Bristol Rovers 2-0 Hartlepool United: player ratings, MOTM, heroes & villains as Gas leave it late

Aaron Collins and Antony Evans score late on to give Rovers a win in their first league game in a month.

Bristol Rovers made it back-to-back wins in League Two as they secured a late win over Hartlepool United.

Aaron Collins and Antony Evans were both on target in the closing stages of the match to give the Gas a win in what for a majority of the game was a nervy affair.

The win lifts Joey Barton’s side two places above their opponents into 16th with a busy period coming up.

Tale of the match

There was an anxious moment where Cian Harries went into the back of Gavan Holohan in the box as they jostled for a ball in the air but referee Carl Brook didn’t see enough in it to award it.

Hartlepool’s penalty appeal was the start of a spell of pressure with Harries moving in the way to block Luke Molyneux’s shot.

New signing Marcus Carver was keen to make an early impression but side-footed his shot past the goal in a one-on-one opportunity.

A troubling ball came in from David Ferguson’s free-kick with three Hartlepool players queuing up but none making that final killer touch.

After half-an-hour had elapsed, Rovers began to get the ball into the final third and Aaron Collins went near with a low-swept shot.

Both sides cancelled each other out for the first period with neither James Belshaw or Ben Killip forced into much action.

After the restart, a chance came for Ryan Loft to open his account but he headed wide from Antony Evans’ free-kick.

There was a angst all around the Memorial Stadium that came from the nervousness of the players on the pitch, misplacing a number of key passes whilst

Hartlepool were trying to make the most of that and had Molyneux hit the side netting after turning the defence inside out.

Another testing shot then came in as substitute Mark Cullen tried to curl a shot past Belshaw but he was well positioned to stop it. The Rovers keeper was called into action a minute later to palm away Molyneux’s attempt.

As the game went into the last ten minutes, Belshaw denied Cullen from point-blank range to keep the game level.

Rovers’ reward for weathering a long storm would be to score the first goal with less than five minutes remaining. A scrappy affair in the box would be finished off by Collins who powered home.

A manic few moments then came in stoppage time as Jamie Sterry was shown a red card for being the last man and fouling  Collins. The resulting free-kick was finished off by Antony Evans whose accurate free-kick made it unsaveable for Ben Killip.

The heroes

James Belshaw: A first clean sheet in 11 matches for Rovers and this was a thoroughly deserved one for the Rovers keeper.

He bailed out his teammates on a number of occasions, making a string of good saves from attempts that could have easily gone in the net on another day.

Belshaw continues to show how fearless he is too as when the ball comes towards him, he’s confident on the ball and happy to rush out to clear away danger.

Aaron Collins: The Welshman is growing in confidence in the blue and white quarters now. In the first-half every attack came through him as he took the team forward with their best chances.

After feeding off scraps in the second period, he showed that he’s a man that is feeding on confidence, getting the ball rolling with the opening strike.

He then was there to draw a foul from Sterry that saw the away side reduced to ten men and then Evans finished the game off.

Collins now has five goals in his last five matches with four coming in the league after a long wait for a League Two goal.

Paul Coutts: As the only midfielder with any defensive responsibilities for a large period of the match, the skipper did well. Used to playing alongside both Glenn Whelan and Sam Finley, there was an attacking midfield named by Barton before the match.

Nicholson and Evans were both allowed to go forward in freedom roles so Coutts had to do the job of two men.

Many Rovers fans have been happy with the improvement in his performances and this is another game he can take personal pride from.

The villains

Alfie Kilgour & Harry Anderson: Two players who were off the boil today in their performance. At times there were a few risky passes played across the backline which contributed to a nervy atmosphere at the Mem.

Kilgour was the right-sided centre-back and was on the same flank as Anderson, who was unable to read the intended passes from him.

Anderson would have a few words with Collins in the second-half over a mix-up on anticipating the pass but he wasn’t getting in the right areas.

Jamie Sterry: Hero in the reverse fixture but a villain at the Mem. As the game moved into stoppage time, the defender was one of the last men back and conceded a late foul on Collins.

Sterry would be shown the red card and from the resulting set piece, Antony Evans would score.

Player ratings

Bristol Rovers (3-1-4-2): James Belshaw 8, Josh Grant 6, Alfie Kilgour 6,  Aaron Collins 7, Sam Nicholson 6, (Nick Anderton, 89), Paul Coutts 7, Connor Taylor 7, Harry Anderson 6 (Glenn Whelan, 89), Antony Evans 7, Cian Harries 6, Ryan Loft 6 (Brett Pitman, 90)

Hartlepool United: (3-5-2): Ben Killip 6, Jamie Sterry 5, Neill Byrne 6, Gary Liddle 6 (Jake Hull, 90), Timi Odusina 6, David Ferguson 6, Nicky Featherstone , Tom Crawford 6, (Joe Grey, 88), Gavan Holohan 6, Luke Molyneux 7, Marcus Carver 7, (Mark Cullen, 66)

Man of the Match

James Belshaw.

What’s next?

Rovers are on the road next weekend as they face Swindon Town, managed by former Gas boss Ben Garner at the County Ground in an early kick-off.

Hartlepool meanwhile make the short trip to Brunton Park to face Carlisle United on Tuesday, before a home match against Paul Tisdale’s Stevenage.