The Memorial Stadium Sunday 7th May 2023
Bristol Rovers 2
Hoole (28), Marquis (85)
Bolton Wanderers 3
Shoretire (25), N’Lundulu (70), Morley (77)
Referee: Will Finnie Attendance: 10,085
Manager Joe Barton made five changes to his starting lineup, recalling James Belshaw, Luca Hoole, Antony Evans, Aaron Collins and Scott Sinclair in place of Ellery Balcombe, James Gibbons, Lamare Bogarde, John Marquis and Ryan Loft.
Gibbons and Loft were injured but the other three sat on the bench. Leading the Bolton attack was former Rovers loanee Victor Adeboyejo who was appearing against his former club for the second time this season, having been in the Burton Albion side comprehensively beaten by Rovers last August.
A crowd of over 10,000 included 1,269 Bolton fans who, with their side guaranteed a play off place, were hoping this might be their last League One fixture ahead of a possible promotion to the Championship.
Although they had made eight changes to their starting XI Bolton looked the more assured of the two sides and it came as little surprise when they took a 25th minute lead. Even less of a surprise was that it came from a set piece.
Aaron Morley’s corner from the right was flicked on by Gethin Jones and his effort looked to be going in before Shola Shoretire popped up with the final touch to give his side the lead.
The goal woke Rovers from their slumbers and three minutes later they were back on level terms when Sam Finley received the ball from a short free kick and played the ball over the top. Goalkeeper Joel Dixon was nowhere to be seen as the ball hit the post and Luca Hoole was on hand to head in the rebound from close range.
The lively Adeboyejo then set up a chance for Shoretire which was blocked by a superb Evans intervention and the striker then clipped the post after outpacing the Rovers defence. The last chance of the half, though, fell to Rovers. Sinclair picked out Josh Coburn with a cross from the right but the on loan striker headed against the bar while Grant Ward saw his effort from the rebound saved by Dixon.
Coburn didn’t reappear for the second half, having been concussed when he ran into the upright after his headed effort and Marquis took his place.
Rovers were in the ascendancy in the early stages of the second half. In between two efforts from Evans, one drifting wide of the target and the other deflected behind, Collins fired a shot over the bar. Another effort, from Ward, also flew over and then Bolton struck again through substitute Dan N’Lundulu.
Picking up on a poor clearance, he hit a 20 yard shot beyond Belshaw and into the corner of the net to make it 2-1 with 20 minutes to go. Morley scored a third with a delightful curling shot seven minutes later. Barton made four substitutions in the 81st minute, one of which saw the introduction of Glenn Whelan, making him the oldest ever player to appear for the club.
Marquis reduced the arrears with a close range effort following Callum Macdonald’s cross from the left before Barton made his seventh substitution of the afternoon with seconds to go, bringing the curtain down on Whelan’s illustrious career. His replacement, McCormick, was on the pitch for less than a minute, but the big question was how did Rovers get away with making seven substitutions?
Bristol Rovers: Belshaw (Balcombe, 81), Hoole, Quansah (Connolly, 81), Gibson, Gordon (Macdonald, 81), Finley (Whelan, 78) (McCormick (90 + 5), Ward, Evans (Bogarde, 81), Sinclair, Collins, Coburn (Marquis, 46).
Bolton Wanderers: Dixon, Toal, Santos (Williams (MJ), 46), Johnston, Jones (Williams (R), 28), Sheehan (Lee, 61), Thomason, John, Morley, Adeboyejo (Jerome, 61), Shoretire (N’Lundulu, 61).
Substitutes: Charles, Kachunga.
Former Rovers player Victor Adeboyejo was in the Bolton Wanderers side. It was the second time he had faced his former club this season, having been in the Burton Albion side comprehensively beaten by Rovers in August
Bolton’s Dan N’Lundulu, on loan from Southampton, was making his third appearance against Rovers this season. His previous two appearances were for Cheltenham Town
A yellow card was issued to James Connolly
Sam Finley was skipper while Glenn Whelan took the armband when he was substituted
Seven substitutes used – the first time Rovers have used that many in a league match
Seven added minutes
(photos courtesy of JMP)
Hopefully these reports will remind you of events that took place during matches in 2022/23. All mistakes are, I’m afraid, mine – if you think there are any errors please let me know and I will make the necessary changes/amends.
One stat that stood out for me is that there were 441 additional minutes played by Rovers across the 55 games played – the equivalent of almost five additional games.
Here’s to 2023/24!