Bristol Rovers 0
Arsenal XI 1
Although his side were beaten 1-0 by a young Arsenal side at the Memorial Stadium this afternoon, manager Darrell Clarke must have been pleased with the way his side worked hard to get back on level terms after they were outplayed in the opening twenty minutes or so.
There were only five minutes on the clock when the impressive Stephy Mavididi netted the only goal of the game and The Gunners created at least two more very good opportunities to increase their lead.
Their passing and movement, and ability to find space was, at times, a joy to watch but Rovers hit back and their competitive edge saw them gradually ease their way back into the game and, if anything, they shaded things after the twenty minute mark and again in the second half. For all of their neat approach work, Arsenal seldom troubled goalkeeper Steve Mildenhall after that point.
Clarke named a squad of 18 players for the game and there was a welcome return to the squad for Jermaine Easter after a long lay off through injury.
Arsenal included former Rovers goalkeeper Matt Macey in their starting lineup. The young shot stopper left The Memorial Stadium for The Gunners two years ago.
Rovers’ first attack saw a neat one two played between Jake Gosling and Billy Bodin that ended with Gosling’s shot being blocked at the expense of a corner and when the ball was delivered in from the left it found
Danny Greenslade who fired a first time shot over the bar.
However the opening goal came from the visitors on five minutes. Stephy Mavididi took advantage of a defensive mix up at the back and waltzed to the edge of the area before rolling the ball into the net past
Steve Mildenhall who had raced out of goal in an attempt to clear.
Glen Kamara played in Tyrell Robinson six minutes later and Lee Mansell did well to block his rasping drive at the expense of a corner.
A delightful flowing move down the right as we approached the 20 minute mark saw Kamara find Kaylen Hinds and he picked out Tyrell Robinson with his low cross but the youngster’s shot hit his team mate
Mavididi and, thankfully for Rovers, the danger was averted.
At the other end, Ellis Harrison lashed a left foot shot high over the bar from 20 yards, but Rovers best chance arrived five minutes later when a move through the middle saw Billy Bodin lay the ball back to Chris
Lines and he drilled a ferocious drive straight at Macey from just outside the area. Before anyone could take advantage of the rebound, the flag went up for offside.
There was a humorous moment on the half hour mark when Arsenal were awarded a free kick and as Rovers defensive wall failed to retreat the full ten yards, referee Kevin Johnson brought out his tin of white spray to indicate where they should be. It was the first time that had happened at the Mem and the official received an ironic cheer from the crowd as he administered the temporary white line with a flourish.
Rovers gradually got into their stride and the hard working Bodin saw his left foot effort drift over the crossbar. Rovers then produced a great move that saw Daniel Leadbitter race down the right to pick up a long ball forward and crossed into the box. A poor clearance found Gosling in space and his first time effort from almost 30 yards saw Macey touch the ball behind for a corner.
Lines then hit a free kick straight at the Arsenal keeper as Clarke’s side began to stretch the Arsenal youngsters, though they were unable to get back on level terms before the half time whistle.
Rovers made a double substitution at the start of the second half that saw Matty Taylor replace Harrison while Ollie Clarke came on for Mansell.
Three minutes in Bodin was denied an equaliser as Macey smothered his shot at the near post following Leadbitter’s ball in from the right.
Taylor then just failed to get a touch on Greenslade’s ball in from the left, allowing Macey to gather comfortably and the striker then drilled a low shot just wide of the upright.
Shortly after replacing Sinclair, Cristian Montano curled a shot wide of the post and went close again on 71 minutes when he directed a left foot shot straight at substitute goalkeeper Deyan Iliev.
In an increasingly rare Arsenal attack, Mavididi dragged a shot wide of the upright, while at the other end substitute Jay Malpas fired over the Arsenal mbar after being played in by Gosling.
However in spite of an impressive afternoon’s work, Rovers suffered the first defeat of their pre-season programme.
Bristol Rovers: Steve Mildenhall, Daniel Leadbitter, James Clarke, Tom Parkes, Danny Greenslade (Jay Malpas, 76), Stuart Sinclair (Cristian Montano, 60), Chris Lines, Lee Mansell (Ollie Clarke, 46), Jake Gosling, Ellis Harrison (Matty Taylor, 46), Billy Bodin (Jermaine Easter, 60)
Substitutes: Nathan Blissett, Jamie Lucas
Arsenal XI; Matt Macey (Deyan Iliev, 60), Aaron Eyoma (K Pileas, 76), Marc Bola, Glen Kamara, Kristopher Da Graca, Julio Pleguezuelo, Jett Reine-Adelaide (Vlad Drogmir, 80), Ben Sheaf (Harry Donovan, 68), Stephy Mavididi, Kaylen Hinds (Savvas Mourgos 60), Tyrell Robinson (Ilias Chatzitheodoris, 76)
Referee: Kevin Johnson
Arsenal supporters: 150