Salford City 1-1 Bristol Rovers: player ratings, MOTM, heroes & villains as Gas held by nine-men

Joey Barton’s side were left frustrated as they drew 1-1 in a game they dominated up in Salford
Sam Nicholson was on target for Bristol Rovers in their 1-1 draw with Salford. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)Sam Nicholson was on target for Bristol Rovers in their 1-1 draw with Salford. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Sam Nicholson was on target for Bristol Rovers in their 1-1 draw with Salford. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Bristol Rovers were left to rue their profligacy as they drew 1-1 with nine-man Salford City at the Peninsula Stadium. 

Sam Nicholson’s 14th minute strike, which was his fifth goal of the season, put the Gas ahead but Brandon Thomas-Asante equalised in the fifth minute of 11 additional minutes.

Salford, who were poor throughout, were ill-disciplined as both Matty Willock and substitute Ash Hunter were dismissed in either half.

Rovers remain in 14th and given their dominance of the game, they missed the opportunity to move into the top 12.

Tale of the match

The hosts provided the first real test as Liam Shephard’s ball over the top easily carved open the Rovers defence but Brandon Thomas-Asante just put wide his shot.

Despite the early scare, Rovers were the side that took control of the game early on and after a good spell of possession, they took the lead. Sam Finley put a delicious ball over the top for Nicholson to run on to and he tucked it under Connor Ripley.

Aaron Collins, one of three changes, was leading the line well and forced Ripley into a save from a tight angle. He followed this up with an edge-of-the-box shot which the Salford keeper was alert to.

Early in the second-half, Antony Evans ghosted past two defenders before forcing a save from the goalkeeper.

One of the game’s key moments then came as James Belshaw was kicked in the head by Tom Elliot, who was not booked for his foul. Belshaw required treatment for more than seven minutes and it eventually led to 11 minutes of additional time.

As the game moved into stoppage time, the game should have been wrapped up for Rovers as Hunter was dismissed for a foul on Josh Grant.

The red card was brandished but the game would be brought to a further halt as medical treatment was required for a fan in the away end.

To the disbelief of many in the ground, the Ammies stole a point by scoring with their first shot on target. Thomas-Asante navigated his way into the box and stroked home a shot past the rooted Belshaw.

Rovers thought they retook the lead in the ninth minute of additional time but substitute Brett Pitman was adjudged to have been offside when he headed in from a cross and ultimately, they left with just a point.

Sam Finley was by far the best performer at the Peninsula. (Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images)Sam Finley was by far the best performer at the Peninsula. (Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images)
Sam Finley was by far the best performer at the Peninsula. (Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images)

The heroes

Travelling Gas fans: Credit to the 500 or more souls who made the lengthy trip up North to support the team.

As with how the away end is at the ground, they were well scattered behind the goal of James Belshaw in the first-half, before trying to get their attacking players to get another goal in the second.

Given the availability of iFollow, as well as it being one of the longer away trips, you have to applaud them for the trip. A good few renditions of Good Night Irene as well.

They can also be applauded for how they reacted when they spotted that one of their fans may have required medical attention, alerting their players to bring on the physios.

Ben Toner: Credit where it is due, the referee had a lot to deal with in this match but he managed the game well. His decisions on the two red cards were correct and he dealt with a number of players who were guilty of dissent.

Some question marks may be asked of whether Pitman was offside but that task is down to the linesman.

Sam Finley: Far and above the best player on the pitch. He was a workhorse tonight and put in a solid shift. A stunning assist to his name for Nicholson’s goal, as well as a 76% pass success rate shows that there is more than just tough tackling to his game.

One of Joey Barton’s former Fleetwood players Ash Hunter was given a red card. (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)One of Joey Barton’s former Fleetwood players Ash Hunter was given a red card. (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)
One of Joey Barton’s former Fleetwood players Ash Hunter was given a red card. (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)

The villains

Matty Willock: A reckless lunge on Sam Finley was the first of two red cards to be shown by the ref. Willock can have no complaints about the decision and fortunately for Sam Finley, he came through unscathed from the foul.

Ash Hunter: The second player to be sent off by Ben Toner and he can have no complaints. Substituted on in the 65th minute, he was making his way off the pitch 24 minutes later. His sending off is an elbow on Josh Grant and given the laws of the game, you know you can’t lead in with your arm.

His red card is probably worse than Willock’s because he already knows that it would be an uphill battle to get back into the game.

Rovers finishing players: The match may have been a stop-start affair but the 11-men who finished that match really should have finished the game off. With two more players on the field, Asante was given too much time in the box and was allowed to score.

Unfortunately for the men in the Rovers defence, they continue to ship goals and have now not recorded a clean sheet since six matches ago.

The goal really was a blow to Rovers who other than Pitman’s effort, didn’t look like forcing home a second goal after the equaliser. In the second-half perhaps the foot was taken off the gas a bit as they weren’t as potent from the first.

Player ratings

Salford City: Connor Ripley 7, Donald Love 6, Ibou Touray 6, Jason Lowe 6, Ash Eastham (C), 7, Tyreik Wright 6, (Tom Elliot, 46;5), Josh Morris 6, (Ash Hunter, 65;4), Matty Willock 4, Jordan Turnbull 7, Liam Shephard 6, Brandon Thomas-Asante 7.

Bristol Rovers: James Belshaw 5, Josh Grant 6, Sam Finley 8, Aaron Collins 7, (Brett Pitman, 75), Sam Nicholson 7 (Luke Thomas, 83;), Paul Coutts 6, Nick Anderton 6, Connor Taylor 7, Antony Evans 6, Cian Harries 6, Glenn Whelan 7 (Spence: 90+6)

Man of the Match

Sam Finley: Very unfortunate to not be on the winning side this evening. Finley had a strong performance in the middle of the park. He was spraying balls for fun and was constantly finding attackers with his long-range passing.

What’s next?

It’s home comforts once again for Salford City as they are at home against nearby Oldham Athletic on Saturday.

Bristol Rovers meanwhile are on the road as they make the short trip to Nailsworth to face early pace setters Forest Green Rovers.

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