Rovers start pre-season with Melksham Town win

Scott Sinclair and Isaac Hutchinson celebrate

Melksham Town 2-4 Bristol Rovers
Pre-season fixture, Oakfield Stadium, Friday 5 July 2024

Bristol Rovers overcame a second-half scare to secure a 4-2 victory away to Melksham Town in the first pre-season fixture of the 2024/25 schedule.

In a pre-season game that has become an annual occurrence, Rovers took the advantage on ten minutes when new signing Isaac Hutchinson tapped in Ruel Sotiriou’s saved shot.

Academy youngster Ollie Dewsbury doubled the lead moments into the second half when he slotted in Bryant Bilongo’s cross, but Melksham hit back with two goals in two minutes - one from the penalty spot - to level the match.

Dan Ellison restored Rovers’ lead with a well-taken header with 20 minutes to play and the young centre-back found his second, and his team’s fourth, with another set-piece goal six minutes later.

Five new signings were included in Matt Taylor’s first starting XI of pre-season while Academy prospect Jerry Lawrence featured in midfield.

It was the hosts that took the first shot of the evening as Coby Witt hit a superb effort on the volley, which was just over Jed Ward’s cross-bar.

The Gas took the lead inside ten minutes with their first real effort of the game. Forward Sotiriou saw his initial shot saved, with Hutchinson in the right place to react and slot home the rebound.

Melksham had two more attempts from free-kicks, with both over the cross-bar, before Hutchinson saw a set-piece of his own deflected away.

Another corner from the midfielder caused havoc in the Melksham box on 34 minutes, with two efforts cleared off the line by the hosts, before Sotiriou’s shot was again deflected off the line a minute later.

Another scramble in the Melksham penalty area at the end of the first half led to Luke Thomas putting the ball in the back of the net but Rovers’ second of the evening was denied by an offside flag.

It was all change at the interval with a completely different XI taking to the pitch, and Rovers had a second goal just two minutes into the second half. Summer signing Bilongo did superbly well on the left to find 16-year-old Dewsbury, who coolly slotted home at the near post.

The hosts were resolute, however, and halved the deficit on 58 minutes when Haffenen calmly finished past Matt Hall. Then, just moments later, a disappointing touch from the Rovers goalkeeper saw Melksham awarded a penalty.

Up stepped Graham to dispatch the spot-kick.

The game was level for 13 minutes when Rovers were awarded a free-kick in a dangerous area. McCormick stood over the delivery and supplied a superb cross, with new signing Ellison rising highest to restore the Gas’ lead.

Six minutes later, Ellison had his second. This time the cross was from Jevani Brown, from a corner, with the young defender positioning himself expertly and finding the far corner.

A first run-out of the summer schedule concluded there, with a winning start for Taylor’s new-look team.

Melksham Town: Kelsey, Summerfields, Bennett, Lynden, James, Morgan, Graham, Cattermole (Cronin 55), Trialist A (Stroud 55), Witt, Pedro
Subs: Haffenen, Arlow, Phillips
Goals: Stroud 58, Graham 60 (p)

Bristol Rovers: Ward (Hall 46), Moore (Ellison 46), Wilson (White 46), Mola (Connolly 46), Senior (Leipus 46) (Sughayer 71), Conteh (Shaw 46), Lawrence (Edwards 46), Thomas (Bilongo 46), Hutchinson (McCormick 46), Sinclair (Dewsbury 46), Sotiriou (Brown 46)
Goals: Hutchinson 10, Dewsbury 47, Ellison 70, 76,

Attendance: 903

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