Bristol Rovers left it late to book their place in the last sixteen of the Papa John’s Trophy. (Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images)
Bristol Rovers are through to Round Two of the EFL Trophy after a late 2-1 win against Colchester United. Harvey Saunders’ goal in the fifth minute of added time was the difference between the two sides at the JobServe Community Stadium after Freddie Sears equalised for the U’s after James Connolly’s opener.
Connolly scored from close-range after Bobby Thomas’ header from Antony Evans’ free-kick was directed into his path for an easy finish.
Colchester broke on the counter-attack and Sears’ low shot deflected off the Rovers goalscorer late on to send it to the lottery of a penalty shootout.
The match winning-goal came when James Gibbons’ cross was pushed onto a Colchester player by Kieran O’Hara and Saunders was able to force the ball over the line.
Less than 1,000 spectators watched on in Essex with an official attendance of only 669, with 50 hardly souls making the mid-week trip from Bristol.
Anssi Jaakkola (subbed off, 65) - 6
The Finnish shot-stopper did what he needed to when called upon with no major shots. Forced off with an injury that saw him go down the tunnel.
James Gibbons - 7
Colchester had some joy down their flanks when attacking. Gibbons provided a good cross that resulted in the winning goal for Rovers.
Bobby Thomas - 8
A solid display from the on-loan Burnley centre-back. He led by example and made several last-ditch tackles. An assist for James Connolly’s goal but he was initially wheeling away in celebration.
James Connolly - 7
A few nervy moments including a push on Freddie Sears but Connolly picked himself up to open the scoring with a simple finish.
Trevor Clarke - 6
A player that offers a lot of excitement but it was a quiet display from the left-back, who isn’t afforded many opportunities.
Antony Evans - 8
Evans is slowly getting back to his creative best. He was making everything for Rovers and played a key role in James Connolly’s goal with a well-delivered free-kick.
Sam Finley (subbed off, 69) - 7
Another solid display in the centre of the park. He commanded the midfield and broke up many Colchester attacks.
Luke McCormick - 6
A lack of pre-season has meant a slow start for McCormick. In the first-half he whipped in many good crosses but it wasn’t finished off.
John Marquis - 6
Lively. He had most of Rovers in the first period but couldn’t make them count. Marquis could have done better with his header but it’ll be a game he can be happy he’s built his match fitness on.
Ryan Loft (subbed off, 46) - 6
A quiet return for Loft who’s only real notable event in the match was a tame header at the end of the first-half.
Aaron Collins (subbed off, 69) - 6
It wasn’t a performance that we’ve been accustomed to with Collins, but he has played a lot of games.
Josh Coburn (subbed on, 46) - 6
Brought on at half-time but had no real impact on the match. The service to him wasn’t like it was before, which made him scrap for chances.
James Belshaw (subbed on, 65) - 6
Brought on for Anssi Jaakkola who was forced off with an injury. He had to pick the ball out the net when Sears’ strike flat footed him.
Jordan Rossiter (subbed on, 69) - 6
Brought on for Rovers to preserve Sam Finley for Sunday’s match. Rossiter works well with Finley, but wasn’t as much of a presence without him. A worry given he went down for treatment from the physio after being substituted on.
Harvey Saunders (subbed on, 69) - 7
A determined finish from Saunders, who scored his first goal of the season. A goalkeeping error saw the ball palmed into the path of the striker that forced the ball over the line.
Luca Hoole (subbed on, 81) - 6
Brought on as Rovers’ final substitution. Unfortunately committed to pressing and was caught out by Colchester’s counter-attack.