Exeter City 1
Bristol Rovers 2
Clarkson (5), Richards (70)
Rovers recorded their first win of the season, beating Exeter 2-1 at St James’ Park thanks to goals from David Clarkson and Eliot Richards.
It was a hard working performance and although they rode their luck at times, they deserved the points for their determination and attitude.
David Clarkson, in particular, deserves a special mention for the work he got through. As well as his goal, he covered every inch of the pitch and epitomised the spirit that is now developing in this group of players.
Ahead after five minutes, Rovers were pegged back by Jamie Cureton’s goal on the stroke of half time but once they had edged in front again Exeter seemed to run out of ideas and Mark McGhee’s side comfortably held out to take all three points.
The manager included this week’s new signing’s in his starting lineup and also recalled Adam Virgo and Jim Paterson.
Although Exeter started well, playing at a high tempo, it was Rovers who took the lead.
In the fifth minute a long ball forward from Tom Parkes saw Craig Woodman fail to control it and Clarkson nipped in to rob the defender before slotting a left foot shot past Artur Krysiak from twelve yards.
Although the home side’s response was positive, they took a long time to fashion their first goalscoring opportunity.
In fact it came after 23 minutes when Neil Etheridge rushed to the edge of his area to save at Jamie Cureton’s feet. Scot Bennett then headed wide of the target from a free kick and Tommy Doherty hit a long range effort high and wide of goal.
Danny Coles glanced a header just wide from a corner on the left and Cureton almost capitalised on a bad back header from Garry Kenneth, but the former Rovers striker was denied a goal by a great block from Parkes.
Tom Eaves should have scored a debut goal when Krysiak dropped the ball at his feet a minute before the break, but the surprised striker could only hit the post when confronted with an open goal.
The goal that Exeter had been threatening to score came in time added on, and it was Cureton, inevitably, who was the man on target. He was able to roll the ball into the net after Etheridge had committed himself to trying to gather a cross from the right.
He failed, the ball reached Cureton and he made no mistake, though he didn’t celebrate scoring against his former club.
Alan Gow shot over the bar and was wide with another effort at the start of the second half, but Rovers were the equal of their hosts, though they did ride their luck just after the hour mark.
Jim Paterson blocked an effort from Matt Oakley and Pat Baldwin headed straight at Neil Etheridge, who safely gathered another header from the same player shortly afterwards.
Eliot Richards, who had replaced Tom eaves 11 minutes earlier, gave Rovers the lead again on 70 minutes.
The striker took advantage of a slip by Tommy Doherty on the halfway liner and set off for goal, where he switched the ball from his right foot to his left and fired past Krysiak who managed to get a hand to the ball but couldn’t stop it entering the net.
Three minutes later Etheridge made the save of the game when he dived to his right to touch away John O’Flynn’s header.
The home side had to play out the final six minutes with ten men after Scot Bennett was stretchered off with his right leg in a splint, and they never really troubled Rovers again apart from a shot from Arron Davies which was straight at Etheridge.
Rovers: Neil Etheridge, Adam Virgo, Garry Kenneth, Tom Parkes, Jim Paterson, David Clarkson, Oliver Norburn, Matt Gill, Fabian Broghammer (Lee Brown, 59), Tom Eaves (Eliot Richards, 59), Derek Riordan (Matt Lund, 74)
Substitutes: Joe Anyinsah, Wayne Brown, Seanan Clucas, Sam Walker
Yellow Cards: Parkes, Norburn, Broghammer, Kenneth
Exeter City: Artur Krysiak, Craig Woodman, Pat Baldwin (Jordan Moore-Taylor, 77), Danny Coles, Scot Bennett, Matt Oakley (Jimmy Keohane, 77), Alan Gow (John O’Flynn, 65), Aaron Davies, Tommy Docherty, Jamie Cureton, Kevin Amankwaah
Substitutes: Steve Tully, Guillem Bauza, Rhys Evans, Jacob Jagger-Cane
Yellow Cards: Baldwin, Bennett
Referee: Keith Stroud
Rovers Supporters: 1,147