Last gasp equaliser at Torquay
Torquay United 3
Benyon (52 & 68), Jarvis
Bristol Rovers 3
Hitchcock (31), Jarvis (og), 61), Harrold (90)
Matt Harrold provided a fairytale ending to a roller coaster of a season today as Rovers shared six goals in an enthralling end of season game at Plainmoor.
Rovers were ahead at the break and saw Lee Brown’s penalty saved just after the break. They did go further ahead through a bizarre own goal, then allowed Torquay back into the game, conceding twice.
However Harrold equalised with a header deep into stoppage time, which was just reward for his battle back to fitness.
Manager John Ward made three changes to his starting lineup this afternoon.
Ryan Brunt, Tom Hitchcock and Ollie Norburn start in place of Clayton McDonald, Oumare Tounkara and Eliot Richards.
The manager included Pat Keary in his travelling party, the young central defender having been awarded his first pro contract last week.
One surprise, and very welcome, inclusion was Matt Harrold who returned to the squad for the first time since the cruciate ligament injury he sustained at Gillingham last September.
The manager named four strikers amongst his seven substitutes today.
Rovers started brightly and created a scoring opportunity after only five minutes.
Tom Hitchcock met Ellis Harrison’s cross from the right and directed his header only just wide of the upright.
The home side looked a little nervous in the opening stages, though Ryan Jarvis did hit a shot well wide of the target and Billy Bodin fired another effort straight at Steve Mildenhall.
They should, perhaps, have been on level terms on 15 minutes when a late run into the area by Brian Saah saw him connect with a corner from the right but he directed his effort well wide of the target.
At the other end Fabian Broghammer curled a shot over the bar and Ryan Brunt pulled a shot wide of goal after being played in by Hitchcock.
Rovers went close on 25 minutes when Michael Smith lofted the ball forward to Brunt, who headed the ball into the path of Hitchcock and his left foot effort flashed across goal and inches wide of the upright.
However the on loan QPR player opened the scoring in the 31st minute. Broghammer lifted the ball over the home defence and Hitchcock ran in behind to lift the ball over goalkeeper Michael Poke, who had rushed off his line in an attempt to clear.
Damon Lathrope lashed a shot into the side netting as the home side attempted to get back in the game quickly, but they almost conceded a second when Broghammer was only inches wide with a decent effort from the edge of the area.
Rovers were awarded a penalty immediately after half time, when Hitchcock was brought down in the box. However Lee Brown’s weak spot kick was saved by former Rovers shot stopper Poke, who dived to his right to make a comfortable save.
The home side levelled things up on 52 minutes when Elliot Benyon took down a cross from the right and had time to turn and hit a shot past Mildenhall and into the corner of the nest.
Rovers regained the lead three minutes later thanks to a bizarre own goal by Ryan Jarvis. Broghammer floated a cross in from the right that evaded everyone but Jarvis, facing his own goal got a touch and the ball bounced over Poke and into the top corner.
The unfortunate Jarvis made amends for his unfortunate error just after the hour mark when he swept the ball home following a free kick into the box from the halfway line. While all around him hesitated, he reacted smartly to beat Mildenhall.
Torquay then took the lead for the first time, after 68 minutes, when a header from Aaron Downes produced an excellent save from Mildenhall. Unfortunately, he was unable to hold on to the shot and it rebounded to Benyon who gleefully smashed the a shot back past the keeper and into the net.
Play became scrappy after that, although Poke had to be smart to gather a cross from the right as Broghammer and Harrold closed in.
Then came that magical, Roy of the Rovers moment, when Harrold outjumped Poke as Smith floated a cross in from the right and saw his header beat the keeper and end up in the net.
The goal triggered the most amazing goal celebrations seen by a Rovers team for a long while, as supporters and staff showed their delight at the striker’s goal.
It was a perfect way to end the campaign.
Rovers: Steve Mildenhall, Michael Smith, Tom Parkes, Mark McChrystal, Lee Brown, Ellis Harrison (Mitch Harding, 69), Ollie Norburn, Ollie Clarke, Fabian Broghammer, Ryan Brunt (Matt Harrold, 77), Tom Hitchcock (Oumare Tounkara, 81).
Substitutes: Jim Paterson, Eliot Richards, Conor Gough, Tom Lockyer.
Yellow Cards: Harrison, Hitchcock, Harrold
Torquay United: Michael Poke, Joe Oastler, Kevin Nicholson, Aaron Downes, Brian Saah, Damon Lathrope, Lee Mansell, Ryan Jarvis, Billy Bodin, Ashley Yeoman, Eliot Benyon
Substitutes: Ian Morris, Martin Rice, Angus McDonald, Danny Stevens, Nathan Craig, Thomas Cruise, Niall Thompson.
Yellow Card: Poke
Rovers Supporters (official figure!): 1,534