Darrell Clarke returned to a familiar part of the world this afternoon as he took a Rovers side to face his former club, Salisbury FC.
Rovers were comfortably in control throughout and always looked as though they were capable of stepping up a gear and it was only in the closing stages that the home side enjoyed their best spell of pressure of the afternoon.
The home side thought they should have been awarded a penalty after only three minutes when Marvin Brooks rounded Rollin Menayese and advanced on goal. Keeper Adam Smith rushed out of goal to avert the danger and appeared to bring the striker down. However referee Mr Parsons disagreed.
A minute later Rovers were in front. Billy Bodin picked out the overlapping run of Lee Brown and his ball into the box was met by triallist Cameron Ebbutt who headed firmly into the roof of the net.
Salisbury went close to equalising when Brooks crossed in to the box and Danny Young was first react, bur although he beat Smith to the ball he saw his header drift wide of the upright.
Ollie Clarke then played in Brown with a delightful ball down the left and the defender’s cross was met by Rovers’ other triallist, Lewis Hall, who headed well wide of the target.
Although Rovers were enjoying the lion’s share of possession, it wasn’t until the 25th minute that they again threatened the Salisbury goal but on this occasion Bodin’s shot was comfortably dealt with by Nathan Ball.
Bodin again tried his luck a five minutes later when he turned inside the area and hit a shot high over the crossbar.
Smith did well to preserve Rovers’ lead when, on 32 minutes, Brooks met Lewis Benson’s free kick from the left and saw his close range effort touched behind by the keeper for a corner.
In the final minute of the half Rovers were awarded a free kick when Stuart Sinclair was brought down on the edge of the area and Bodin was unlucky to see his free kick just clear the crossbar.
Rovers made one change at the break, sending on Lewis Ellington for Ebbutt and Clarke’s side were quick off the mark, as Stuart Sinclair fired a shot just wide of the upright.
Bodin, who had looked lively all afternoon, was next to try his luck and keeper Ball did well to touch away his rasping drive from the edge of the area.
Rovers doubled their lead on 62 minutes when Daniel Leadbitter found Rory Gaffney inside the area and the striker rounded the keeper before slotting home his fifth pre-season goal.
Lee Brown then tested Hall, who got down well to save the defender’s free kick.
Salisbury hit Rovers on the counter attack on 76 minutes and looked likely to pull a goal back, but substitute Ben Hall made a great block to deny Kane O’Keefe a clear shooting opportunity.
As the game opened up in the closing stages, an audacious scissor kick shot by Flavio Tavares drifted wide of the upright and at the other end Bodin fired over the bar following good work by Gaffney and Clarke.
Tavares then went close with a free kick and following another home attack down the right Tom lockyer was on hand to clear the ball off the line as the ball came in from the right.
Smith was then called into action and did well to touch Lawrence Larbi’s header over the bar.
Salisbury FC: Nathan Ball, George Colson (Flavio Tavares, 63), Brandon Mundy, Tom Whelan (Kane O’Keefe, 67), Elliot Wheeler (Adam Flint, 67), Jake Wannell, Lewis Benson (Claudio Herbert, 63), Sam Roberts, Marvin Brooks (Lawrence Larbi, 69), Mark Francis (Kailan Gould, 60), Danny Young (Stuart Green, 11)
Substitutes: Vance Bola
Bristol Rovers: Adam Smith, Daniel Leadbitter, Lee Brown (Ghassan Hassan, , Tom Lockyer, Rollin Menayese (Ben Morgan, 72), Lewis Hall (Connor Jones, 56), Stuart Sinclair, Ollie Clarke, Rory Gaffney, Billy Bodin, Cameron Ebbutt (Lewis Ellington, 46)
Substitute: Liam Armstrong
Salisbury F.C - 0
Bristol Rovers 2 - Ebbutt (4), Gaffney (62)
Referee: Ian Parsons