Rovers became the first pro side to play at Melksham Town’s Oakfields Stadium this afternoon and on a very hot afternoon came away from this well appointed ground with a 6-1 win under their belts courtesy of a Rory Gaffney hat trick and further goals from Ellis Harrison, Billy Bodin and Liam Sercombe.
After a couple of promising runs down the right by Bodin, which came to nothing, the home side forced the first corner which was comfortably cleared by Rovers.
However Darrell Clarke’s side took the lead after six minutes, profiting from a dreadful mistake by home goalkeeper Rob brown caught the ball under his feet when attempting to clear a backpass. Harrison was lurking and as the ball ran free he pounced to roll the ball into an unguarded net.
Bodin fired wide of the target a couple of minutes later and then set up Ollie Clarke with a ball in from the right. However the skipper for the afternoon headed over from close range.
Melksham were unlucky not to be back on level terms on 12 minutes, though, when a delightful curling free kick taken by James Hiscocks struck the crossbar and fell behind.
Following a spell of Rovers possession, Melksham were given another opportunity after Clarke’s side failed to clear a free kick into their box. However Joe Stradling’s hurried shot cleared the crossbar by some distance.
At the other end Harrison attempted to double his afternoon’s tally but his thundering volley from outside the area comfortably cleared the bar.
Melksham should really have been on level terms on 27 minutes when Sam Slocombe was called into action for the first time. The keeper did well to parry a shot from Dan Demkin but the loose ball was picked up by Ben Pring who somehow managed to miss the target from five yards out.
Ollie Clarke then tested Brown in the home goal, but the keeper comfortably fielded his effort but Rovers did double their lead with five minutes of the half remaining. Ryan Broom’s short free kick found Bodin in space and he rifled a superb left foot shot past Brown and high into the roof of the net.
Broom was then denied a goal himself as Brown threw himself to his left to touch the youngster’s ferocious drive away.
Rovers made eight changes at half time, with all of their substitutes starting the second period. The only ones from the first half to remain on the pitch were Slocombe, Hall and Broadbent.
There should have been a third Rovers goal within a minute of the restart when Rory Gaffney found Chris Lines inside the area and his fierce drive was pushed away by Brown as far asBrandon Fox, who couldn’t get his shot away quickly enough, allowing the keeper to gather.
Gaffney might have scored a third goal on the hour mark. He was well placed to receive a superb ball into the box from Liam Sercombe, but directed his header over the bar.
However two minutes later the home side were awarded a penalty after Luke Russe was adjudged to have fouled Gary Higdon. The resulting spot kick was dispatched by Lee Davidson who sent Slocombe the wrong way.
Sercombe and Gaffney both went close to adding to the goal tally. Sercombe’s initial shot was well saved by Brown, who parried the ball as far as Gaffney. His resulting shot hit the post and Sercombe’s close range effort from the rebound just cleared the bar.
Gaffney did get on the scoresheet after 74 minutes when his fierce left foot drive from out on the left saw Brown make another mistake as he was beaten at his near post.
The keeper redeemed himself moments later, though, when he safely gathered a Lines free kick and then dived low to his left to keep out another effort from Sercombe.
However Rovers restored their two goal advantage on 74 minutes when Rory Gaffney saw his angled drive beat Brown at his near post and they soon added two more goals.
There were five minutes remaining when Byron Moore raced down the left and crossed into the box. Gaffney chested the ball down to Sercombe who rifled the ball home.
One minute later Gaffney scored his second of the afternoon as he accepted a pass from the impressive Sercombe before drilling the ball home.
Gaffney completed his hat trick in the final minute when he hit a low shot from the right past the keeper and into the net.
The home side tired in the later stages of the game and created very little in the second half, leaving Rovers to record a comfortable victory
Sam Slocombe, Daniel Leadbitter, Lee Brown, Lewis Hall, Jonny Burn, Tom Broadbent, Stuart Sinclair, Ollie Clarke, Ellis Harrison, Billy Bodin
Substitutes: Luke Russe, James, Clarke, Michael Kelly, Liam Sercombe, Chris Lines, Brandon Fox, Byron Moore, Rory Gaffney, Adam Smith (All used on 46 minutes)
Melksham Town, 1 - Davidson (pen, 62)
Bristol Rovers, 6 - Harrison (6), Bodin (40), Gaffney (74, 86, 90), Sercombe 85)