First took on second this afternoon at Lodge Road, Yate, where second-placed Rovers took on Central League leaders AFC Wimbledon who were just one point ahead of them and it remained that way following this 1-1 draw.
The Rovers youngsters competed well in the first half against a more experienced Dons side, but the second half was always going to be an uphill battle following Alfie Kilgour’s red card three minutes into the second half.
Incredibly, Rovers took the lead thanks to Michael Kelly’s penalty but they were pegged back by the visitors just two minutes later when the visitors also scored from the penalty spot.
Rovers were first to show as an attacking force and an early Lewis Leigh-Gilchrist shot was deflected behind for a corner.
Rhys Kavanagh was then unlucky not to get a touch on a through ball from James Spruce as the AFC Wimbledon keeper Nick Tzhnev rushed off his line to gather.
The first effort from the visitors arrived with 17 minutes on the clock but the Rovers defensive wall did their job, blocking a ferocious Lloyd Sam free kick.
Leigh-Gilchrist almost gave Rovers a 25th minute lead but his speculative shot from the edge of the area was turned round the post by Tzhnev.
Shortly afterwards the visitors went close when Alfie Egan’s volley just cleared the crossbar.
Rovers then defended well as AFC Wimbledon applied pressure on their back line, but held firm.
Kavanagh was then first to reach Isaac Pearce’s corner from the right but could only direct it wide of the target, while Kris Owens headed just over from a Leigh-Gilchrist free kick.
The visitors went close again when Valentino Carpene headed over from Sam’s ball in from the right.
At the other end Kavanagh dispossessed Paul Kalambhyi and broke down the right before crossing into the box but the ball was scrambled away before any Rovers player could get a touch.
Three minutes into the second half Rovers were reduced to ten men after Alfie Kilgour was sent off following a challenge on Richard Pingley.
The Dons man would have been through on goal had he not been brought down, hence the red card, though whether or not it was a foul was debatable.
Egan then went close for the visitors but his shot was blocked at the expense of a corner.
Goalkeeper Thom Jonkerman was injured when the ball was played in from the corner and after a lengthy spell of treatment, it was decided he couldn’t continue.
With no recognised goalkeeper on the bench, Charlie Ten-Grotenhuis took over between the posts.
He was soon called into action, safely gathering a drive from Levi Swango. From then on in it was one way traffic towards Rovers’ goal and Ten-Grotenhuis safely gathered a close range header from Pingling as the visitors attempted to make their numerical advantage tell.
The shot stopper saved another close range header, from the same player before Rovers took the lead, from the penalty spot on 75 minutes.
When Pearce broke down the right and cut into the area he was brought down and a spot kick awarded, which was firmly despatched by Michael Kelly.
Two minutes later, back in his own area, Leigh-Gilchrist was adjudged to have brought down Pingling and the visitors were awarded a penalty of their own. Pingling took the spot kick and comfortably beat Ten-Grotenhuis from 12 yards.
Ethan Nelson fired wide in another Wimbledon attack, but they were finding it difficult to find a way through a well organised Rovers defence.
Substitutes Lucas Tomlinson and Cameron Ebbutt provided good outlets on the occasions that Rovers managed to break out and in the 89th minute Ebbutt fashioned a chance for
Pearce whose rasping drive was only just wide of the target.
There was a last minute chance for Rovers when Josh Bailey got the faintest of touches on a Pearce free kick but Tzhnev smothered the ball at the defender’s feet.
Bristol Rovers: Thom Jonkerman (Charlie Ten-Grotenhuis, 53), Michael Kelly, Kris Owens, Connor Jones, Josh Bailey, Alfie Kilgour, Isaac Pearce (Trialist), Lewis Leigh-Gilchrist, Rhys Kavanagh, James Spruce (Lucas Tomlinson, 63), Dan Derbyshire (Cameron Ebbutt, 60)
Substitutes: Ghassan Hassan, Lewis Ellington
AFC Wimbledon: Nick Tzhnev, Toby Sibbick, Osaze Ubhoghide, Reuben Collins, Paul Kalambhyi, Ethan Nelson-Roberts, Lloyd Sam, Alfie Egan, Richard Pingling, Valentino Crpene, Levi Swango
Substitutes: Jamie Anoyejo, Bobby Mills, Finley Macnab