Bristol Rovers player ratings v Cheltenham: ‘Top class’ 9/10 as Gas win emphatically

Bristol Rovers won for the third consecutive League One match as a glittering first-half display was enough to beat Cheltenham Town

Bristol Rovers thrashed League One relegation rivals Cheltenham Town 4–1 at the Completely-Suzuki Stadium on Saturday, as Aaron Collins notched a brace.

Collins struck twice in the first half as goals from Antony Evans and Bobby Thomas rounded off a clinical first 45 minutes from the Gas.

Liam Sercombe struck back from the penalty spot to give the hosts some hope of a fightback, but a woeful first half proved too costly for Wade Elliott’s side.

The victory is the Pirates' fourth in a row in all competitions, as they move up to 11th. The Robins sink down to 20th.

Story of the match:

Despite a relatively slow opening couple of minutes to the match, the Robins were the most dangerous early on, as they looked to utilise the space behind the visitor's backline.

Ryan Jackson crossed for Daniel N’Lundulu, but Thomas recovered well to head away. Minutes later, Luke Southwood latched onto the ball in his area but slid out of the box with the ball in his hands.

The indirect free kick came to nothing, but the keeper was perhaps fortunate not to receive a caution.

Barton’s side did take the lead after 15 minutes. A speculative ball towards goal was caught between Southwood and Jackson. A communication breakdown between the pair allowed Collins to steal the ball and roll it into an empty net.

The goal seemed to spark the Robins into action, and they almost found an equaliser minutes later, when Sercombe’s lofted corner was met by Lewis Freestone. Freestone’s effort looked goal-bound, but Paul Coutts was well-positioned to clear off the line.

The Gas then began to gain more control of proceedings and doubled their lead on the 23-minute mark. Some good play down the left between Sam Finley and Collins saw the latter cut inside and float a ball to the back post. Evans strolled into the six-yard box unmarked and tapped home a right-footed volley.

Elliot’s side then began to push the visitors back as they searched to pull a goal back, but the Pirates’ defence looked comfortable.

In fact, things got worse for the Robins three minutes before the break. Coutts’ in-swinging corner was attacked aggressively by Thomas from close range, which left Southwood helpless in the Robins net.

The home side’s defensive frailties continued, and it was four-nil before the break.

A long ball was sent forward by James Belshaw which looked like a simple clearance for Caleb Taylor, but the young defender blundered the header, which allowed Collins to bear down on Southwood’s goal.

Collins coolly took the ball to the left of the ex-Reading keeper and slotted home for his second of the match. An emphatic first half from the visitors, as the home fans booed their team off at the half-time whistle.

Surprisingly, Elliott made no changes at the interval, as his side faced a very difficult task of clawing back a four-goal disadvantage.

However, they managed to reduce the deficit eight minutes into the second half.

Jackson dribbled into the opposition penalty area and a needless shirt tug from Finley saw Samuel Barrott point to the penalty spot. Sercombe stepped up and slotted low to Belshaw’s right to provide the hosts with a glimmer of hope.

The Robins’ tails then got up as they tried to force a second goal. Ryan Broom almost provided a second when he latched onto Jackson’s through ball, the no. 32 went through on goal, but his effort from a tight angle was saved well by Belshaw.

The Gas then came back into the game in an attacking sense but couldn’t create any notable openings. As the minutes ticked on, the intensity of the match died down, with the result all but certain.

The home team came close once or twice to pulling another goal back, but it was a comfortable afternoon in the end for the Gas.

Player ratings:

James Belshaw – 8

Untroubled in the first half but was progressive on the ball. Made an assist for Collins’ second but could do little about the penalty.

Lewis Gordon – 7

Beaten early on by Jackson and had a couple of sloppy moments on the ball. Overall, a steady match.

Lewis Gibson – 8

Solid at the back and travelled forward well with the ball at times.

Bobby Thomas – 8

Solid and made a couple of big headers. Made one error with ball over the top but was luckily unpunished. Was aggressive for his goal.

James Gibbons – 7

Solid performance and good on the ball. Made a good last-ditch tackle end of the first half to prevent Broom from prodding towards goal.

Paul Coutts – 8

Kept it ticking in the middle and looked assured all game. Brilliant midfield performance.

Jordan Rossiter – 7

Steady overall performance.

Sam Finley – 7

Busy in midfield and used the ball well. Broke up the play well in the middle. Gave a sloppy penalty away.

Antony Evans – 8

Good movement and calm finish for his goal. Worked tirelessly out of possession.

Aaron Collins – 9

Showed quick reactions for both of his goals and looked a threat all game. Excellent cross for Evans’ goal. Top class display.

Ryan Loft – 7

Held the ball up well and provided space for Collins.

Josh Coburn (subbed on for Loft, 70’) – 6

Put himself about up top.

Harry Anderson (subbed on for Rossiter, 70’) – 6

Worked hard on the right-hand side.

Luke McCormick (subbed on for Finley, 80’) – 6

Helped calm the game down and see the game out comfortably.

Trevor Clarke (subbed on for Collins, 89’) - N/A

Came on for the final minutes.

Luca Hoole (subbed on for Gibson, 89’) - N/A

Came on for the final minutes.