Bristol Rovers 2-0 AFC Wimbledon
Attendance: 10,093 (491 away)
Two second half goals from Matty Taylor helps Rovers to victory at the Mem against AFC Wimbledon.
Heading into the encounter Rovers made one change to take on AFC Wimbledon to the side that started our Boxing Day victory against Coventry City, introducing striker Ellis Harrison at the expense of Rory Gaffney. On the bench, there were recalls for Byron Moore and Jermaine Easter, as the Gas went on the search for a third home win at the Mem on the bounce.
In a slow opening ten minutes, it was a deep free-kick into the area by Lee Brown that came closest to creating a chance on goal for Rovers, as his delivery looked like it was going towards the unmarked Matty Taylor, but the cross was claimed convincingly by Dons 'keeper James Shea, who did well to pluck the ball out of the sky, after coming a long way off his line.
Will Puddy was required to be alert when Jake Reeves was able to take control of a loose ball on the edge of the Rovers area and the midfielder managed to slide a pass through in the direction of Tom Elliot, but the Rovers goalkeeper was quick off his line and was able to get down to gather the ball.
The best chance of the first half fell to Rovers, with Ollie Clarke winning a physical challenge in the centre of the pitch and breaking forward to pick out Matty Taylor, who sent a powerfull shot narrowly off target from the perimeter of the penalty box.
Lee Brown picked out Billy Bodin with a well-directed crossfield ball and Bodin was able to angle a pass into the path of the advancing Leadbitter, with the full-back getting to the byline before shaping a whipped cross into the area that evaded everyone inside the box.
Heading into the break, the visitors were awarded a free-kick in a dangerous position on the edge of the Rovers area when Cristian Montano was deemed to have fouled Barry Fuller. From the resulting set-piece, George Francomb looked like he was shaping up to send a shot towards goal, but instead opted to chip a cross into the crowded penalty area that found Tom Elliott, but the strikers header from close range lacked power and was easily claimed by Will Puddy.
In the dying moments of first-half stoppage time, Billy Bodin found space to cut inside and launch a well-directed shot on goal, but his effort was blocked by the outrushing Barry Fuller.
The second half started brighly with a cross turned shot from Billy Bodin forcing James Shea to make a save underneath his own crossbar to prevent the delivery creeping in.
Rovers were quick to create another opportunity when Matty Taylor did well to hold up the ball and play a well-weighted pass for Cristian Montano to run onto. The winger was able to carry his run well into the area, before shaping up to shoot, but his effort was blocked at source by the covering Barry Fuller.
Rovers took the lead in a move that began with a wonderful piece of footwork by Billy Bodin, who was able to take the ball past two players in a neat turn on the right-wing, which allowed him to feed the ball to Matty Taylor who forced James Shea into making a save with his feet from his driven effort. The ball was quickly recycled thanks to a first-time cross by Lee Brown and Matty Taylor was on hand at the far-post to head the ball home.
Just minutes after finding the net, Matty Taylor found himself in a position to extend Rovers' lead, when the forward was able to control and an awkward cross from the left from substitute Byron Moore and had space to turn before sending a side-footed effort narrowly past the post.
Taylor managed to bag his second goal of the afternoon just nine minutes after his first strike when a direct pass from Chris Lines played the ball to the forward's feet and Taylor held up the ball patiently before digging out a finish that wrong-footed Dons 'keeper James Shea.
There was a late chance for Taylor to net his third goal of the afternoon when a well-directed cross from Chris Lines was headed narrowly wide of the post by the striker from close-range.
Next up for Rovers is a trip to the Valley to take on Charlton Athletic on January 2nd.
Rovers: Will Puddy; Daniel Leadbitter, Tom Lockyer (C), Peter Hartley, Lee Brown; Billy Bodin (86' Liam Lawrence), Ollie Clarke, Chris Lines, Cristian Montano (58' Byron Moore), Ellis Harrison (83' Rory Gaffney) , Matty Taylor.
Substitutes: Kelle Roos (GK), James Clarke, Liam Lawrence, Charlie Colkett, Jermaine Easter.
AFC Wimbledon: James Shea (GK), Barry Fuller, Jon Meades, Dannie Bulman (68' Dean Perrett), Paul Robinson, George Francomb, Jake Reeves, Tom Elliot, Andy Barcham (68' Dominic Poleon), Tyrone Barnett, Chris Robertson.
Substitutes: Joe McDonnell (GK), Tom Beere, Dominic Poleon, Dean Perrett, Sean Kelly, Alfie Egan, Darius Charles.