Bristol Rovers 1-0 Walsall: Aaron Collins continues fine form as Rovers leave it late
Bristol Rovers left it late again as they snatched a 1-0 win from under Walsall’s noses at the Memorial Stadium.
The Gas claimed their fourth league win in five matches with their man-in-form Aaron Collins netting for the fifth time in League Two this season.
They had to do it without defender Luca Hoole who was red carded after two yellow cards in four minutes, their eighth red card of the season, the most in the division.
The win lifts them into the top-half of the table and they are now just six points off of the playoffs with Swindon Town in seventh with a game in hand.
It was the off-the-pitch action that was the most notable thing to write home about in the first five minutes. Antony Evans received treatment for a facial injury, but down the line there was a squabble between Joey Barton and Hayden White. Both exchanged pleasantries before Keith Stroud cautioned both of them.
After the storm had settled, Rovers created their first chance as Evans cut the ball back to Aaron Collins from six-yards out but his shot rolled into the goalkeeper’s arms.
The home side were the team on top and almost took the lead as mercurial winger Luke Thomas skillfully navigated past the defender by nut-megging him before swiping a shot at Carl Rushworth who almost fumbled the ball into the net.
Thomas on the floor then kicked the ball through to Collins to test the goalkeeper but he held onto his attempt.
The game began to become a non-eventful affair football wise and instead more yellow cards were shown for a number of offences to make up for the lack of action.
Rovers got sucked in and were a victim of that as Hoole picked up two cards in quick succession, resulting in an early dismissal. First for a barge on an opposition player and then for going into the back of Conor Wilkinson.
As a result, Josh Grant, who had started in his natural position of a defensive midfielder, dropped into the wing-back role to provide cover.
They were still able to carve out an attacking opportunity though Evans spurned that by shooting his free-kick straight at the keeper in the last action of the half.
Despite the man disadvantage it was the home side that were shading it in the second. Grant’s lofted effort went just the other side of the post.
In a rare chance for Walsall, former Gas player Rollin Menayese’s cross almost troubled Belshaw after skimming his goal.
The visitors slowly began to grow in confidence and from the far side, Wilkinson drove a low shot into the side netting.
There was then a heart in mouth moment as Josh Grant stretched a leg when trying to tackle Brendan Kiernan who fell in the box. The Walsall midfielder was shown a yellow card for simulation.
The tide was with Matt Taylor’s men who until the hour had been quiet and hadn’t caused James Belshaw any problems but then Wilkinson forced him to dive down low at his post.
Another chance then came with White expertly picking out Miller though the forward’s looping header fortunately went over the bar.
As the game looked to be faltering out, up stepped Rovers’ man in form just a minute before time to break the deadlock. The Welshman headed home as he made the most of Rushworth’s error.
Walsall almost responded with an equaliser as their top scorer George Miller laced a shot at Belshaw to save, fortunately getting the ball clear from the corner kick.
To run down the clock and nullify the Walsall threat, Belshaw went down for treatment in stoppage time. It took the sting out of Walsall’s tail and ultimately Rovers were able to hold on.
Bristol Rovers (4-2-3-1): James Belshaw, James Connolly, Josh Grant (Glenn Whelan, 83), Luke Thomas (Harvey Saunders, 81), Aaron Collins, Sam Nicholson (Harry Anderson, 70), Paul Coutts, Nick Anderton, Connor Taylor, Antony Evans, Luca Hoole.
Goals: Aaron Collins 90’
Yellow Cards: Luca Hoole 34, 38, Paul Coutts 57’
Walsall (4-2-3-1): Carl Rushworth, Hayden White, Joss Labadie (Emmanuel Osadebe 67), Donervon Daniels, Brendan Kiernan (Tyrese Shade 67), Liam Kinsella, Conor Wilkinson, George Miller, Jack Earing, Rollin Menayese, Reece Devine.
Yellow Cards: Harvey White 5, Conor Wilkinson 34, Joss Labadie 60, Brendan Kiernan 6, Emmanuel Osadebe 94’