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May 30, 2023 | 2023 A Season in Review

The Memorial Stadium Saturday 8th October 2022

Bristol Rovers 2 Taylor (og, 17), (Coburn (56)

Cambridge United 1

Ironside (35, pen)

Referee: Ben Toner Attendance: 9,007

Rovers went into the game hoping to build on an impressive away performance at Exeter a week earlier and also looking to claim three points for only the third time this season.

Given that their last league win was against Oxford United way back on 13th August, they were also looking to complete a Varsity double!

Manager Joe Barton was missing Alfie Kilgour and striker John Marquis who were injured in the battle against Crystal Palace a few days earlier, but on loan Middlesbrough striker Josh Coburn made his Rovers league debut and James Gibbons returned after injury.

Cambridge included former Rovers defender George Williams in their starting lineup, along with Harvey Knibbs whose father, Ralph, is very familiar with the Memorial Stadium having made 436 oval ball appearances for Bristol over the course of 14 years.

Barton’s side started as though they meant business and went close early through Antony Evans and Coburn and it came as no surprise when they took the lead. The goal came just as the 16th minute applause for Nick Anderton was fading, so it was an appropriate time to score.

The goal wasn’t a classic, though, by any stretch of the imagination and was initially credited to Luca Hoole who appeared to get the slightest of touches on an Evans free kick which keeper Dimitart Mitov seemed to fumble over the line.

At least that’s how it looked from the stand though the replay showed that defender Greg Taylor had got the final touch, completely wrong footing his goalkeeper and denying Hoole a rare goal.

Rovers continued to press and should have had a penalty for a fairly blatant hand ball by a Cambridge defender, missed only by referee Ben Toner.

However, the match official did award a penalty…at the other end of the pitch. A long ball played up to the unmarked Sam Smith gave James Belshaw no option but to come off his line in an attempt to take the ball off the striker’s feet.

Unfortunately, though, he brought Smith down, and a penalty was the obvious outcome. The keeper was booked and then comfortably beaten by Joe Ironside from the resulting penalty.

All of a sudden the visitors were a different proposition and were denied a second goal by Belshaw who made a superb save from Smith.

They continued in the same vein after the break and Belshaw made two outstanding stops early in the half, a close range effort from Ironside and another attempt by Smith.

Just when it seemed it was a matter of time before the visitors scored again, Rovers broke away and scored themselves. With 56 minutes on the clock Aaron Collins, who has been in blistering form so far this season, left visiting defender Jubril Okedina trailing in his wake as he bombed down the left before delivering the perfect ball in to Coburn.

The striker had anticipated the cross and gleefully smashed the ball into the roof of the net from close range, thus becoming the second player this season, after Bobby Thomas, to score on his Rovers league debut.

It can’t be denied that there were a few anxious moments for Rovers before the final whistle, but they dug in to take all three points and complete that aforementioned Varsity double!

Bristol Rovers: Belshaw, Gibbons (McCormick, 78), Hoole, Thomas, Gordon, Rossiter, Finley (Coutts, 87), Evans (Clarke, 87), Collins (Jasper, 78), Loft, Coburn (Gibson, 67).

Substitutes: Jaakkola, Saunders.

Cambridge United: Mitov, Okedina (Lankester, 68), Jones, Taylor, Williams, Digby, Brophy, Smith, (Okenabirhie, 78), May (O’Neil, 62), Knibbs (Tracey, 78), Ironside.

Substitutes: Rossi, Janneh, Mannion.


Former Rovers defender George Williams was in the Cambridge side while another former Rovers player, Gary Waddock, is assistant head coach with the U’s

Yellow cards were issued to James Belshaw, Josh Coburn, Aaron Collins and Ryan Loft

Sam Finley was skipper and Paul Coutts took the armband when he was substituted

Debut for Josh Coburn who became the second Rovers player, after Bobby Thomas, to score on his debut this season

Five substitutes used

Ten added minutes

(Photos courtesy of JMP)

Keith Brookman