Aaron Collins is now on a career best for the season with his high quality brace. (Image: Cory Pickford/Sussex World)
A brace from Aaron Collins, gave him his 12th and 13th goals of the season, earning him a career best, as well as an Elliot Anderson effort ensured a comprehensive win for the Gas.
Joey Barton’s side, now eighth in the division, are now outside of the play-offs on goal difference after promotion rivals Sutton United lost to Walsall whilst Swindon Town claimed a dramatic win over Oldham Athletic.
Tale of the game
Joey Barton named an unchanged side to the side that triumphed against Crawley Town but Jed Ward took his place amongst the bench, replacing back-up goalkeeper Anssi Jaakkola.
Harrogate started the brighter of the two sides with the hosts sloppy in possession, whilst also allowing them down their left flank.
A few early groans came from the home fans who weren’t impressed with how the game was playing out. Jack Diamond forced James Belshaw into a save from a narrow angle before Warren Burrell forced him into a save with a strike from the resulting corner.
There was a real struggle with the wind for Rovers who’s forward passes and clearances kept coming back to them as they tried to move up the pitch.
Just shy of the half hour mark, Elliot Anderson drew their first meaningful opportunity by bringing their full-back away from him before curling a right-footed shot just past the post.
Against the run of play, the Gas took the lead and in fine fashion. A well-worked free-kick was finished by Collins, who on the edge of the box beat Mark Oxley with a rasping shot, to reach double figures in the league for the season.
An insurance goal then followed from Elliot Anderson, which was equal in quality but a different type of goal. Another quickly-taken free-kick fed in the teenager who burst down his flank and glided past the Harrogate defenders with his neat feet before slotting it underneath the keeper.
The two goals took the sting out of Harrogate who were devoid of any quality going forward after the withdrawal of Brahima Diarra and they were unable to yield a response for the remainder of the half.
At the start of the second-half, Rovers were pushing with a high line and sought a further goal which they almost got. Unchallenged on his side, Nick Anderton unleashed a left-footed strike from 25-yards that glanced just past the post.
After working hard for their two goals, a third goal was then gift wrapped for the home side.
Rory McArdle cheaply gave the ball away to Collins who showed no mercy by punishing the mistake with a delightful chip.
The match moved into almost a training session for Rovers but in a rare opportunity for Harrogate, they were denied by their former goalkeeper. A lapse in concentration put Mark Beck in but Belshaw got enough on it to take it away from goal.
In search of a goal that would add to their goal difference as well as their confidence, both Harvey Saunders and Ryan Loft had shots blocked by Harrogate as the game moved into stoppage time.
Aaron Collins: Earlier in the week, Joey Barton was likening the Welshman to Roberto Firmino, whilst also giving him a homework assignment to analyse Robert Lewandowski.
His first goal was an AC10 original, firstly by positioning himself and then unleashing a strike from the top draw.
The 24-year-old then scored another goal that we’ve been accustomed to this season. A striker who can score with a delicate chip like he has, has to be feeling confident and he was as he got his second.
Nick Anderton: When Josh Grant, Trevor Carke and Junior Brown were all sidelined, there may have been a bit of worry on the left-side of the defence.
Anderton though has slotted in nicely in that role and he’s quickly emerged as an important player into what is an assured back line.
At 25-years-old he’s the oldest player in a defence that consists of a 21-year-old, 20-year-old and a 19-year-old.
Anderton showcased some good defensive qualities but also played a part moving forward, getting an assist for the first goal.
Darren Drysdale: The referee gave Barton one warning and then he decided to show a yellow card. Aaron Collins wasn’t getting much from him either, despite the defenders teetering into the back of him, as well as getting away with some sly fouls.
Rory McArdle: A player of McArdle’s experience should know better than to give away the ball where he was. The defender put it on a plate for Collins and was rightfully punished.
Bristol Rovers (4-2-3-1): James Belshaw 7, Luca Hoole 7, Connor Taylor 7, James Connolly 7, Nick Anderton 8, Sam Finley 7 (Harvey Saunders, 69), Paul Coutts 7, (Glenn Whelan, 69), Harry Anderson 7, (Ryan Loft, 78), Elliot Anderson 7, Antony Evans 7, Aaron Collins 9.
Goals: Aaron Collins 33, Elliot Anderson 40’
Yellow Cards: Luca Hoole 44, Connor Taylor 52’
Harrogate Town (4-4-2): Mark Oxley 5, Ryan Fallowfield 6, Rory McArdle 5 (Lewis Richards, 69), Nathan Sheron 6, Warren Burrell 6, Brahima Diarra 6 (Alex Pattison, 22), George Thomson 6, Josh Falkingham 6, Jack Diamond 5, Luke Armstrong 6, (Caum Kavanagh, 72), Mark Beck 6.
Yellow Cards: Jack Diamond 41’
Man of the Match
Aaron Collins. A brace for Rovers’ top scorer who took his opportunities when presented to him. Also did some nitty gritty work, dealing with some rough challenges from the Harrogate defence.
Up next is what should be the final midweek fixture of the season, unless there’s any postponements. Rovers are at home against Colchester United.
For Harrogate, they’re on their travels again, but this time it’s a shorter trip to Tranmere Rovers.