Rovers 3-3 Bradford
Bristol Rovers had to settle for a point from a hard fought game against Bradford at a rain soaked Memorial Stadium this afternoon.
The Pirates took the lead three times, only to be pegged back on each occasion by the visitors in the exciting encounter.
On loan defender Guy Branston made a huge impact on his debut, scoring with his first touch of the game after just 79 seconds.
Nahki Wells equalised for the Bantams, before Tom Eaves put Rovers back in front before half time.
After the interval Carl McHugh gave the visitors parity once more, before Michael Smith gave Rovers the lead for the third time.
Just a few minutes later James Hanson put Bradford back on levels terms as the rain lashed down in BS7.
In added time a challenge from Seanan Clucas lead to a mass confrontation in front of the dug outs which saw a second yellow card awarded to Wayne Brown and a straight red for the Bantam’s Nathan Doyle.
Mark McGhee made five changes to the side that lost to Port Vale in midweek. Sam Walker returned in goal after Neil Etheridge was returned to his parent club Fulham.
Guy Branston made his debut after signing on loan from Aldershot on Thursday, and he was joined in the centre of defence by Garry Kenneth.
Joe Anyinsah and Derek Riordan returned to the starting line up, with Matt Lund failing a late fitness test and Fabian Broghammer missing the game with flu.
It was a dream start for Rovers, who found themselves ahead with just over a minute on the clock.
Experienced defender Branston got on the end of a corner from Jim Paterson and rose to fire the ball home.
Rovers then had to soak up a spell of pressure from the visitors, who sprung to attention following the early goal. Nahki Wells scuffed a shot across the face of goal, before Will Atkinson fired a shot over the bar.
Eaves saw a weak header easily saved by Matt Duke in the Bantams’ goal, before at the other end Danny Woodards did well to stop James Hanson getting a shot on goal.
Bradford made their pressure count just before the half hour mark, when Wells beat the offside trap to curl the ball past Sam Walker and into the back of the net.
Minutes later Rovers restored their lead through Eaves, who did well to control the ball and fire home past the keeper from the edge of the area.
Garry Thompson had an effort for the visitors that flew over the bar from close range, but Rovers managed to take their lead into the break.
Bradford started the second half the brighter of the two sides, and Walker was called upon to make a number of saves. He got down low to block a shot from Wells, before doing well to push the ball out to safety after fumbling a catch in the poor conditions.
But less than 10 minutes after the restart Bradford were back on level terms from a set piece. Gary Jones sent the ball into the box and McHugh headed home from close range.
The impressive Hanson then had a chance to put Bradford in the lead for the first time, but Walker was equal to the shot and made the save.
Then it was Rovers who again found themselves in front, thanks to Michael Smith who played the game in the centre of midfield.
Anyinsah crossed the ball into the box to Wayne Brown, whose shot was blocked, only to rebound to Smith on the edge of the area who fired home.
Unfortunately Rovers could not hold onto the lead and six minutes later another set piece saw Bradford again pull a goal back.
Thompson crossed the ball in to Hanson, who again nodded home from close range.
With twenty minutes to go conditions began to deteriorate as the rain continued to hammer the Memorial Stadium. Both sides were keen to get that winning goal, and there was a sense that anything could happen.
McHugh has a shot from close range, before Derek Riordan shot high and wide from a 35 yard free kick.
There were no more goals to be seen this afternoon, but there was still plenty of incident in added time.
A challenge from Clucas in front of the dug outs led to a melee involving both teams and benches. The result was Brown being given a second booking and Bradford’s Nathan Doyle being shown a straight red.
Bristol Rovers: Sam Walker, Danny Woodards, Guy Branston, Garry Kenneth, Jim Paterson, Wayne Brown, Michael Smith, Seanan Clucas, Derek Riordan, Joe Anyinsah, Tom Eaves
Subs: Matt Gill, Alefe Santos, Conor Gough, Tom Lockyer, Lee Brown, Oli Norburn.
Bradford: Matt Duke, Stephen Darby, James Meredith, Carl McHugh, Rory McArdle, Garry Thompson (Ritchie Jones), Will Atkinson, Gary Jones, Nathan Doyle, James Hanson, Nahki Wells (Alan Connell).
Subs: Jon McLaughlin, Ricky Ravenhill, Craig Forsyth, Tom Naylor, Blair Turgott.
Referee: David Phillips