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14 February 2017

Bristol Rovers 0-0 Sheffield United

Attendance: 9,175 (1,153 away)

Rovers played out an entertaining goalless draw against SkyBet League One leaders Sheffield United under the lights at the Mem, with both sides creating chances on the night, but neither side able to break the deadlock. Goalkeeper Joe Lumley made a number of key saves during the game, with Rovers unlucky not to take all three points on offer after a number of late chances on goal.

Rovers boss Darrell Clarke made three changes for the visit of Sheffield United, which included the recall of defender Joe Partington to the starting line-up, with the right-back making his home debut at the Mem. The other changes came in attack, with both Billy Bodin and Rory Gaffney in the starting eleven for the visit of the league leaders.

Sheffield United, on the other hand, made five changes, with top goalscorer Billy Sharp starting the fixture on the bench, as Jay O'Shea started for the Blades.

In the opening exchanges of the game, Rovers had to survive a scare as Sheffield United hit them on the break, with Caolan Lavery taking advantage of a slip by Joe Partington and advancing down the left before pulling the ball back for Jay O'Shea inside the box, but with the goal at his mercy O'Shea could only direct his side-footed effort past the left-hand post. 

Rovers first opportunity of the game came through Billy Bodin, with the winger driving towards the Sheffield United area and launching a powerfully driven effort that had United goalkeeper Simon Moore diving to his left, but the shot bounced wide of the post.

The chances continued to come for the home side, as Rovers enjoyed a good spell of possession inside the Sheffield United half, with Stuart Sinclair picking out Rory Gaffney via a well directed lofted pass and the striker took a touch and looked poised to launch a volley on goal, but off balance Gaffney could only lift his effort well over the crossbar. Gaffney's effort was quickly followed by a fine individual strike by Ollie Clarke that looked destined for the top corner, but the midfielder's effort curled narrowly off target with Moore beaten. 

Gaffney was the outlet for much of the attacking play for Rovers during the opening forty-five minutes and the striker almost had a simple tap-in goal when Joe Partington launched a cross from deep that wasn't claimed by Moore, but Gaffney couldn't react quickly enough to head the ball into the empty net, as the Sheffield defence ushered the ball clear. The chance was proceeded by Gaffney poking the ball into a dangerous position inside the six-yard box that almost found Ollie Clarke, but Moore was quick off his line to pounce on the loose ball.

Ten minutes before the half-time break Billy Bodin created space for himself to get a shot away from the edge of the area that was heading on target, but a deflection took his effort wide of the post.

In stoppage time Sheffield United forced Joe Lumley into action, with the goalkeeper diving low to his right to push a Caolan Lavery header past the post, in what was a fine reaction save for the shot-stopper that ensured the score remained level heading into the half-time break.

Soon after the restart Lumley produced another fine save to once again deny Lavery, with the Rovers 'keeper required to dive high to his left to get a hand to a curling effort from the United striker, with Lumley getting enough glove on the effort to tip the shot around the post. Sheffield threatened from the resulting corner, with a close-range header from inside the congested area rising over the bar.

The visitors hit the woodwork midway through the second half when John Fleck took advantage of a mistimed clearance from Lumley and advanced to the fringes of the area before firing a right-footed shot that kept low and bounced back off the inside of the post.

Rovers had a chance to break the deadlock as Rory Gaffney was played through on goal via a flick-on, but with Moore quick off his line, the striker's touch to take it around the advancing 'keeper was too heavy and the ball rolled behind for a goal-kick.

A misplaced pass from Joe Partington created the opportunity for the lively Lavery to strike at goal but his effort was blocked soon after leaving his boot, as captain Tom Lockyer launched himself at the shot and managed to deflect the ball behind for a corner.

Inside the final ten minutes, Rovers thought that they had scored a late winner, as Rory Gaffney battled inside the area to head home a superb ball from Cristian Montano, but after guiding his header past Simon Moore the striker was met by the linesman raising his flag for offside. The striker's chance was followed by a fine volley by substitute Cristian Montano on the turn from the edge of the area which required Moore into making a save to flick the ball over the bar and from the following corner Billy Bodin directed an effort over the bar after a prolonged goalmouth scramble inside the area.

Next up for Rovers is a visit to Port Vale this coming Saturday in SkyBet League One. 

Bristol Rovers: Joe Lumley (G), Joe Partington, Ryan Sweeney, Lee Brown, Tom Lockyer (C), Chris Lines, Stuart Sinclair (59' Cristian Montano), Ollie Clarke, Billy Bodin, Rory Gaffney, Ellis Harrison (59' Byron Moore).

Substitutes: Will Puddy (G), Robert Harris, Jamie Lucas, Ryan Broom, Jonny Burn.

Sheffield United: Simon Moore (G), John Fleck, Jack O'Connell, Caolan Lavery, Matt Done (66' Billy Sharp), Jake Wright, Joe Riley, Paul Coutts (C), Daniel Lafferty, Jay O'Shea (73' Ethan Ebanks-Landell).

Substitutes: Geroge Long (G), Marc McNulty, Kieron Freeman, Mark Duffy, Samir Carruthers. 

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