Scunthorpe United 2-3 Bristol Rovers: player ratings, MOTM, heroes & villains as Gas survive late scare
Josh Grant put the Gas ahead in the first-half and his goal was later followed up by a Antony Evans penalty and a Leon Clarke strike in the second period.
Blackburn Rovers loanee Sam Burns, signed as Ryan Loft’s replacement pulled two back to set up a nervous finish but his efforts were only in vain as Joey Barton’s side’s three goals were enough for a first win on their travels since October.
The win puts them up to 13th in the table, eight points off of the play-offs with a game in hand.
Tale of the match
Less than half a minute had elapsed before the match’s first yellow card was brandished in what was a full-throttled start. Harry Wood went studs up into an on-rushing James Belshaw who came out to clear a loose ball.
It was a low-quality affair at the start with both teams not comfortable in possession and failing to get a footing of the ball but Rovers were at least the team edging it.
A penalty appeal came for the visitors early on with Antony Evans’ shot blocked by Jai Rowe but he was the only player that appealed.
Alfie Beestin created the home side’s best chance as he teed himself up for an overhead kick that went wide.
Rovers’ patience for a goal eventually paid off as they took the lead. Nicholson jinked his way past the full-backs and was able to pick out Grant from five yards to poke the ball home.
A quick-fire second almost came with the creator of the first almost on the scoresheet. Aaron Collins found Nicholson well but his quickly-taken shot was straight at the goalkeeper.
Scunthorpe’s defence were at sixes and sevens but again Rovers didn’t finish off the chance, Luca Hoole’s backheel found Sam Finley though his attempt skimmed wide of the target.
Allowed a second chance minutes later, Finley hit a cleaner strike from 20-yards with a placed effort for Rory Watson to push it over the bar.
With a one-goal lead, Rovers saw out the remainder of the first half but would have felt that their margin could have been more.
Early into the second half, Rovers picked up where they left off in making many chances. Luke Thomas cut in on the right-hand side from a corner kick that went near.
Just after the hour mark, a neat one-two exchanged between Hoole and Evans saw him cleared out by George Taft for a penalty. The fouled player duly delivered with an emphatic penalty in front of the travelling fans.
Three chances then came for top scorer Aaron Collins to add to his tally. He first held play up well and dinked a shot onto the roof of the net. Moments later he was picked with two balls over the top but he missed two identical shots.
The points were secured with less than 15 minutes remaining. Thomas fed in substitute Leon Clarke to round the goalkeeper and turn the ball home for his second goal in Rovers’ quarters, four months after his last.
A slight gloss was taken off of the victory as the defence were caught napping and Scunthorpe scored an unlikely goal. Their first goal scored since Ryan Loft’s departure earlier this month came from Sam Burns who scrambled the ball home after Wood had been denied by Belshaw.
Burns then followed it up with a quickfire second to reduce the deficit to one. The youthful Rovers defence was breached again as the Blackburn Rovers loanee drilled a low shot into the corner.
In what looked a foregone conclusion, Geoff Eltringham’s full-time whistle was a relief as he blew an end on Scunthorpe’s late fight back.
Luca Hoole: In a flat back-four, Hoole is in his element and this was a good performance from him.
The 19-year-old is from Rovers’ academy so fans will be able to resonate with a player like him.
This was quite a youthful Rovers defence again with goalscorer Grant the oldest at 23 but Hoole, the youngest player in the backline put in a good showing.
This was his tenth senior appearance this season, more than some of the experienced fringe players in the squad so it’s clear Hoole is a player that Barton rates.
The frustration though for Hoole and his defenders is that those two late goals are perhaps a sign of inexperience at this level. If that was a higher quality of opposition then the
Leon Clarke: What a moment for Clarke who a few months ago was staring at a potential end to his career.
Brought on for Sam Finley who departed the pitch with an injury, Clarke made a goalscoring return in just his second appearance back.
Presented with his first scoring opportunity, he took it well and only needed that one chance to score.
Given the absence of Ryan Loft this evening, Clarke’s return to the side is a welcome one because there is competition in all departments now.
He’s going to be carefully managed by Barton so we may not see him start in the coming weeks but he’s a good option to come off the bench.
Wael al-Qadi and the travelling fans: Big respect to the 300+ souls who made the trip up to Lincolnshire this midweek. Rovers were able to take a good following because owner Wael al-Qadi had made official coach travel free for those who had intended to make the initial trip.
Rovers’ finishers: At 3-0 you’d expect the game to be done and wrapped up but there was a needless feeling of nervousness in stoppage time.
Scunthorpe didn’t look like a side that would cause much problems but a manic remaining few moments almost saw them pick up a point.
It wasn’t just the youthful defence at fault for the late scare. Rovers had plenty of players back in their own half but allowed Burns to glide right past them for his second goal.
George Taft: One of the more experienced players in the Scunthorpe ranks, the defender was at fault for Rovers’ second goal. If he had stayed on his feet then he may not have conceded a foul on Evans in the box.
Part of a defence that shipped three goals and was loose in possession, cheaply giving the ball away.
Scunthorpe United (4-1-3-2): Rory Watson 5, Mason O’Malley 6, (Harry Lewis, 46;6), George Taft 5, Emmanuel Onariase 5, Alfie Beestin 6, (Tom Pugh, 80;6), Myles Hippolyte 6, Jai Rowe 6, Harry Wood 7, Alex Perry 6, (Tyreece Sinclair, 57;5), Sam Burns 7, Luke Matheson 5.
Bristol Rovers (4-2-3-1): James Belshaw 6, James Connolly 7, Josh Grant 7, (Nick Anderton, 63;6), Sam Finley 7, (Leon Clarke, 70;7), Luke Thomas 7, Aaron Collins 7 (Brett Pitman, 78;6), Sam Nicholson 7, Paul Coutts 6, Connor Taylor 6, Antony Evans 7, Luca Hoole 7.
Man of the Match
Exited the match early but Josh Grant had his best game at left-back before he was substituted. Found himself in a good position to get his goal from a defensive position.
For Rovers, after two consecutive home games, they’re back at Memorial Stadium on Saturday as they face Matt Taylor’s Walsall. For Scunthorpe, they make the trip to Darrell Clarke’s Port Vale.