Bristol Rovers 1-2 Port Vale: player ratings, MOTM, heroes & villains as discipline problems continue
The side with the most red cards in League Two were given two more in a defeat to their former manager
Bristol Rovers’ discipline let them down as their nine players on the pitch lost 2-1 to Port Vale at the Memorial Stadium.
Red cards for both Sam Finley and Cian Harries meant they were unable to stop the Gas’ rot of four league games without a win.
Ben Garrity scored a two-minute salvo against the then ten men on the half hour mark to all but secure the points. Aaron Collins pulled a goal back for Rovers but Harries’ dismissal undid their efforts.
Joey Barton’s side remain in 16th after the draw whilst former manager Darrell Clarke takes his side up in to third, occupying one of the automatic spots.
Tale of the match
In torrential conditions, Vale started the match strongly and created the first chance. David Worrall’s free-kick over the top found Devante Rodney, forcing James Belshaw to tip the shot over the bar.
An off-the-ball incident then brought the game to a momentary pause. After consultation with his referee Craig Hicks dismissed Sam Finley for apparent violent conduct on Tom Conlon.
Despite the red card, Rovers had some rhythm in their attack with Harry Anderson going near with a laced shot.
The man advantage gave Vale some space and Politic was again allowed to shoot at Belshaw but after turning two players inside out, he curled his shot straight at the goalkeeper.
A golden opportunity came for the ten men to take the lead. Nicholson put in an exquisite ball from a free-kick but Taylor headed over the bar in a chance he should have taken.
They were made to rue that missed chance as the away side took their chance despite a dubious free-kick. Conlon’s ball was slid in under the crossbar by Garrity.
A lapse in concentration then saw a second come for Vale, making Rovers’ job even harder. Conlon’s ball split the defence to find Lewis Cass and he dragged the ball back to Garrity to grab a quickfire brace with a close-ranged shot.
In the second-half Rovers pulled one back to inspire some hope amongst the home fans. Nicholson laid the ball off to Collins and his swept shot deflected off of Daniel Jones.
Home fans then had more frustration to vent at the referee as he waved away a penalty appeal on Trevor Clarke after being held by Cass.
After controlling the period and looking good for an equaliser, all the good work was undone as Harries was given a straight red card for a high boot.
The second dismissal meant personnel changes and Rovers were unable to create any meaningful attacks, instead Belshaw had to deny Conlon in the last notable shot of the match, as the hosts consigned themselves to defeat.
Aaron Collins: There’s a hope that the dubious goals panel won’t take this away from Collins because his goal could be the start of something.
It wasn’t the cleanest of strikes but in a similar position to his goal against Oxford, he whacked a shot and fortunately it ended up in the net.
December is a crucial month because this is the last period you have before the club starts looking at transfers in January with perhaps a striker on the agenda. A new recruit would perhaps displace Collins but tonight he was one of the positives in an otherwise frustrating night.
Sam Nicholson: Rovers needed a player to take the team forward and keep the game competitive, he did that. He put the ball on a plate for Taylor from a free-kick to open the scoring but unfortunately his teammate couldn’t take it.
He did play a part in Rovers’ goal of the night though, creating the space for Collins to score from.
It was probably wise for Joey Barton to withdraw him as the game went away from them after the second dismissal. it was better to preserve him.
Nicholson has suffered with a few niggling injuries this season so bringing him off keeps him available for Saturday.
Darrell Clarke: A top manager who received a good reception from the fans as he emerged from the dugout. Before the match he walked past most of the stands that housed home supporters and he made a good effort to applaud them.
There was also a pre-match discussion with current boss Joey Barton, exchanging a handshake with him as well as his coaching staff.
Not the result that Rovers will have wanted tonight but tonight’s result perhaps shows how good of a job he’s doing at his new club given they’re occupying one of the automatic promotion spots.
Sam Finley: For the last few games he’s become quite the figure in Rovers’ ranks. His ability to pick out a pass has been top but tonight he let himself down.
Allowing the linesman to make his mind up on a scuffle with Vale’s captain Conlon, he was sent off for what was deemed violent conduct by the officials.
His absence in the engine room was evident, as of the midfield three, he is the most creative, so there
The incident will be assessed by the club and the Football League from the referees report but as an experienced player, he should know better than to give them a chance to send him off.
Finley’s dismissal saw him become the sixth Rovers player to be sent off this season, the most in the division.
Craig Hicks: The referee was not a popular figure amongst the fans today. A red card brandished to Finley early on, Rovers were already up against it. He then awarded a soft-free-kick to the opposition in which they scored from.
Add into the mix a few cheap yellow cards as well as waving away a penalty appeal, Hicks didn’t endear himself to the supporters. They let him know what he thought with a few chants.
Tensions then flared at the full-time whistle with Brett Pitman booked after the match had concluded.
Cian Harries: The second Rovers player to be sent off this evening and there isn’t much to debate about it. He underestimated a ball over the top and after hesitating to go for the ball, he raised his foot on Garrity who looked like he’d have won the battle.
It didn’t cleanly connect but was ultimately the last man, denying a clear goalscoring opportunity.
The frustrating thing about his dismissal is that for most of the second-half, Rovers were the team on top but once he was sent off, any chance of winning the game went out the window.
Harries is now likely to miss Saturday’s game meaning there are few central defensive options to choose from given the injury to Alfie Kilgour.
Bristol Rovers (4-3-3): James Belshaw 6, Sam Finley 3, Aaron Collins 7, Sam Nicholson 7, (Sion Spence, 79;6), Paul Coutts 5, (Brett Pitman, 81;6), Nick Anderton 6, Connor Taylor 6, Harry Anderson 6, Antony Evans 7, (Trevor Clarke, 46;6), Cian Harries 4, Glenn Whelan 6.
Port Vale (3-5-2): Aidan Stone 6, James Gibbons 6, Dan Jones 6, Nathan Smith 6, David Worrall 7 (Aarton Martin, 46;6), Ben Garrity 8, Tom Conlon 7, Devante Rodney 6 (Brad Walker, 50;6), Dennis Politic 7 (Scott Burgess, 93), Tom Pett 6, Lewis Cass 7.
Man of the Match
Ben Garrity: Two well-taken goals in a two-minute spell, the 24-year-old did enough to earn his side the win, scoring with two of his three shots on target.
It’s a third consecutive home game for the Gas as they hope to get back to winning ways against Rochdale.
They’ll have one day less rest as they play Hartlepool United on Wednesday evening following the Pools’ involvement in the FA Cup on Sunday.
Port Vale are on the road again on Saturday, this time playing Newport County at Rodney Parade.