Bristol Rovers 0
Samuel (41) Blackman (68)
Referee: Kevin Johnson
Away Attendance: 264
In another highly entertaining and competitive pre-season game Rovers were beaten 2-0 by Championship side Reading at the Memorial Stadium tonight.
Goals in each half, from Dominic Samuel and Nick Blackman were enough to give the Berkshire side victory but Rovers really should have scored themselves particularly in an impressive first half performance.
Manager Darrell Clarke selected a slightly different lineup to that which faced an Arsenal XI last Saturday and he handed Jermaine Easter a start up front alongside last season’s top scorer Matty Taylor.
In addition his three summer signings, Chris Lines, James Clarke and Cristian Montano all started while triallist Billy Bodin was one of ten named substitutes.
There was an early chance for Rovers, created and executed by Taylor who caught Aaron Tshibola in posession and fired a low shot towards goal. However it carried little power and goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi was able to save comfortably.
There was a let off for Rovers shortly afterwards as Jake Taylor’s shot was blocked on its way through to goal. Anton Ferdinand picked up the loose ball and his angled drive was well saved by goalkeeper Steve Mildenhall.
Al Habsi almost gifted Rovers a goal on seven minutes when he inexplicably threw the ball straight to Taylor but instead of getting his shot away he allowed himself to be pushed wide and the chance was gone.
There was soon another opportunity for Rovers and came when skipper for the night Lines curled in a free kick from the left and James Clarke’s powerful downward header was stopped on the line by Al Habsi.
Another Lines set piece, this time a corner, brought another chance for Rovers but James Clarke’s header drifted just over the bar.
With Rovers asking all the questions a delightful move saw Stuart Sinclair race on to a superb diagonal ball from Tom Parkes, cut inside and lay the ball back to Lines who took one touch before unleashing a tremendous drive that was touched over by Al Habsi.
The overworked keeper then pulled another top class save out of the bag, getting down low to keep out Taylor’s header, from Daniel Leadbitter’s cross. He was almost beaten on the half hour mark, though, when
Ollie Clarke glanced a header just wide of the upright following Lines’ corner from the right.
There were 33 minutes on the clock before we saw the visitors create another chance but Mildenhall, diving to his right, touched Tshibola’s shot behind for a corner.
As so often happens when a team comes under pressure, they counter at speed and nick a goal and that’s exactly what happened on 41 minutes when Tarique Fosu picked out Dominic Samuel with superb crossfield ball. The striker saw his initial effort blocked by Mildenhall but snapped up the rebound to beat the keeper at the second attempt.
Rovers made four half time changes but started the second half well with Sinclair failing to make the most of his chance after seizing on an intended back pass. There were enough defenders back to avert the danger on this occasion.
Jake Gosling, clipped a twenty yard effort just wide of the upright at one end of the pitch while at the other end Mildenhall dived full length to keep out Fosu’s low drive.
As approached the hour mark Sinclair found Ellis Harrison in the Reading area and his low drive was deflected behind off a visiting defender.
Once again, though, Rovers were caught on the break after a spell when they had been on top. This time Fosu crossed from the right and substitute Nick Blackman beat Mildenhall to double his side’s lead.
Rovers continued to search for an opening and a surging run by Ollie Clarke ended with his low shot drifted just wide of the upright.
As the game entered the final ten minutes Harrison flashed a shot wide of the target while Mildenhall made a couple of routine saves at the other end.
Nathan Blissett might have made more of his chance two minutes from time, but saw his effort hit the legs of Al Habsi and rebound to safety, while Mildenhall was also called into action and get down well to block a shot from Blackman.
Bristol Rovers: Steve Mildenhall, Daniel Leadbitter (Tyler Lyttle, 46), James Clarke (Alfie Kilgour, 75), Tom Parkes, Lee Brown (Danny Greenslade, 46), Stuart Sinclair (Jay Malpas, 63), Ollie Clarke, Chris Lines (Jake Gosling, 46), Cristian Montano (Billy Bodin, 56), Matty Taylor (Nathan Blissett, 63), Jermaine Easter (Ellis Harrison, 46)
Substitutes: Jamie Lucas, Kieran Preston
Reading: Ali Al-Habsi, Anton Ferdinand, Jordan Obita (Dominic Hyam, 75), Hope Akpan (Nick Blackman, 63), Aaron Tshibola (Daniel Williams, 75), Stephen Quinn (Oliver Norwood, 63), Jake Taylor (Andrija Novakovich, 84), Dominic Samuel (Pavel Pogrebnyak, 63), Sean Long (Chris Gunter, 63), Niall Keown, Tarique Fosu (Shane Griffin, 75
Substitutes: Jonathan Bond, Aaron Kuhl