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Town 3-1 Bristol Rovers
Tuesday, 14th Aug 2012 21:39

Goals from Jason Scotland, Tommy Smith and Aaron Cresswell saw the Blues come from behind to beat League Two Bristol Rovers in the first round of the Capital One Cup at Portman Road. The visitors had gone in front against the run of play in the first half with the Blues eventually making their superiority tell, despite Michael Chopra missing a penalty.

Paul Jewell named what was probably his strongest available side, lining up 4-4-2 with Jason Scotland up front alongside Michael Chopra. Scott Loach, Luke Chambers and Massimo Luongo made their Town debuts, while Damien Delaney, Josh Carson and Ronan Murray were away on international duty and Andy Drury (calf) and Elliott Hewitt (hips) were out through injury.

One-time Pirate Nathan Ellington was on the Town bench alongside Northern Irish U19 international midfielder Cormac Burke, in the senior squad for the first time.

Bristol Rovers included keeper Sam Walker, signed on loan from Chelsea today, who played for Northampton in the Carling Cup against Town last year and is a Blues supporter.

The first chance of the game fell to the League Two side in the opening minute, Chambers blocking an edge of the area shot from Wayne Brown, not the player of the same name who played for the Blues.

Moments later, a short corner played to Lee Martin – playing at left midfield - from the left was headed away from under the bar by Dave Clarkson, then from a subsequent flagkick Tommy Smith nodded wide at the far post. On six, Michael Chopra shot but failed to significantly test Walker.

Clarkson shot straight at Loach when given time in the box on 16 but overall Town had been on top in the early stages, passing the ball around slickly but with the final ball lacking at this stage.

Scotland scraped a shot through to Walker on 19, then five minutes later Emmanuel-Thomas hit a strike from a tight angle which Walker blocked. The keeper was again in action from the corner, once more thwarting Emmanuel-Thomas, this time at the near post.

On 26 Rovers went in front with their first serious shot of the game, totally against the run of play. Brown found Michael Smith six or seven yards outside the Town box with little sign of danger. The right-back sent a superb dipping shot goalwards which drifted over Loach - who was towards his six-yard line but hardly a long way out - and under the bar, prompting scattered applause amongst the home support.

Town had dominated up to then but appeared a touch shell-shocked to concede and took a few minutes to regain their composure.

As they began to settle down, Chopra shot straight at Walker in the 35th minute, then the Blues striker saw a shot on the turn blocked by the on-loan Chelsea man on the edge of the six-yard box. Edwards had been sent away down the right by Luongo, Scotland returning his fellow Trinidadian’s cross to Martin before it fell to Chopra.

The Blues were by now well on top again with the match being played almost entirely in the Bristol Rovers half.

Town’s equaliser wasn’t too long in coming. On 40, Scotland picked up a ball from Edwards midway inside the Pirates’ half and brought the ball forward to around 20 yards from goal before hitting a low shot which curled beyond Walker and inside the post.

The Blues weren’t far from a second three minutes later when Scotland found Emmanuel-Thomas just inside the area and the former Arsenal man’s shot was deflected over. Referee Fred Graham inexplicably awarded a goalkick. The half-time whistle went soon after.

Town had been in control from virtually the off, passing the ball around with a great deal of confidence and carrying on from where they had left off in pre-season. The Bristol Rovers goal, while excellent, was their only real chance and the visitors were fortunate to be on terms at the break. For all their possession, the Blues probably hadn’t created enough clear-cut opportunities.

The Blues started the second half slowly but the game gradually returned to the same pattern as the first. On 54 Scotland and Chopra exchanged passes to send the Blues number 10 away into the area but he missed his kick.

Moments later, Chopra played Hyam into the box and the Town midfielder was tripped by Adam Virgo and referee Graham pointed straight to the spot.

Chopra took the spotkick and sent the ball to Walker’s left at around shoulder height, the on-loan Chelsea man doing superbly to get across to save.

However, from the resultant corner, the Blues went in front for the first time. Emmanuel-Thomas sent the ball in from the Town right and Tommy Smith rose to power home.

Emmanuel-Thomas hammered a strike only just over on 64 with the Blues continuing to dominate. Town were passing the ball around for fun and on 70, after a long spell of Town possession, a Chopra shot from a Cresswell cross from the left was blocked by Jim Paterson.

Martin almost created a Town third in the 72nd minute, cutting in from the left and laying the ball across to Chopra but a defender’s boot intervened. From the corner, Emmanuel-Thomas hit a shot form a tight angle which Walker blocked.

On 78 Bristol Rovers almost pulled a goal back with what was practically their first foray into the Town half of the second period. Cresswell failed to deal with a high ball played down the Pirates’ right and Clarkson scuffed wide as Loach advanced.

As the game entered its final 10 minutes, Matt Harrold headed over from a corner for the Pirates, then in the 83rd minute the Blues sealed their place in round two.

Chopra swept the ball wide to Emmanuel-Thomas on the right, his shot was stopped by Walker and Cresswell was on hand to nod home from a couple of feet.

Late on Cormac Burke was handed a first-team debut and Emmanuel-Thomas shot wide before referee Graham brought an entertaining, if one-sided, game to an end.

Town were good for their 3-1 margin having dominated for virtually all of the 90 minutes, passing the ball around slickly and creating plenty of chances. Bristol Rovers keeper Sam Walker will rarely have a busier evening and the youngster on loan from Chelsea acquitted himself well against the club he supports.

Luongo continues to impress in the centre of the Town midfield with Hyam performing more than ably alongside him, while Emmanuel-Thomas and Martin were always threatening from wide positions and Chopra and Scotland both looked sharp.

Paul Jewell will have been delighted with the performance and the scoreline as his side go into their Championship opener against Blackburn Rovers at Portman Road on Saturday.

The draw for the second round is live on Sky Sports News at around 12.30pm on Wednesday.

Town: Loach, Edwards, Chambers, Smith, Cresswell, Hyam, Luongo, Emmanuel-Thomas, Martin (Burke 89), Scotland (Stevenson 89), Chopra. Subs: Lee-Barrett, Whight, Ainsley, Lawrence, Ellington.

Bristol Rovers: Walker, Smith, Paterson, Clarkson, Gill (Lund 61), Harrold, Brown, Norburn (Clucas 62), Anyisah (Clarke 80), Virgo, Brown. Harding, Gough, Staley. Referee: Fred Graham. Att: 8,645 (Rovers: 264)

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