Bristol Rovers succumbed to a third consecutive defeat as they lost 1-0 to Accrington Stanley after Joe Pritchard’s second-half goal at the Memorial Stadium.
Pritchard found the net in the 54th minute after he was left unmarked in a crowded box which brought a nervous Mem to a period of silence and joy for the small away faithful.
The Gas remain in their starting position of 21st with Burton Albion, Forest Green Rovers and Morecambe all losing their games. Cheltenham, Oxford and MK Dons however didn't play which gives them the opportunity to extend the gap when they play next.
Tale of the match
Rovers started the match nervously with the spectators picking up on it. A similar system to last week was chosen and the centre-backs were trying to understand one another.
Tommy Leigh lofted a pass into Joe Pritchard’s path but the forward could only tap it into James Belshaw’s grateful arms.
Belshaw put himself under pressure when he rushed out and was beaten to the ball by Joe Pritchard but Rovers’ defence stood firm when Leigh headed towards goal.
As the clock neared half-hour, the hosts caused their first real problems. Aaron Collins put the ball across goal but Ryan Loft couldn’t get on the end of it. An uncleared ball then allowed Sam Finley to drive a shot at goal which Lukas Jensen dived down to.
Chances were at a premium but Rovers could have been in but a rash challenge on Aaron Collins from Ryan Astley stopped them in their tracks.
In the final attack of the first-half, Collins curled a shot agonisingly wide of Jensen’s post after pulling himself away from goal before cutting in.
After a quiet first-half with nerves around the ground, the fans noticed an attacking shift and almost got to challenge Accrington as they broke on the counter-attack from an Accrington corner but Collins just couldn’t deliver
Accrington broke the deadlock as they were undone by a well-rehearsed corner-kick with plenty of warning signs fired. Pritchard was stopped by Thomas as they broke free but after a quickly taken set-piece, he was able to head home at the second attempt.
The goal prompted a change with Antony Evans and Jordan Rossiter brought on for Paul Coutts and Trevor Clarke, prompting a change in shape. No effect took place from that so John Marquis replaced McCormick.
Despite using almost all his trump cards, Barton’s side still couldn’t threaten Jensen with substitute Marquis only able to scoop a shot at the keeper. With fifteen minutes remaining Kilgour’s header sailed just over the bar from Evans’ cross.
Instead of pushing for an equaliser, Rovers were pushed into defending and Thomas blocked well to deny Leigh. A resulting corner kick then saw Doug Tharme head just over the bar.
A late push for an equaliser saw Collins’ attempt deflect wide for a corner-kick but they couldn’t make the most of it. Another corner came in but Kilgour’s header was tame.
James Belshaw -5
He’s been a bit more conservative as of late but in this match, Belshaw rushed out a few times and was almost caught out.
Alfie Kilgour - 5
Rovers are a ball-playing team and in this system they need that whilst Kilgour is a no nonsense defender. He made some last-ditch blocks but was part of a defence that conceded again with just two clean sheets this season.
Bobby Thomas - 6
A few times, the on-loan Burnley man was put under pressure in possession, he would cope at some times but on other occasions he could only kick the ball away.
Lewis Gordon - 5
Accrington used the experienced Shaun Walley to test Gordon in the first-half which worked for them. He’s still acclimatising to a new role as centre-back in what is a testing division.
Trevor Clarke (subbed off, 56) - 5
There was better joy for Clarke down his flank than there was for Anderson before he was substituted. Clarke has been the man to usually make way when Barton wants to change things.
Sam Finley - 5
Rovers midfield were guilty of conceding possession cheaply and put their defence under a few problems with some under-hit back-passes.
Paul Coutts (subbed off, 56) - 5
Luke McCormick (subbed off, 66) - 5
A lack of pre-season has affected MCormick’s ability to impact games. He’s playing catch up on match fitness and is finding his feet in what role best suits him.
Harry Anderson (subbed off, 72) - 5
There were a few roles for Anderson to play as he started in midfield before slotting in at right-back after falling behind. He’s not been able to put pressure on defenders
Aaron Collins - 5
This was a game that just got away from Collins. He’s usually able to influence matches and come out as the best performer but he spurned a few of the opportunities presented to him.
Ryan Loft - 5
Loft’s consecutive run of scoring came to an end as he was closed out by Accrington. The opposition did a job on him by targeting his obvious aerial presence. He dealt with it well in the first-half but got dragged into their game and had to accept a yellow card.
Jordan Rossiter (subbed on, 56) - 5
Rovers’ midfield was sloppy with their passing today and put their defence under pressure through some passes. He
Antony Evans (subbed on, 56) - 5
Evans came on and gave a go at it, getting some joy down the right-hand side with a few testing crosses.
John Marquis (subbed on, 66) - 6
It took time for him to get going but he was putting himself about in good areas for Rovers, but he just couldn’t get that clear route at goal to trouble Jensen.
Sylvester Jasper (subbed on, 72) - 6
Jasper brought some flair when he came on and was causing the Accrington defence some problems. If he had come on earlier then he may have had more time to affect the match.