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Match Reports

Emirates FA Cup Match Report: Bristol Rovers 6-0 Darlington

29 November 2020

The Gas secured safe passage into the FA Cup's 3rd round with a dominant display over Darlington.

FA Cup fever returned to town in late November as the Gas hosted non-league side Darlington, with a place in the 3rd round on the line.

First-half finishes from Daly, Hare, Leahy and Oztumer put Rovers in a commanding position as they concluded the first 45.

A second penalty for the Gas allowed Luke Leahy to put himself on a hat-trick before Nicholson stabbed home a finish in the second half to send the Gas through in emphatic style.

A return for James Daly bolstered Paul Tisdale's attacking options as he joined the side alongside Ben Liddle, who made his first start in the blue and white quarters.

Tisdale also handed Luke Leahy a start which would see his appearance count tick over to 50 for the Gas since joining in the summer of 2019.

The opening phases of the game began quietly, with both sides feeling each other out. A smart ball towards Daly punctuated the cagey start, with the striker almost getting a vital touch past his defender which would've seen him in. Instead, his attempt at control failed to register and it rolled through to the 'keeper.

Darlington conceded early possession but found a half-chance of their own just past the 10-minute mark, with a ball roll in from the left side across the box towards Sean Reid. However, Jack Baldwin was on hand to hoof clear.

As the game approached the 20th minute, Luke McCormick found the Gas' first real sight of goal as he picked up a looped Darlington clearance on the edge of the box. His touch bounced the ball ahead of him before he laced it with his left, but saw his effort climb well clear of the bar.

Moments later some crafty work from Oztumer in the Rovers midfield allowed him to unleash Nicholson into the box, but the linesman lifted his flag, seeing Nicholson's wind up for a strike promptly canceled.

Adam Campbell struck a free-kick for Darlington as the game began to produce openings, but hit his effort high and wide of Jaakkola's net.

Joe Wheatley came as close to firing the away side ahead the sides passed 25 minutes, hitting a low right-footed effort past the left post, which initially has Jaakkola scrambling before the Fin watched it roll wide.

Campbell would reply with another effort curled it into the clutches of Jaakkola in the centre of the goal.

Rovers ventured into the Darlington area not long after, with a cross finding Sam Nicholson in the box. He headed it down to Daly who attempted a left-footed shot on the turn, but the linesman raised his flag as he shot.

Just before the half-hour, the Gas had the lead, with the ever-lively James Daly pouncing on a rogue header back to the Darlington 'keeper with his electric pace, and slotting home with his left foot. The initial ball in behind came courtesy of his flatmate, Josh Hare, not the first time they linked up this season.

In response, Darlington carved an opening for an equaliser as William Hatfield fired into the net from a sharp angle.

Darlington narrowly evaded another calamity at the back as goalkeeper Johnny Saltmer rushed out to clear a ball on the edge of his area, opting to head instead of punch. The ball fell to Daly who couldn't shuffle it out of his feet to get the shot away before the 'keeper had retreated, with a defender getting a block in.

Ben Liddle, who today faced a side his father played for, slipped Oztumer into space with 33 gone, as the Charlton-loanee turned to face the defensive line. He ghosted left before hitting a low effort, but it ended up central and Saltmer collected.

Charman was rolled in towards the right apex of the Rovers box with 10 minutes remaining in the half, but struck his snapshot wide of the left stick.

Up the other end, Rovers doubled their lead through the assister of the first. A ball into Luke McCormick sent the right-back flying beyond the midfielder into the box. McCormick turned sharply to face up his defender before sliding a pass into Hare on the overlap. After scoring in the Papa John's Trophy last week, he found the net once again with a low right-footed strike into the bottom left corner, giving Saltmer no chance.

Just before half-time the Gas made their lead a commanding one as Daly was bundled over in the box. The ref' pointed to the spot, and Luke Leahy stepped up on his 50th appearance for the Gas to rifle into the net.

Daly almost doubled his tally not long after, with the Gas looking to firmly put the game to bed. His left-footed effort from the left side of the box was tipped clear by the outstretched leg of Saltmer in the net.

The Gas did shortly after as Darlington heads seemed to drop. Nicholson opened up the angle on the edge of the box and slipped Oztumer into the area, he took a touch and buried it into the bottom right to make it 4-0 and grab his first goal for the Gas.

Rovers started the second half as brightly as they ended the first, with James Daly picking up a knockdown and firing towards the bottom left. His shot was parried into his path towards the left side, and as he went to control the ball, saw his balance go as McMahon pushed him in the back. A penalty was given and Leahy once again stepped up to stroke home.

McMahon almost made up for giving away the penalty on the 55th minute as he struck a first-time effort from the right side. A vital touch from Jaakkola took it onto the post, with the Fin thankful to see it rebound back into play.

Nicholson slid in a low cross as the game approached the hour, with James Daly slidding in looking for his second. The Darlington defender did enough to stab it wide for a corner. From the resulting Josh Hare corner, the right-back picked out captain Max Ehmer who headed down into the 6-yard area. Sam Nicholson showed lightning reactions to prod it home, toeing it into the bottom right corner to make it 6!

Not long after, Luke McCormick ghosted inside but bent his left-footed effort wide of the goal, looking for his first Gas goal.

With 20 to go, Jarrett Rivers stabbed a powerful pass into space just inside the box, leaping onto it well and firing at Jaakkola's goal. The Fin got down well though and palmed out the strike before claiming it from the feet of the rushing Darlington attack.

With a fantastic display under his belt, Ben Liddle left the field proud as he was replaced by Harries with 15 to go.

Shortly after the Gas made the final change, Rovers were stung with a late injury with James Daly landing awkwardly on his ankle and limping off the pitch. Rovers would play the last 10 or so minutes with 10 men.

It became a case of the Gas just seeing things out from that point, with their attacking edge somewhat blunted with the removal of James Daly. When the full-time whistle went, the Gas had secured their place in a level of comfort not often found in these tricky early stages.

The Gas will draw confidence from this result as they head to Gillingham on Wednesday.

Rovers: Anssi Jaakkola (G), Luke Leahy, Max Ehmer © (Alfie Kilgour 63'), Jack Baldwin, Josh Hare, Ben Liddle (Cian Harries 76'), Josh Grant, Luke McCormick, Erhun Oztumer, Sam Nicholson (Zain Westbrooke 63'), James Daly.

Subs: Jordi van Stappershoef, Ali Koiki, Ed Upson, Brandon Hanlan.

Darlington: Johnny Saltmer, Jordan Watson, Joe Wheatley, Nicholas Hunt, William Hatfield (c) (Theo Hudson 87'), Adam Campbell, Jarrett Rivers, Luke Charman (Omar Holness 64'), Anthony McMahon, David Atkinson, Sean Reid (Tyrone O'Neill 45')

Subs: Melvyn Minter, Louis Lang, Ben Hedley, Dan Maguire


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