Bristol Rovers and Fleetwood Town played a four-goal thriller that had the makings of a footballing soap opera. A red card, yellow cards dished out, and a pantomime villain that played off of the crowd.
Shaun Rooney opened the scoring after Rovers failed to clear the ball, the right-wing-back touched the ball past Lewis Gordon and fired home past James Belshaw, being the highlight of an otherwise dull first half.
The Gas’ equaliser came through Collins just before the hour mark, when he was found in space on the counter, his ball across the box to Coburn was pitch-perfect and the Middlesbrough loanee’s strike bounced off the underside of the crossbar, into the back of the net.
Collins finally got his goal with just over ten to play, after a brilliant whipped effort from Sam Finley. Earl was out-jumped by the 24-year-old and his header was well placed into the bottom left of Lynch’s goal.
That looked to secure the three points, however a ball was whipped in after what seemed like three hours of added time, Rooney met it and his header snatched a point right at the death for his second of the game.
With heartbreak for Joey Barton, and jubilation for Scott Brown’s, here’s the moments you might’ve missed from the thriller.
Jed Ward back at the Mem
The young goalkeeper was sent on loan to Hungerford Town in the National League South at the start of the season making six appearances, and made his return to the Memorial Stadium. The 19-year-old warmed up with Anssi Jaakkola and James Belshaw before the game after breaking his hand mid-way through his loan spell.
Fleetwood fans boo Rossiter
Jordan Rossiter joined for an undisclosed fee from Fleetwood in the summer, and his old fans in the away end made their feelings for the former Liverpool man well known, booing his name when it was read aloud.
He could have made the away side rue letting him leave when his curled effort was saved well by Jay Lynch mid way through the first half
Belshaw’s fashion choices
The shot-stopper was seen sporting a black Bristol Rovers cap in the first half, with the sun shining over the Memorial Stadium and into his eyes.
With just under ten minutes on the clock, Belshaw acted quickly to take off the cap, and head away a ball sent over the top of his defence, clearly not trusting his headwear in a footballing capacity. He did this whilst holding the said cap in hand, showing that footballers can multitask.
After conceding the opener, the ‘keeper ditched the hat, obviously thinking he was better off without it and threw it behind the goal.
Shaun Rooney - the pantomime villain
Christmas is just over a month upon us and that makes for pantomine season. The Mem adopted Rooney as the villain of the show for his antics early on in the match.
Within the first ten minutes, the Fleetwood Town man had kicked the ball away into the stands twice, and further infuriated the home side faithful when he fired home past Belshaw and celebrated right in front of a packed out Thatcher’s End.
The goal scorer was keen to remind the Gasheads ‘who he was’, pointing to the back of his shirt after chants from the home end and went on to receive boos and jeers for the rest of the match. He topped off his villain status by scoring the stoppage-time equaliser and revelled in the celebrations.
Late out for the second half, John Marquis was making his way round past the Thatchers End to the substitutes bench and stopped to give a high-five to the two young ball boys sitting behind the goal.
Halftime tactical switch pays dividence
Rovers lined up in a 4-3-3 in the first half, and being a goal down at the break Joey Barton took off James Gibbons, replacing him with James Connolly and switching to a 3-5-2 which completely switched the tie in the home side’s favour.
Collins starred alongside Coburn, spearheading everything that the Gas did well after the interval, scoring one and assisting the other in a second half turnaround.
The Bristol Rovers boss was sent to the stands by referee Robert Madden after arguing with the ref about a challenge between Luca Hoole and Josh Vela.
He proceeded to vault over the advertising boards and joined the Gasheads in the east terrace.
Loanee Luke back at the Mem
Luke Thomas took to social media to post on his Instagram account that he was back at the Memorial Stadium. Thomas was linked with a return this summer but Barnsley kept hold of him and he has since been an important figure for them.
Unfortunately, Thomas suffered a broken leg in training and was on gas and air following the incident. He is recovering from the injury and travelled to the Mem to watch his club from last season take on Fleetwood.