Rovers 2-1 Rochdale
Rovers made it four home wins on the bounce by beating Rochdale 2-1 at the Memorial Stadium this afternoon.
It was a game that nearly fell foul of the weather, and it was definitely a first half to forget.
But there was a moment of magic from Ellis Harrison just after the hour mark when he scored his first home goal to give Rovers the lead and bring the game to life.
Another impressive strike, this time from Rochdale’s Michael Rose, levelled the scoring, but Rovers dug deep, and it was Harrison who popped up to score his second goal of the game and give Rovers the three points.
Heavy rain in Bristol overnight, meant that referee Darren Sheldrake held a number of pitch inspections leading up to the game.
But ground staff at the Mem worked hard to make the pitch playable, and the ref gave the game the go ahead at 1.30pm.
John Ward made one change to the side that beat Port Vale in midweek.
Mark McChrystal returned from injury to partner Tom Parkes at the back, with Danny Woodards moving in to midfield to replace the injured Oli Norburn.
One the match got underway, it was a scrappy opening period, with Rovers struggling to settle and not showing the form they have shown in recent home games.
George Donnelly had the first opportunity for the visitors but he saw his shot sail over the bar, before Robert Grant saw his shot go wide of the post.
Jim Paterson had the first effort for Rovers, making a run towards goal and shooting straight at the keeper from the edge of the area.
And it was Grant who was proving to be dangerous for the visitors, with a number of crosses and shots that kept Steve Mildenhall busy during the opening 20 minutes.
Mildenhall was also called upon to make a reaction save with Donnelly closing in on goal.
Ian Henderson then managed to get past the Rovers keeper, but his shot was blocked on the line by Lee Brown.
Rovers had another effort in front of goal as the half drew to a close; Richards’ corner was headed straight at the Dale keeper by Ryan Brunt.
It must have been an inspirational half time team talk from John Ward, as Rovers came out much brighter, having two efforts on goal within the first three minutes of the restart.
Brunt has a shot from 20 yards out that flew over the bar, before John-Joe O’Toole forced a save from Dale keeper Josh Lillis with a powerful strike.
Richards also had a shot from just outside the area which went over the bar.
The manager then made his first change of the game with Tom Hitchcock coming on to replace Jim Paterson on 55 minutes.
Robert Grant had a shot blocked by O’Toole, before Rovers were given a let off as Donnelly’s shot ricocheted into the post from close range.
Then Harrison wowed the crowd with a great individual effort that opened the scoring.
The young winger ran half the length of the pitch and let fly with a powerful shot into the top corner that the keeper had no chance of saving.
Rovers were then forced to spend a period defending, and Michael Rose breeched the back line on 75 minutes.
The defender hit a left foot shot from 25 yards that curled past the keeper and into the top left hand corner.
Grant had an effort from outside the area for Dale, before Richards sent a free kick over the bar.
And then Harrison found himself in the right place at the right time to score his, and Rovers’, second.
Richards sent a corner into the box, which Brunt failed to knock home from close range, but the ball fell sweetly to Harrison who slotted home the rebound.
Harrison received a standing ovation from the Memorial Stadium crowd when he left the field moments later to be replaced by Oumare Tounkara.
The win moves Rovers into 14th place on 51 points, just two places below next week’s opponents Bradford.
Bristol Rovers: Steve Mildenhall, Michael Smith, Tom Parkes, Mark McChrystal, Lee Brown, Jim Paterson (Tom Hitchcock), Danny Woodards, John-Joe O’Toole, Ellis Harrison (Oumare Tounkara), Ryan Brunt, Eliot Richards.
Substitutes: Clayton McDonald, Conor Gough, Jordan Goddard, Ollie Clarke, Tom Lockyer.
Port Vale: Josh Lillis, Rhys Bennett, Shane Cansdell-Sherriff, Jason Kennedy, Andrew Tutte, George Donnelly (Ashley Grimes), Phil Edwards, Kevin McIntyre, Robert Grant, Joe Thompson, Ian Henderson.
Substitutes: Steve Collis, Joe Rafferty, Peter Cavanagh, Brian Barry-Murphy, Andy Howarth, Michael Rose.
Referee: Darren Sheldrake