By Steve Hood
Bristol Rovers picked up their first win of the 2014/15 season beating AFC Telford 1-0 at the Memorial Stadium.
A 30-yard wonder strike from Ollie Clarke was enough to earn Rovers all three points for the first time this season.
Darrell Clarke handed Adam Cunnington his club debut in a line-up that saw Neal Trotman come in to replace the injured Mark McChrystal. Lee Mansell was handed the captains armband in McChrystal’s absence.
Rovers had the best of the opening exchanges as Andy Monkhouse headed twice into the grateful arms of Jonathan Hedge in the Telford goal.
Steve Mildenhall was called into early action for the home side with 10 minutes on the clock. Neal Trotman slipped in the penalty area, which allowed Sean Clancy to shoot, but the Rovers keeper was equal to it and pushed it wide for a corner.
Clancy had another opportunity to take the lead for Telford moments after. A punch from Mildenhall on the edge of the area allowed Clancy a shot, but the winger couldn’t hit the target with the goal gaping.
Rovers had the best chance of the half just after 20 minutes as Neal Trotman hit the crossbar.
A deep free kick from Tom Lockyer was floated into the box and the unmarked Trotman connected but his header crashed against the crossbar and behind for a goal kick.
Ollie Clarke forced a great save from Hedge just before half time, which the Bucks keeper pushed out for a corner. The resulting corner also fell to Clarke who powered a shot goal wards but was blocked in the area.
Rovers appealed for a penalty, but the referee turned down their claims.
The second half started brighter for the visitors as Sean Cooke came close on two occasions forcing Mildenhall into a couple more top saves but it was the home side that took the lead.
Rovers were applying pressure down the left hand side, the ball was fed to Ollie Clarke 30 yards out and the midfielder picked his spot on the right hand side of the goal and unleashed a pinpoint curling effort past an outstretched Hedge.
Darrell Clarke’s men continued to apply pressure in search for the second goal when they won a free kick 30 yards out. A three-man Bucks wall shifted to the left and allowed Lee Mansell a strike on goal.
The Rovers skipper struck the ball hard and it swerved in front of Hedge but the Telford keeper was able to parry the ball to safety.
Having scored from a move down the left hand side, Dave Martin was fed the ball again but this time the Luton loanee’s far post cross evaded everyone and trickled out for a goal kick.
With 20 minutes remaining Adam Cunnington was denied a debut goal as his header was saved superbly by Hedge. Cunnington towered over his man and headed low but Hedge got down quickly to make the save.
Rovers substitute Ellis Harrison almost made it two just before the final whistle but his right-footed effort narrowly went past the left hand post with the Telford keeper at full stretch.
Up next for Rovers is a trip to Forest Green Rovers on Monday, before they entertain FC Halifax Town at the Memorial Stadium on Saturday 30th August.
Rovers: Mildenhall, Lockyer, Parkes, Trotman, Brown, Monkhouse, Mansell (C), Clarke, Martin, Cunnington, Taylor (Harrison – 87).
Substitutes: Puddy (GK), Leadbitter, Gosling, White.
Telford: Hedge, Baynes, Byrne, Akrigg (C), Farrell, Clancy (Deacey – 67), Cooke (Phenix – 67), Owens, McDonald, Smith (Barnett – 81), Poku.
Substitutes: Pryce (GK), Hancocks.