A Season in Review – September 2023

May 27, 2024 | Match Reports, News

The Memorial Stadium                                            Saturday 2nd September 2023

Bristol Rovers 1

Grant (90 + 4)

Lincoln City 1

Jackson (53)

Referee: Lewis Smith                                                                Attendance:  7,674    Away fans: 314


All the pre match talk centred on the failure to bring striker Jonson Clark-Harris back to the club, from Peterborough United, on transfer deadline day; Rovers issued a statement telling us how it didn’t happen as did Peterborough United. Suffice to say that recollections may vary!

However, there was one new signing on display, namely Ryan Woods who, in making his league debit became the 1,000th player to do just that for the club. A significant milestone in what was also the club’s 4,209th league fixture.

Woods was one of two changes to the starting lineup, the other saw Lamare Bogarde come into the side, while the two players left out were Scott Sinclair and Grant Ward.

Rovers made the early running and a Jevani Brown free kick was blocked by the Lincoln wall while an Aaron Collins shot was deflected behind by Lincoln skipper Adam Jackson.

Collins, looking for his first goal of the season, then saw a long range effort drift wide of the upright before being thwarted by goalkeeper Lukas Jensen after he had been played in by Sam Finley. The Rovers skipper went close to breaking the deadlock with seven minutes of the half remaining. However, his fierce effort from the edge of the box was blocked at the expense of a corner.

As for the visitors, their best efforts of the half arrived when Danny Mandroiu hit a shot wide of goal and Lasse Sorensen effort was blocked by a packed Rovers defence.

Finley didn’t appear at the start of the second half and Antony Evans took his place, with James Wilson taking the skipper’s armband.

Collins again went close in the opening stages of the second period, but his shot drifted just wide of the target.

Eight minutes after the restart, though, we did see a goal. Unfortunately for Gasheads, it went to Lincoln; goalkeeper Matt Cox did well to touch away a wicked angled drive by Ethan Erahon but the ball dropped kindly at the feet of Jackson who knocked the ball in from a yard or so out.

A driving run from Sorensen saw him reach the area before getting a shot away, but Cox was able to make a comfortable save to deny the Red Imps a second goal.

John Marquis and Harvey Vale were sent on with 68 minutes on the clock, replacing George Friend and the impressive Woods, while manager Joe Barton made another double substitution eight minutes later, sending on Scott Sinclair and Josh Grant for Brown and Bogarde.

As Rovers pushed forward in search on an equaliser, Jensen made a superb one handed save to deny Evans, touching his header round the post for a corner.

Evans took the corner, out on the right and his ball to the back post saw Grant nod home in what was the fourth minute of stoppage time.

There was time for one last chance for Lincoln to win it and Rovers were grateful to goalkeeper Cox who preserved a hard earned point for his side with a fine save from substitute Jovon Makama.

Bristol Rovers: Cox, Hunt, Crama, Wilson, Friend (Marquis, 68), Finley (Evans, 46), Bogarde (Grant, 76), Woods (Vale, 68), Thomas, Collins, Brown (Sinclair, 76).

Substitutes: Hall, Taylor

Lincoln City: Jensen, Mitchell, Jackson, Roughan, Sorensen, Erhahon, Hamilton, Burroughs (Brown, 82), Smith, Mandroiu (Bishop, 72), Hackett-Fairchild (Makama, 82).

Substitutes: Wright, Duffy, Eyoma, Gallagher.

Its a fact

No former Rovers players attached to opposition

Skipper: Finley then Wilson

Yellow cards: Finley, Vale

League Debut: Woods

Number of substitutes used: Five

Time added on: Eight minutes

Time added on: Cumulative time added (league): 59 minutes

Cumulative time added on: (cups): Six minutes

League Position: 17th


The Memorial Stadium                                            Tuesday 5th September 2023

Bristol Rovers 4

Gibbons (9), Evans (27), Collins (40), Street (og, 69)

Cheltenham Town 1

Gibbons (og, 50)

Referee: Daniel Middleton                                    Attendance:  1,184    Away fans: 86


The much maligned EFL Trophy was without a sponsor at this point in the season, having reached the end of a deal with Papa Johns Pizzas.

The group stages had handed Rovers ties against Cheltenham Town, West Ham United U-21’s and Newport County and this first game saw Joe Barton’s side take on League One strugglers and close rivals Cheltenham Town.

Joe Barton made eight changes from the side that drew with Lincoln City at the weekend, the biggest surprise being the inclusion of goalkeeper James Belshaw for his first senior appearance of the season. Many thought he wouldn’t be seen in a Rovers’ side again following his fallout with the manager earlier in the campaign.

There was also a first appearance for James Gibbons, Connor Taylor and Luke McCormick who all started, while Lewis Gordon was included on the bench. 

The visitors were missing five players due to international duty and arrived at the Memorial Stadium bottom of the table and without a goal to their name and they found themselves a goal down after only nine minutes of this contest.

The creator was Jevani Brown, who swung in a cross for the right where Gibbons emphatically beat goalkeeper Max Harris with a diving header.

Five minutes later John Marquis had the ball in the Cheltenham net, though his effort was chalked off as he had just strayed into an offside position before pulling the trigger.

With 24 minutes gone Cheltenham’s Aidan Keena wasted a glorious opportunity to equalise. Unmarked at the back post when a cross came in from the right, he somehow managed to hit the side netting rather than take the opportunity of firing into an open goal.

It was a costly miss as Rovers doubled their lead just three minutes later through Antony Evans, who curled a shot beyond the despairing dive of Harris from some twenty yards out.

Aaron Collins then saw a shot saved by the keeper and curled another effort just wide of the upright but shortly after the visitors made a double substitution, due to injuries, the Rovers striker bagged his first goal of the season. Marquis and McCormick played their part in the build up and when the ball reached Collins he gleefully smashed a shot high into the roof of the net giving Harris no chance of saving.

Five minutes into the second half Gibbons scored again though, unfortunately, it was at the wrong end of the pitch as he volleyed the ball past Belshaw when trying to clear a cross from the right. The goal made him Cheltenham’s top scorer for the season!

Just briefly the visitors threatened again as Rob Street headed into the side netting following Jovan Malcolm’s cross.

Goal number four arrived in the 69th minute and it was another own goal as Street saw his attempted clearance from a Scott Sinclair, on in place of Gibbons, free kick skim off the top of his head and fly past a beleaguered Harris.

Sinclair thought he had scored a fifth goal but although he found the back of the net he was adjudged to have been offside.

Rovers comfortably saw out the game against a poor Cheltenham side and will take an enforced 11 day break, due to the international weekend, before facing Shrewsbury Town.

Bristol Rovers: Belshaw, Gibbons (Sinclair, 64), Taylor, Grant, Vale, Evans (Finley, 73), Bogarde, McCormick (Woods, 64), Brown (Gordon, 73), Marquis, Collins (Thomas, 64).

Substitutes: Hall, Crama.

Cheltenham Town: Harris, Long (Chapman, 46), Williams (J), Bradbury (Horton, 38) (Willcox, 46), Sercombe, Goodwin (Malcolm, 38), Keena, Street, Ferry, Adshead (Olayinka, 87), Williams (B).

Substitutes: Franks, King.

It’s a fact

Former Rovers midfielder Liam Sercombe was in the Cheltenham side

Skipper: Marquis then Finley

Yellow cards: None

Number of substitutes used: Five

Time added on: 13 minutes

Time added on: Cumulative time added (league): 59 minutes

Cumulative time added on: (cups): 19 minutes

League Position; 17th


The Croud Meadow                                   Saturday 16th September 2023

Shrewsbury Town 0

Bristol Rovers 2

Marquis (73), Collins (90 + 1)

Referee: Tom Reeves                                 Attendance:  6,070    Away fans: 874


Manager Joe Barton made three changes to the side that had faced Lincoln City in league action two weeks earlier.

John Marquis (named as skipper), Connor Taylor and Anthony Evans were restored to the starting XI at the expense of Jevani Brown, Tristan Crama and Sam Finley who were all named on the bench.

Prior to kick off the crowd stood for a minute’s silence in respect of the victims of the disasters in Morocco (earthquake) and Libya (floods).

Seven minutes in and Barton had to make his first substitution of the afternoon as George Friend went down with what looked like an ankle injury and he was replaced by Josh Grant, who was making his sixth substitute appearance of the season.

The home side tested goalkeeper Matt Cox with efforts from Elliott Bennett and Mal Benning either side of efforts from Grant who saw his shot blocked and Taylor, whose header was deflected behind for a corner.

Dan Udoh and Max Mata both saw headed efforts comfortably saved by Cox before the Shrews created their best chances of the half. When Mata played in Udoh, the home striker turned away from Jack Hunt but the defender did well to recover and make a last ditch block to deny the striker a shot.  

Another block by Hunt, this time from a shot by Taylor Perry, ensured that Rovers remained on level terms at the break after a half in which they again dominated possession; the official stats showing they had 64% to the home side’s 36%.

The second half began as the first had finished, with Rovers looking the stronger side against a home team that looked as though it would never score, although Bennett did test Cox with a ferocious drive 20 minutes in.

That, though, was as good as it got for the home side as Rovers took a deserved lead with 73 minutes on the clock with a well crafted team goal.

Breaking out of defence through James Wilson, the ball was played out right to recently introduced substitute Brown and his curling pass found Aaron Collins who drilled the ball to the near post where Marquis was on hand to register his first league goal of the campaign.

Shrewsbury heads dropped and it was possible to tell, from the body language of the players out on the pitch, that they were a beaten side as they created very little and failed to react to going a goal behind.

As for Barton’s side, while not at their best they were too strong for Shrewsbury and managed to double their advantage one minute into time added on.

Following a short corner routine out on the right, the ball was floated in to the back post where Taylor, who had been outstanding all afternoon, powered a header towards goal.

From the sidelines, it looked as though he was going to score, but up popped Collins to make sure as he bundled the ball over the line from close range to register his first league goal of the campaign.


Shrewsbury Town: Marosi, Feeney, Dunkley, Anderson, Winchester (Bayliss, 67), Bennett, Parry, Finnigan (Sobowale, 82), Benning (Fleming, 76), Udoh (Bowman, 76), Mata (Phillips, 67).

Substitutes: Burgoyne, Flanagan.

Bristol Rovers: Cox, Hunt, Wilson, Taylor, Friend (Grant, 7), Woods (McCormick, 68), Bogarde, Evans (Finley, 82), Thomas (Brown, 68), Collins, Marquis.

Substitutes: Belshaw, Vale, Crama.

It’s a fact

Former Rovers player Marcus Bignot was Shrewsbury’s Assistant Head Coach

Skipper: Marquis

Yellow cards: Marquis, Evans, Hunt

Number of substitutes used: Four

Time added on: Eight minutes

Time added on: Cumulative time added (league): 67 minutes

Cumulative time added on: (cups): 19 minutes

League Position: 13th


The Memorial Stadium                                            Tuesday 19th September 2023

Bristol Rovers 1

Finley (24)

West Ham United U-21’s 3

Marshall (70 (pen), 90 + 3), Earthy (79)

Referee: Peter Wright                                                   Attendance:  978         Away fans: 157

The cup competition that no one loves saw Rovers take on West Ham United U-21’s for the third time; both sides had recorded a win apiece and the only thing I can recall from the first meeting is that Declan Rice played at centre half for the Hammers, who won 3-1.

The current crop of West Ham youngsters have been quite successful of late and arrived at the Memorial Stadium as Youth Cup holders, having beaten their Arsenal counterparts in the 2022/23 final.

I can never work out if Joe Barton likes this competition or not but suspect he doesn’t as it means extra fixtures for his side even though there is a realistic opportunity of a Wembley final once the knockout stages are reached.

For this match the manager made nine changes from the side that began the previous Saturday’s league game, at Shrewsbury.

Rovers began as though they meant business and Scott Sinclair went close early on  though he dragged his shot wide of the upright. Luke McCormick was next to try his luck, but he also shot wide of the target.

It was left to skipper Sam Finley to score the night’s opening goal, after 24 minutes, when he was on the end of a swift counter attack and drilled a shot into the bottom right hand corner of the net.

There were chances to double the lead before the break and Jevani Brown went close when played in by Harvey Vale though his shot crept just wide of the upright. Vale himself almost scored when he curled a shot towards goal but saw it drift just wide of the mark.

Connor Taylor replaced James Wilson at the start of the second half and Rovers might have added a second goal soon after the restart when McCormick, played in by Vale, hit a ferocious shot towards goal which struck the crossbar.

A goal then might well have seen Barton’s side go on to win the game, but West Ham’s young side got themselves back on level terms in the 70th minute.

When Taylor brought down Dan Chesters in the area, Callum Marshall stepped up to beat James Belshaw from the resulting penalty.

The visitors took the lead shortly afterwards when Gideon Kodua found George Earthy with a perfect pass and he comfortably beat Belshaw from inside the area when played in on goal.

Rovers attempted to get back into the game and force a penalty shootout, but they conceded again when they were hit by a swift counter attack that saw Marshall beat Belshaw from close range to wrap up the win.

The game attracted a gate of 978 to the Mem, just a few more than the lowest home crowd for this competition, which was recorded as 864 against MK Dons last season.

Bristol Rovers: Belshaw, Gibbons (Bogarde, 75), Hoole, Wilson (Taylor, 46), Gordon, Vale, Woods, Finley (Evans, 75), McCormick (Collins, 75), Brown, Sinclair (Thomas, 75).

Substitutes: Hall, Marquis.

West Ham United U-21’s: Anang, Chesters (Robinson, 90+ 1), Laing, Casey, Luizao, Scarles, Orford, Kelly, Earthy (Moore, 90 + 4), Marshall, Kodua (Clayton, 90 + 4).

Substitutes: Knightbridge, Forbes, Battrum, Nevers.

It’s a fact

No former Rovers players attached to opposition

Skipper: Finley then Evans

Yellow cards: Bogarde

Number of substitutes used: Five

Time added on: Eight

Time added on: Cumulative time added (league): 67 minutes

Cumulative time added on: (cups): 27 minutes

League Position: 13th


The Memorial Stadium                                            Saturday 23rd September 2023

Bristol Rovers 4

Thomas (13), Hunt (26), Collins (53), Marquis (68)

Wigan Athletic 1

Wyke (21)

Referee: Geoff Eltringham                                     Attendance: 8,161     Away fans: 568


Wigan arrived at the Memorial Stadium having won more games than Rovers yet below them in the league standings, due to the eight point deduction bestowed on them by the EFL.

Rovers’ boss Joe Barton reverted, more or less, to the side that recorded a second league win of the season at Shrewsbury the previous week.

There were three changes to that starting XI with Harvey Vale, Sam Finley and Josh Grant coming into the side while George Friend, James Wilson (both injured) and Ryan Woods missing out. With injuries ruling out 50% of his back line, Barton selected Grant as a central defender while Vale occupied the left back berth.

Both sides fashioned early chances, but Collins saw his shot blocked while at the other end a misplaced pass by Lamare Bogarde let in Charlie Wyke whose long range effort was comfortable dealt with by Matt Cox.

Collins was then dispossessed in the middle of the park and Charlie Wyke played in Thelo Aasgaard out on the left but he somehow managed to hit his shot wide of the target.

Just a couple of minutes later Rovers went ahead following a delightful move down the left that saw Antony Evans play in Luke Thomas who cut inside before curling a low left foot shot into the corner of the net beyond the despairing dive of goalkeeper Sam Tickle.

Wigan, though, were level just eight minutes later, although Rovers felt that there was a foul in the build up, claiming that Wyke fouled goalkeeper Cox as he attempted to hold on to a high ball into the area. Nothing was given though and Cox spilt the ball which was played out to Sean Clare who played it back into the box where Wyke had the simple task of scoring from close range.

It took Barton’s side just four minutes to regain the lead, the unlikely scorer being Jack Hunt who arrived at the back post to get on the end of Vale’s teasing cross and drove an angled drive into the net to register his first ever Rovers goal.

Aasgard and Martial Godo had half chances to equalise before the break, but Rovers returned to the dressing room with their lead intact.

Rovers took control of proceedings at the start of the second half and added their third goal in the 53rd minute, with Collins hammering a shot high into the roof of the net. This came after Bogarde had won the ball from a poor clearance by Tickle and found Finley who dinked the ball over a static Wigan defence to Collins, who did the rest.

From then on it was all Rovers, with Evans and Finley going close to adding to their lead before John Marquis did just that. Hunt played in Thomas down the right and scampered forward for the return pass before crossing into the area where Marquis headed firmly past Mr Tickle!

It was only the 69th minute, but it was game, set and match for Rovers who comfortably saw the game out. It was an outstanding performance from a side missing several key players through injury.

Bristol Rovers: Cox, Hunt (Hoole, 82), Taylor, Grant, Vale, Finley (Woods, 88), Bogarde, Evans (McCormick, 82), Collins (Sinclair, 88), Thomas (Brown, 82), Marquis.

Substitutes: Belshaw, Gibbons.

Wigan Athletic: Tickle, Clare (Smith (S) 65), Hughes, Morrison, Rekik (Pearce, 46), Adeeko, Smith (M), Godo (McManaman, 79), Aasgard (Humphreys, 55), Lang (Magennis, 65), Wyke.

Substitutes: Amos, Watts.

It’s a fact

No former Rovers players attached to opposition

Skipper: Finley then Marquis

Yellow cards: Thomas, Marquis, Hoole

Number of substitutes used: Five

Time added on: Ten minutes

Time added on: Cumulative time added (league): 77 minutes

Cumulative time added on: (cups): 27 minutes


The Weston Homes Stadium                                               Saturday 30th September 2023

Peterborough United 2

Collins (26), Ajiboye (47)

Bristol Rovers 0

Referee: Ben Toner                                                     Attendance: 9,044     Away fans: 433


Well, it had to happen at some point; manager Joe Barton naming an unchanged team, I mean – it hasn’t happened often on his watch!

Following the demolition of Wigan Athletic a week earlier, I guess it was hardly surprising and so Rovers headed to London Road looking for a first win at that venue since February 2006.

Both sides selected players by the name of Collins, both with the initials A, so it was a bit of a nightmare for commentators. For the record it was Aaron of Rovers and Archie of Peterborough.

Rovers also came up against their former striker Jonson Clarke-Harris, whose proposed deadline day return to the Memorial Stadium failed, we are led to believe, by seconds.

There was very little by way of goalmouth action in the opening 15 minutes, but after Peterborough’s Collins had been cautioned for a foul, Rovers twice went close to opening their account.

The first opportunity came in bizarre circumstances as a clearance by a home defender struck Ronnie Edwards and flew just wide of the upright. John Marquis then fired home with a shot on the turn but was adjudged to have been offside.

Hector Kyprianouu headed over following a cross from Harrison Burrows, and Peterborough took a somewhat fortuitous lead on 26 minutes when Collins (the Peterborough one again) saw his 25 yard effort take a deflection on its way past Matt Cox. It was Archie’s first Posh goal following his summer move from Exeter.

Burrows hit a shot wide of the mark as the half drew to a close and Rovers, for all of their possession and promise, headed into the interval still trailing.

The situation worsened just two minutes after the restart when Cox could only parry an effort from Kyprianou as far as David Ajiboye who tapped the ball into the net from close range.  

Luke Thomas appeared to be injured in the build up to the goal and was substituted in favour of Jevani Brown. His manager’s post match press conference saw him shoulder the blame for the goal, for not staying in the dressing room for treatment on an injury not disclosed to Barton and for letting his side down by starting the second half!

Following the goal Rovers were denied a way back into the match when Clarke-Harris blocked a shot from Collins (the Rovers one) on the line. The former Rovers striker then appeared at the other end of the pitch though hit a half volley wide of goal from Ajboye’s cross.

Brown almost scored his first Rovers goal but was denied by the upright as Rovers searched for chances to reduce the two goal deficit. Antony Evans saw goalkeeper Nicholas Bilopakic save well from his curling effort as Rovers kept up the pressure on the Peterborough goal.

With two minutes of normal time remaining Cox made a superb save from Kyprianou, while Rovers had a great chance to pull a goal back in stoppage time but Collins (Aaron) fired wide when played in by substitute Chris Martin.

And so Rovers winless run at the venue formerly known as London Road continues and Thomas will almost certainly face a spell on the sidelines through injury whilst reflecting on his manager’s post match comments!

Peterborough United: Bilokapic, Katongo (Crichlow,66), Edwards, Knight, Burrows, Kyprianou, Collins, Ajiboye (Wakeling, 90), Mason-Clark, Jones (Sturge, 70), Clarke-Harris (De Haviland, 70).

Substitutes: Talley, Corbett, O’Connell.

Bristol Rovers: Cox, Hunt, Taylor, Grant, Vale, Finley (Woods, 78), Bogarde (McCormick, 83), Evans (Martin, 78), Collins, Thomas (Brown, 49), Marquis (Sinclair, 83).

Substitutes: Hall, Hoole.

It’s a fact

Former Rovers striker Jonson Clarke-Harris was in the Peterborough starting XI

Skipper: Finley then Marquis then Collins

Yellow cards: Evans, Taylor

League Debut: Chris Martin

Number of substitutes used: Five

Time added on: Nine minutes

Time added on: Cumulative time added (league): 86 minutes

Cumulative time added on (cups): 27 minutes

League Position: 14th