24.03.23 Match Report Villa 1 Rovers 3

A goal apiece for strikers Josh Coburn, Ryan Loft and John Marquis saw Rovers run out 3-1 winners in a friendly against Premier League side Aston Villa.

This was no second-string Villa outfit either, with the likes of Ashley Young, Tyrone Mings, Lucas Digne, Ezri Konsa and Ollie Watkins all starting the game at the Bodymoor Heath training ground. However, a superb performance from the Gas saw them secure a comfortable win, with only a late Villa consolation marring a pleasing afternoon in the Midlands.

The hosts started brightly and struck the bar after just seven minutes through a Konsa header, before spurning another couple of half-chances as they looked to make their class show.

Rovers fought their way into the game and opened the scoring moments after the heavens opened and the rain hammered down. Josh Coburn found himself in on goal and slid the ball past Wright in the 16th minute.   

With Evans and McCormick pulling the strings in midfield, the gap of two leagues between the two squads was not evident and Rovers could have added a second on the stroke of half-time but Coburn was flagged offside when clean through.


Former Villan Scott Sinclair made way for Grant Ward for the second half, which also saw the rain abate and the sun come out.

Villa nearly drew level after 48 minutes, but Belshaw pulled off a great save to parry Watkin's fierce close-range shot; headers from Connolly and Evans completed the clearance. 

Rovers were continuing to impress. McCormick opted to cross in the 53rd minute when he might have shot whilst, four minutes later, Evans played in Macdonald, whose cross was deflected behind for a corner.

From it, Rovers had their second. The ball found its way across the box and Ryan Loft took a touch before firing home left-footed into the top corner in the 57th minute.

Villa, with manager Unai Emery urging his side on, almost hit straight back, but Calum Chambers' snapshot flew over Belshaw's bar.

John Marquis replaced Coburn on the hour mark, and it would only take him four minutes to make his mark.

McCormick broke free and played an inch-perfect pass beyond the Villa backline to Marquis, who calmly fired home with his left foot into the bottom corner to put Rovers three goals to the good.

In the 70th minute, Glenn Whelan - who Villa paid £1million for in 2017 - replaced the impressive McCormick.

A direct Evans free-kick almost brought a deserved fourth for Rovers, but Wright got down low to turn behind for a corner.

Jerry Lawrence replaced Sam Finley after 81 minutes, and Villa almost pulled a goal back. Ashley Young, who was vociferous all afternoon, beat the backline and chipped the advancing Belshaw. Thankfully, Connolly had read what was happening and headed off the line.

Villa did get on the scoresheet with five minutes of the contest left, much to the chagrin of Belshaw. The ''keeper looked to be behind Kellyman's shot but an unfortunate deflection from Connolly caused the ball to spin cruelly beyond his despairing dive.

A late flurry of Villa attacks was repelled and Rovers held on to secure a fine friendly victory.

BRISTOL ROVERS: Belshaw, Gordon, Gibbons, Connolly, Finley, Evans, McCormick, Sinclair, Macdonald, Loft, Coburn.

Referee: Andre Marriner 

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