Bristol Rovers 4-1 Coventry City
Attendance: 11,200 (902 away)
A second-half hat-trick from Billy Bodin helps to secure a Boxing Day victory at the Mem for Rovers against Coventry City.
Heading into the game Rovers made four changes to take on Coventry City, with Darrell Clarke recalling Daniel Leadbitter, Chris Lines, Billy Bodin and Cristian Montano to the starting 11 at the expense of James Clarke, Stuart Sinclair, Hiram Boateng, Charlie Colkett.
In his first game in charge of the Sky Blues, Coventry boss Russell Slade recalled the experienced Marcus Tudgay to the starting XI, to play alongside in-form striker Marvin Sordell and Kyel Reid as part of a front-three.
Inside the opening minutes, the visitors carved an opportunity on goal when a low-bouncing cross from the left from Kyel Reid found Marvin Sordell inside the area, but the striker's first-time volley cleared the crossbar from fifteen yards out.
Rovers were quick to respond by applying pressure on the Coventry flat-back four, with a highlight coming from a perfectly weighted cross from Montano into the area that narrowly missed the leaping Matty Taylor, which sparked a number of half-chances for Rovers, who couldn't quite find the opportunity to test Coventry 'keeper Lee Burge.
Marvin Sordell capitalised on a mix-up at the back between Tom Lockyer and Peter Hartley, with the striker snatching possession and running through on goal, only to be prevented by a well-timed covering tackle by Daniel Leadbitter.
Winger Cristian Montano was first Rovers player to test the Coventry 'keeper when a lay-off from Rory Gaffney provided the opportunity for the winger to launch a powerful left-footed effort on goal that had to be pushed around the post by Lee Burge.
Rovers took the lead in the 18th minute when a cultured free-kick into the area from out wide from Chris Lines was headed home by Peter Hartley, with the defender rising the highest inside the area to add another goal to his already impressive tally this season.
After a lull in the game following Rovers' opening goal, a snapshot from Billy Bodin, who cut inside from his wide berth out on the right-wing, forced Lee Burge into making a save down low, just inside his near post to deny Rovers a second goal late on in the first-half.
As the half-time break approached, a low-driven cross by Cristian Montano was touched into the path of Chris Lines by Rory Gaffney, but from the fringes of the penalty area the midfielder couldn't keep his sidefooted shot on target. Lines' attempt was quickly proceeded by a lovely flowing move by Rovers, who broke from the back to allow Montano to slide Matty Taylor through on goal, but the striker saw his shot charged down, after finding himself one-on-one with the Coventry shot-stopper.
Montano was instrumental in another quick Rovers counter-attack in stoppage time, fashioning a pass into the area that found Billy Bodin unmarked, but the winger blazed his first-time effort well over the crossbar.
Rovers doubled their lead less than ten minutes after the restart, when a neat piece of interplay on the edge of the area between Taylor and Gaffney, allowed Billy Bodin to be played in on an overlap from the right and the winger cut inside the area and waited patiently for an opening before sending a powerful effort that flew into the net.
Rovers two-goal advantage was short-lived, as Coventry captain Jordan Willis was able to fire home through a crowd of bodies following the ball pinballing around the Rovers area to give the visitors a pathway back into the game.
Ellis Harrison was introduced and was immediately involved in the action, muscling his way towards the Coventry area and delicately placing a shot that looked like it may have crept into the bottom corner, but Lee Burge did well to get down to push the ball clear of goal.
With just over fifteen minutes left on the clock, Rovers were able to extend their lead when a deflected cross from the right from Daniel Leadbitter was controlled by Ellis Harrison, who took a touch before finding Billy Bodin and the winger curled an effort on goal that was well out of the reach of Lee Burge.
There was enough time left in the clash for Bodin to register his third goal of the afternoon, when the winger was bundled down inside the area in the 83rd minute and was able to dispatch his penalty into the top corner of the net to complete his hat-trick and to cement the victory for Rovers.
Next up for Rovers is the visit of AFC Wimbledon to the Mem on New Year's Eve, before a quick turnout to face Charlton Athletic on January 2nd.
Rovers: Will Puddy (GK), Daniel Leadbitter, Tom Lockyer (C), Peter Hartley, Lee Brown; Billy Bodin, Ollie Clarke, Chris Lines (83' Lee Mansell), Cristian Montano (78' Liam Lawerence) Matty Taylor, Rory Gaffney (59' Ellis Harrison).
Substitutes: Kelle Roos (GK), James Clarke, Charlie Colkett, Luke James.
Coventry City: Lee Burge (GK), Jordan Willis (c), Jordan Turnbull, Gael Bigirimana (60' George Thomas), Andy Rose, Kyel Reid, Chris McCann, Lewis Page, Marvin Sordell, Marcus Tudgay (74' Daniel Agyei), Jamie Sterry.
Substitutes: Reice Charles-Cook (GK), Ruben Lameiras, Jordi Jones, Dion Kelly-Evans, Ben Stevenson.