Bristol Rovers 2-1 Plymouth Seven Things: deserved win

Gaffney celebrates the opener – plymouthherald.co.uk

Put simply, this match pitted one team that always wanted to attack and another that rarely did. The former was Bristol Rovers, who won 2-1 thanks to goals from Rory Gaffney and Billy Bodin. The second half though against Plymouth Argyle, who got their goal through Nathan Blissett, was nervier than it perhaps should have been. Here’s seven talking points.

Plymouth’s lack of intent

For only two first half periods less than five minutes long, did Plymouth get high enough up the pitch to even compete for the ball in the middle third. They looked reasonably well organized in the opening exchanges and picked up their fair share of second balls, but once Bristol Rovers started playing some short, sharp passes, they went into their shell. Antoni Sarcevic, an attack-minded technician, did not look at home in his defensive midfield role for the visitors, nor did the passive Jamie Ness.

Rovers’ strong midfield

Liam Sercombe provided the first test for Kyle Letheren on 14 minutes with a curling right-footed effort, which kick-started a period of sustained pressure. Chris Lines came to the fore with some driving runs from deep and Ollie Clarke did the simple things well. Those energetic midfielders, who looked forward whenever they received the ball, excelled at giving the forwards plenty of possession in the final third.

Fluent attacking trio

The Rovers midfield played balls into wide areas where selfless runners Ellis Harrison and Rory Gaffney would stretch play to create space for Billy Bodin, who thrived in pockets in front of the defence. The trio combined to create numerous opportunities, including Rory Gaffney’s 21st minute opener, which saw him take a couple of touches before drilling past Letheren after Harrison’s right-wing cross.

Wylde and Blissett’s influence

Plymouth’s left-winger, Gregg Wylde, set up a headed chance on the half hour for Nathan Blissett, which the target man glanced wide. The duo, as well as a revitalized Graham Carey, became a more prominent influence at the start of the second half, which saw the away side enjoy their best spell. Wylde got past Joe Partington to whip in several crosses from the left, one of which was volleyed over by Sarcevic. Blissett dominated Tom Lockyer and saw his volley pushed away by Sam Slocombe, but he wasn’t to be denied his goal, which he fired into the roof of the net on 52 minutes after a loose pass to equalize.

Key moments

Plymouth had threatened to even take the lead in that period, but midway through the second half, their hopes were dashed in a disastrous two-minute spell. First, Bristol Rovers went ahead when Billy Bodin put away Liam Sercombe’s low cross with a fierce, first-time shot. Moments later, Gary Miller was then sent off for a two-footed challenge, which made the game an uphill struggle for Derek Adams’ men.

Grand finale

With two goals ruled offside for the Gasheads, substitute Tom Nichols hitting the post and several saves from Letheren, the Greens were fortunate to still be in the contest in injury time. At that point, nerves crept into the home camp and Darrell Clarke’s side could have dropped two points at the death. Fortunately for them, Jake Jervis’ free-kick hit the wall and Sarcevic dragged his shot wide with a presentable opportunity.

In summary

The game might have panned out differently had Plymouth gone ahead during their best spell, but they had not offered enough creativity and intent over the course of the game to merit a point. The Pilgrims, who remain winless since week two, have dropped to bottom of the table with mounting pressure on the team and manager Adams. Bristol Rovers meanwhile can enjoy their fourth home win in five which has seen them climb to 14th. While they may lack the ruthlessness to push for the play-offs, they have a strong work rate and a will to attack, something their opponents can learn from.