Striker Jack Marriott grabbed a hat-trick as Bristol Rovers’ opening SkyBet League One game of the season at the Memorial Stadium ended in defeat at the hands of Peterborough United this afternoon.
Grant McCann’s Peterborough side were given an early boost on six minutes when Marriott swept the ball past Adam Smith from close-range to open the scoring.
Rovers were forced to play a patient game up against a well-drilled back three, but they had their chances; Tom Nichols forcing one save out of goalkeeper Jonathan Bond before Billy Bodin struck the crossbar in first-half stoppage time.
Liam Sercombe and Ellis Harrison also went close to restoring parity before Marriott further extended Peterborough’s lead on 56 minutes to leave Rovers with it all to do over the remainder.
Nichols was thwarted by Bond again and Ollie Clarke saw a header from a corner come back off the crossbar before former Newcastle defender Steven Taylor made it 3-0 on 77 minutes.
Peterborough’s stubborn defence was finally breached when Rory Gaffney headed past Bond after meeting Lee Brown’s far post cross to on 85 minutes before Marriott completed his treble in stoppage time.
Darrell Clarke had named an unchanged side from the one that secured a 4-1 Carabao Cup victory over Cambridge United on Tuesday night. There was one change on the bench as Ollie Clarke replaced central defender Tom Broadbent.
Peterborough capitalised on Rovers’ determination to make a fast start by getting in behind on the counter-attack to open the scoring on six minutes.
Gwion Edwards was the creator-in-chief with quick feet and trickery down the left-hand side to open up the opportunity to fire a dangerous ball towards the near post.
Ryan Sweeney made it to the ball first but his clearance had little purchase and Marriott was on hand to fire clinically past Smith to strike an early blow.
They almost doubled their advantage on 18 minutes when Edwards poked the ball just over the crossbar when meeting Leonardo Da Silva Lopes’ cross at the back post.
Rovers were finding it difficult to break down Peterborough’s well-drilled back three before Ellis Harrison fired harmlessly over the crossbar from distance on 25 minutes.
Minutes later, however, Nichols latched on to Bodin’s sublime reverse pass to aim an attempt on target only for Bond to get down well at the near post to push the ball around the post for a corner.
Rovers were almost caught on the break from the resulting corner; the dangerous Marcus Maddison playing Marriott in behind only for the striker to scuff his attempted finish across goal and wide of the post.
Morris went close for Peterborough again soon after before Bodin rattled the crossbar with a vicious left-footed effort in first-half stoppage time.
Rovers returned with a spring in their step and Bond had to make another smart save to repel Liam Sercombe’s effort from distance on 50 minutes.
Harrison blazed over from a matter of yards after Nichols had managed to slip down the side and roll a dangerous low ball across the penalty area before Peterborough did extend their lead on 56 minutes.
The goal was pretty simple in its execution as Morris broke forward in possession to slip in Marriott for the simplest of close-range finishes under Smith’s body.
Darrell Clarke looked for inspiration from the bench soon after; introducing Rory Gaffney and Byron Moore in a double change on the hour mark.
Nichols forced another save out of Bond with a fierce shot and Ollie Clarke headed the ball against the crossbar from the resulting corner as Rovers went in search of a goal to halve the deficit.
But when the next goal came it came at the other end; Taylor scrambling the ball over the line from close range on 77 minutes. Gaffney added a consolation goal for Rovers in the dying stages of the game, but there was still time for Marriott to score from a matter of inches to claim the match ball in stoppage time.
Bristol Rovers: Adam Smith;Daniel Leadbitter, Tom Lockyer, Ryan Sweeney, Billy Bodin, Chris Lines (Byron Moore, 61), Liam Sercombe, Stuart Sinclair (Ollie Clarke, 65); Tom Nichols, Ellis Harrison (Rory Gaffney, 61). Subs: Sam Slocombe, Dominic Telford, Marc Bola, Joe Partington.
Peterborough United: Jonathan Bond, Ryan Tafazolli, Jack Baldwin, Gwion Edwards (Andrew Hughes, 89), Marcus Maddison (Chris Forester, 80), Jack Marriott, Junior Morris (Idris Kanu, 74), Leonandro Da Silva Lopez, Michael Doughty, Steven Taylor, Anthony Grant. Subs: Connor O’Malley, Danny Lloyd-McGoldrick, Alex Penny, Andrea Borg.
Referee: Nicholas Kinseley
Attendance: 9758 (293).