Match report: Bristol Rovers 0 Doncaster Rovers 1

Niall Mason smashed in his first senior goal from the penalty spot to get Rovers back to winning ways at Bristol Rovers.

Saturday, 23rd December 2017, 3:59 pm
Updated Saturday, 23rd December 2017, 4:05 pm
Bristol Rovers 0 Doncaster Rovers 1

The wing back was an unlikely penalty taker but showed no nerves as he drilled in a superb spot kick for what proved to be the decisive goal.

Ian Lawlor produced a brilliant late save to keep Rovers in front and earn them an early Christmas present from a tight affair at the Memorial Ground.

Darren Ferguson made two changes to the side that drew with Oldham Athletic the previous week, reshuffling his defence with the recall of Mathieu Baudry, who had not started since the 3-0 defeat to Wigan Athletic.

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It meant for a switch of system with Rovers returning to a three man defence in a 3-5-2 formation.

Also coming in was Rodney Kongolo with Ben Whiteman and Alfie May dropping to the bench.

The game was a back and forth affair over the first half hour with both sides enjoying good spells of pressure.

Rovers started the stronger, showing a great deal of energy to deploy a high press to keep the hosts penned into their own territory.

But the hosts then began to get the better of proceedings, getting plenty of bodies forward quickly and showing their undoubted physical strength.

Rovers settled into the physical battle well and gave as good as they got. Alfie Beestin shielded the ball superbly to help ease the pressure and get Rovers moving up the pitch.

A key weapon for Bristol Rovers was their organisation. Sitting midfielder Joe Partington was regularly joined by the four midfielders ahead of him whenever Rovers had the ball.

And they soon crafted a couple of chances.

Jordan Houghton was well placed and needed to be to hack clear when Rory Gaffney dinked a cross from the byline.

Ian Lawlor touched over the bar after an attempt to lob him by Billy Bodin.

And Liam Sercombe flashed a bobbling shot past the far post from 25 yards as the hosts continued to threaten.

Just when it seemed as though the wave of pressure against Rovers was only growing, they were handed the opportunity to take the lead on 33 minutes.

Tommy Rowe weaved his way into the box but was clattered into by Ryan Sweeney with referee Dean Whitestone pointing straight to the spot.

Mason was the somewhat odd choice of penalty taker but certainly obliged with a powerful drive straight down the middle and high into the net to give Adam Smith no chance.

And from this point the hosts were rattled with Rovers taking advantage of misplaced passes to keep the pressure on right up to the break.

It was pressure that, barring the first few minutes, they could not keep up as the hosts pushed hard to get back on terms.

Lawlor produced an excellent save to deny a low angled drive from Gaffney.

The Rovers keeper was indebted to Baudry for hacking clear after he could not clear Bodin's shot.

Lawlor also parried well from Gaffney again after another low drive from the powerful forward.

Rovers were struggling to maintain decent spells of possession which only kept the pressure on.

But they began to press the opposition better once again which helped ease it as the half wore on.

Substitute Ben Whiteman twice went close to sealing it after his introduction.

First, he fired straight at Smith after being played in by John Marquis.

And then he saw an effort deflect wide after Alfie May's decent touch.

While not quite the late drama Rovers have suffered in recent games, there was indeed a moment of panic for the visitors in the dying moments.

Lawlor produced a stunning one-handed stop to keep out Chris Lines' free kick from the edge of the box. Liam Sercombe thought he had kept the ball in and hooked it on goal where it was bundled over the line.

But as the Memorial Stadium celebrated, the referee's assistant had his flag up to say the ball had gone out for a corner.

The nerves did not end there but Rovers held out for an important win.

Bristol Rovers: Smith, Leadbitter (Telford 87), Lockyear, Sweeney, Brown. Partington, Bodin, Sercombe, Sinclair (Lines 67), Harrison, Gaffney (Nichols 73). Subs not used: Slocombe, Clarke, Broadbent, Bola.

Rovers: Lawlor, Wright, Butler, Baudry, Mason, Kongolo (Whiteman 72), Houghton, Rowe, Garratt, Beestin (May 75), Marquis. Subs not used: Marosi, Alcock, Ben Khemis, Longbottom, Mandeville.

Referee: Dean Whitestone (Northamptonshire)

Attendance: 8,300 (332 away)