Joey Barton records his first win as Rovers Manager, as Rovers defeat Shrewsbury at BS7.
Goals from Luke Leahy and Brandon Hanlan were the difference at the Mem, as Rovers capped off an impressive and resolute display with three points.
The captain’s close-range effort came at the perfect time, as Rovers signed off a pleasing display in the opening forty-five minutes with the game’s opening goal in the 44th minute.
The defender’s 7th goal of the season was assembled thanks to an attractive phase of play from the home side, that offered the opportunity for Alex Rodman to fire a low delivery across goal to pick out the unmarked Leahy.
The second half showing from Rovers was very much in the same vein, limiting any attacking threat from the away side.
Brandon Hanlan boosted Rovers with the security of the second goal on the stroke of the hour, as the forward stroked home a well-directed low finish into the bottom corner for his 9th goal in a Rovers shirt.
Late on Daniel Udoh would poke home to put the Gas under pressure, but they held firm to take the points.
The three points sees Rovers open a slim gap between themselves and the teams in the bottom four, ahead of two away fixtures in the coming seven days.
Ahead of KO, Rovers made the single change to the side that faced Wigan in their last fixture.
Zain Westbrooke came into the starting XI, replacing Ed Upson, for his first start in six games.
Brandon Hanlan was passed fit to lead the Rovers line. The forward’s goal in the reverse fixture back in October saw Rovers return from Shropshire with three points.
The visitors, in turn, also made one change for their trip to the Mem, with Matthew Pennington replacing Donald Love.
Rovers created the games’ first plausible opportunity, as Luke Leahy drafted in a useful cross from the left. The delivery caught the run of Luke McCormick, who was able to apply a faint touch to sweep the ball into the path of Brandon Hanlan. The striker swiftly fired towards the target, with his low effort held down by Sarkic.
Half chances kept arriving for Rovers as the opening stages played out. A useful ball into the box from Zain Westbrooke had to be tipped behind, while a long-range strike from Luke McCormick sung high and wide of the Shrewsbury goal.
Joey Barton’s side were much in the ascendency as the midway of the first half approached. Zain Westbrooke lined up another set-piece from all of 30-yards out that swung high over the target, as all that was missing from the early showing was more clear cut openings to test Sarkic in the Shrewsbury goal.
Facing his former side, Alex Rodman took a knock to the face that lead to the playmaker receiving treatment on the touchline for a prolonged spell to stem the flow of blood. Rodman returned minutes later donning a head bandage, to continue operating down the right-wing.
The midfielder’s return saw him fire a low effort towards the target that took a heavy deflection behind for a corner, as Rovers continued to assemble chances.
As the break approached, Rovers continued the trend of limiting play for the visitors.
Just as it looked like the deadlock would remain in place at the interval, Rovers grabbed the opening goal that their first-half performance deserved.
It was the wounded Rodman down the right that crafted the opening after a pleasing series of passes for the home side, as the winger darted to the byline to create an angle a low cross into the six-yard area. Rodman’s delivery across the face of goal bobbled into the path of Luke Leahy, as the stand-in skipper made no mistake to fire home from just yards out.
Barton’s side showed the same intensity and determination after the restart. The combination of Rodman and Leahy again combined, as the latter was able to rise to greet a high cross to the far post, only to see a header held by Sarkic.
More opportunities followed, with Josh Grant connecting well with a volley from the edge of the area that climbed sharply over the goal.
There were strong appeals for a penalty when Alex Rodman went to ground inside the Shrewsbury area, with the referee casting a long look at the strong appeals from the Rovers players. In the same move, Westbrooke’s clipped cross into a congested penalty area was headed goalward by Harries, but Sarkic was equal to the attempt.
Rovers coated a dominant spell in the game by adding a second goal on the hour. Again, it was a pleasing team move that saw the Rovers work the ball across the width of the pitch. Brandon Hanlan received the ball on the edge of the area and did well to stand up his man before taking advantage of a slim sight on goal to dig out a low finish that crept inside the far post.
It was the striker’s first goal since January and he was quickly mobbed by his teammates in the celebrations that followed.
With the confidence of a two-goal cushion, Rovers didn’t alter their game plan and ensured that Shrewsbury were confined inside their half.
Sam Nicholson came close to adding a spectacular third goal with a little over 15 minutes remaining. The winger cuts inside from the right and fired a swirling effort that just flew inches over the crossbar from 25-yards out. Nicholson followed that up with an opportunity moments later, this time firing a low effort just wide from a well-worked Rovers counter.
Daniel Udoh would poke home in the late stages to pile the pressure on the Gas, and when Joe Day went down injured, it meant Jordi Van Stappershoef would come on for added time.
He was called upon in dramatic fashion as he covered his near post to deny a close-range header deep in extra time.
Rovers face two away trips on the spin, travelling to Burton on Tuesday and making the long trip north to Hull City next Saturday.
Rovers: Joe Day (90+4' van Stappershoef), Luke Leahy ©, Josh Grant, Zain Westbrooke (85' Jack Baldwin), Brandon Hanlan (77’ Jonah Ayunga), Sam Nicholson (85' Ali Koiki), Luke McCormick, Alife Kilgour, Cian Harries, Alex Rodman (85' Ed Upson), George Williams.
Subs: Cam Hargreaves, James Daly.
Shrewsbury Town: Matija Sarkic, Ro-Shaun Williams, Sean Goss (73’ David Edwards), Shaun Whalley, Ollie Norburn ©, Josh Vela (85' David Davis), Nathanael Ogbeta, Curtis Main (85' Rekeil Pyke) , Ethan Ebanks-Landell, Matthew Pennington, Harry Chapman (66’ Daniel Udoh).
Subs: Harry Burgoyne, Scott Golbourne, Ryan Sears.