Leon Clarke’s scoring return welcome as Bristol Rovers’ strength in depth is evident
There were a few things to ponder after Bristol Rovers’ 3-2 win over Scunthorpe United on Tuesday evening.
Bristol Rovers survived a late scare to defeat second-from-bottom Scunthorpe United at Glanford Park in a midweek fixture in the Sky Bet League Two.
Rarely challenged until the last few moments, the Gas went ahead through Josh Grant before Antony Evans scored from the spot and Leon Clarke scored his second goal in Rovers quarters.
A brace from Sam Burns, on loan from Blackburn Rovers and the heir to striking position that Ryan Loft left did make it a nervy finish but Joey Barton’s side were able to hold on.
From the match, we take a look at some of the talking points from the game and how it reflects on the team in what is a busy week with two matches.
Youthful heads almost let slip of points
The oldest player in the flat back four defence ended up being Nick Anderton at 25-years-old. Before that the ages were 23, 20, 20 and 19, dismissing the tag of ‘Dad’s Army’ at the start of the season.
For a majority of the match they played well and rarely looked under any pressure but in the last ten minutes their good work was almost undone.
At that stage of the game it’s all about seeing it out and ensuring that you come under no pressure. Of course it’s a two-team game and Scunthorpe wouldn’t have taken the game lying down but before that last minute of regulation time they didn’t look like scoring.
A few times this season like Salford for example there have been games in which they’ve failed to see out. Luckily on this occasion they still have the points to show for it but it is something that will need to be looked at.
It did prompt cals on social media for an experienced centre-back to be brought in, just so there’s another option and at least some
Clarke makes a goal scoring return
Tonight was a good evening for the physio staff and Leon Clarke. The 36-year-old who contemplated hanging up his boots after his injury in September, scored on just his second game back.
Given more of a cameo this time around after coming on in stoppage time on Saturday, he was able to get on the scoresheet with a composed finish.
After scoring the goal he quickly ran over to the bench to show his gratitude for their work to get him back on the pitch which was a nice touch.
Having another striker in the room is something that Rovers have been needing since his absence. With no Ryan Loft this evening it was Aaron Collins leading the line but Clarke is a good alternative option.
Luke Thomas causes problems
An assist for Leon Clarke’s goal, Thomas put in a good performance this evening, causing a number of problems for the Scunthorpe defence. He had the confidence to take on the full-back and a few times from a corner-kick he’d drift out and go for his own shooting opportunities.
His performance was one of the positives that Barton saw from the match. In his post-match press conference he said: “For us there was a lot of good stuff in there. I was really pleased with some aspects of that performance. Seeing Luke Thomas back firing on all cylinders, it was nice seeing him go past people, it’s been hard work for him to get there.”
Given a few months ago it looked like he may not have a future at the club, it looks like water has gone under the bridge and the Barnsley loanee is set to play a role going forward. He’s had to be patient and tonight was his first start in the league for a few games but given the shift he put in, he’s staked a claim for the shirt.
Rovers avoid a banana skin
This match was being described as must-win pre-match if they wanted to have any chance of a second-half of the season push for the play-offs. The performance for most of the match was exactly what was needed. Multiple chances were being created and they made life difficult for what was a young side.
Scunthorpe are at the bottom end of the table and have been on a poor run of form and before today hadn’t scored a goal since Ryan Loft left the club.
Keith Hill though is an experienced manager and playing sides at the bottom always comes with a big risk because there is an expectation to perform and get a result which can sometimes put too much pressure on players.
The squad handled that well though and were able to get a result that was expected of them. They are now just below mid-table in the division and results like these in this Saturday-Tuesday schedules make all the difference at the end of the campaign.