With the new season just a week away Rovers recorded a 2-1 win against Premier League West Bromwich Albion thanks to goals from Ellis Harrison and Tom Nichols with Craig Dawson replying for the visitors.
In a very competitive match, played as a testimonial for Peter Aitken, both sides enjoyed decent passages of play and created a number of opportunities. Rovers defence were resolute throughout and both goalkeepers, Sam Slocombe and Adam Smith catching the eye along with defender Tom Broadbent.
Darrell Clarke, though, would have been pleased with the determination and application of his side and no one envies him the decisions he has to make next week when his side take on Charlton Athletic.
After a tentative opening, Rovers took a somewhat fortuitous lead after only five minutes when Lee Brown picked out Harrison with a pinpoint diagonal pass.
The striker brought the ball down and was faced with defender Ahmed Hegazi who attempted to clear but looked on in despair as his clearance ricocheted off of Harrison’s leg and rebounded into the net beyond Ben Foster.
With Rovers looking lively, Billy Bodin tested Foster with a long range effort though the keeper saved comfortably.
The first real effort of any note from The Baggies came from Solomon Rondon, who saw his 20 yard effort drift wide of the upright.
Sam Slocombe prevented Albion from equalising on 29 minutes when a cross from Jay Rodrigues, who looked to be in an offside position when he collected the ball, reached James McClean at the back post but his fierce angled drive was well saved by the keeper with his legs.
A minute later Slocombe again came to his side’s rescue when he rushed some 25 yards off his line to make an outstanding tackle on McClean who had got in behind the Rovers’ defence.
With ten minutes of the half remaining Slocombe made a routine save from Rondon, while Liam Sercombe’s shot at the other end took as deflection off of Hegazi straight into the arms of Foster.
A fairly even, yet entertaining half ended with the visitors having to make a forced substitution as Ryan Brunt limped off to be replaced by Allan Nyom.
Rovers made five changes at the start of the second half and West Brom made three changes three minutes in and it took a while for the new lineups to bed in.
The visitors created the first opportunity of the half, but Jonathan Leko’s low shot from the edge of the area was well wide of the target.
Leko tried his luck again on 57 minutes and although his effort was on target this time it was straight at Adam Smith who saved comfortably.
Rovers then forced two corners in quick succession, but both were cleared by the Albion defence.
The visitors went close to equalising just after the hour mark when Nacer Chadli’s free kick was only just wide. The same p-layer went close with another free kick five minutes later and his curling effort shaved the upright and dropped behind.
Albion were denied a goal on 69 minutes by the offside flag after Rondo had headed home Chadli’s cross from the left. The impressive Chadli was then tackled by Smith outside the area which denied him a shooting opportunity.
Chadli created another opportunity for himself shortly afterwards, but curled his shot over the crossbar.
With 76 minutes on the clock a sublime through ball from Tom Nicholls found Ollie Clarke who beat his marker before seeing his left foot drive well saved by Foster.
Rondon then almost equalised at the other end, only being denied by the outstretched leg of Smith. Rollin Menayese might have done better with his header from a Chris Lines free kick as the clock wound down, but he directed his effort well wide of goal.
Rovers though did score a second goal with five minutes of the game remaining. A superb through ball from Rory Gaffney picked out the run of Tom Nichols and the former Exeter and Peterborough striker beat Foster with a measured shot to register his first goal for the club.
The visitors pulled a goal back in time added on when Dawson headed home after a corner from the right.
Bristol Rovers: Sam Slocombe (Adam Smith, 46), Joe Partington (Rollin Menayese 55), Tom Lockyer James Clarke, 46), Tom Broadbent, Lee Brown (Marc Bola, 46), Liam Sercombe (Ryan Broom, 46), Ollie Clarke, Chris Lines, Stuart Sinclair, Billy Bodin, Ellis Harrison (Rory Gaffney, 46).
West Bromwich Albion: Ben Foster, Craig Dawson, Jonny Evans, Ahmed Hegazi, Chris Brunt (Allan Nyom, 45), Jay Rodrigues (Claudio Yacob, 48), Jake Livermore (Jonathan Leko, 48), Sam Field, James McClean (Hal Robson-Kanu, 48), Solomon Rondon, Nacer Chadli
Substitutes: Matt Phillips, Alex Palmer