibbons

Number of substitutes used: Four

Time added on: 7 minutes

Time added on: Cumulative time added (league): 129 minutes

Cumulative time added on: (cups): 27 minutes

League Position: 16th


The Memorial Stadium                                                          Saturday 28th October 2023

Bristol Rovers 2

Martin (10), Evans (30 (pen))

Northampton Town 1

Monthe (57)

Referee: Sunny Gill                                                                    Attendance: 8,518     Away fans: 596

For the first three games of the season Andy Mangan was nominally in charge at Rovers, while then manager Joe Barton served a three match stadium ban.

However, with Barton having been given his P.45 following the midweek game against Stevenage, Mangan was in sole charge for this game having been given the dreaded caretaker role – in other words, keeping the seat warm for a new boss!

For the game against Northampton Mangan and his trusty lieutenants Glenn Whelan, Danny Ventre and Anssi Jaakkola, made two changes to the starting lineup as Harvey Vale and George Friend came in at the expense of Lamar Bogarde and Luca Hoole.

There was an early scare for Rovers when Patrick Brough hit a low cross into the area and Tyreece Simpson almost touched the ball home as a deflection off Tristan Crama gave him the opportunity to score., but Matt Cox saved well, touching the ball behind for a corner.

Rovers then took a tenth minute lead when Jevani Brown played in Aaron Collins down the right and his cross saw Chris Martin deftly flick the ball into the net from close range to register his second goal of the week.

Cox made a superb save from Sam Sherring as Northampton attempted to get back on level terms immediately and Sam Hoskins saw another effort deflected wide of the upright.

Northampton’s task became harder on the half hour mark when Collins was brought down by goalkeeper Lee Burge in the area, resulting in a penalty which was calmly dispatched by Antony Evans.

There were chances for Rovers to increase their lead before the break but they saw Burge save well from Tristan Crama and Martin. Perhaps the best chance arrived when Connor Taylor hit a shot towards goal that was parried by Burge. Crama picked up the loose ball but his shot hit Collins and fell behind for a goal kick.

There was very little to choose between the sides in the opening stages of the second half, but Northampton managed to halve the deficit on 57 minutes through Manny Monthe who headed past Cox from a Mitch Pinnock free kick.

Substitute John Marquis thought he had restored Rovers’ two goal lead but whilst he did get the ball in the net, he was ruled to be offside.

Brown, Marquis and another substitute, Luke Thomas, all had half chances to score but failed to hit the target and as a nervy second half display was coming to a close, Northampton almost snatched a late equaliser.

Will Hondermarck, who had been introduced at the start of the second half, saw his goalbound shot blocked by a packed Rovers defence who managed to hold out for the six minutes of added time to register a win that gave caretaker boss Mangan a 100% record!

Next game up for Rovers is another at home, when they entertain Northern Premier League side Whitby Town in the First Round of the FA Cup, though it’s by no means a certainty that Mangan will be in the dugout for that one!

Bristol Rovers: Cox, Grant, Taylor, Crama, Friend (Thomas, 76), Finley (Bogarde, 60), Evans, Vale, Brown (Gibbons, 90 + 3), Collins, Martin (Marquis, 60).

Substitutes: Hall, Gordon, Sinclair.

Northampton Town: Burge, Willis (Hondermarck, 46), Sherring, Monthe (McGowan, 83), Odimayo, Leonard, McWilliams, Brough (Koiki, 69), Hoskins, Simpson (Haynes, 86), Pinnock.

Substitutes: Lintott, Thompson, Dobson.

It’s a fact

Former Rovers defender Ali Koiki came off the bench for Northampton.

Skipper: Finley

Yellow cards: Grant, Evans, Martin

Number of substitutes used: Four

Time added on: 11 minutes

Time added on: Cumulative time added (league): 140 minutes

Cumulative time added on: (cups): 27 minutes

League Position: 13th