|Bristol Rovers 0 v 2 Ipswich Town|
SkyBet League One
Saturday, 19th September 2020 Kick-off 15:00
Bristol Rovers 0-2 Ipswich Town - Match Report
Saturday, 19th Sep 2020 17:00
An own goal by Max Ehmer own goal and Jon Nolan’s second of the season saw Town to a 2-0 victory at Bristol Rovers and to the top of the early season League One table. The Blues had to wait until the 80th minute for Rovers skipper Ehmer to nod sub Jack Lankester’s cross into his own net with Nolan adding the second nine minutes later.
James Norwood and Gwion Edwards started for the Blues in a team otherwise unchanged from the one which beat Wigan Athletic 2-0 in their League One opener last weekend.
Having made seven changes for the 1-0 Carabao Cup defeat to Fulham in midweek, manager Paul Lambert returned to his regular XI as near as he was able.
Norwood, making his first start of the season, came into the central striking role with Aaron Drinan out injured. Freddie Sears was on the left and Edwards on the right of the front three with Alan Judge missing from the 18, presumably due to a knock.
Andre Dozzell, Jon Nolan and Teddy Bishop continued in midfield with Toto Nsiala and James Wilson the centre-halves and skipper Luke Chambers and Stephen Ward at right and left-back respectively.
Tomas Holy was in goal for Town, who changed for the game in the Supporters Club bar behind one of the goals. Owner Marcus Evans had made the trip and was watching from the directors’ box, as was forward Armando Dobra.
Bristol Rovers made one change from the team which drew 1-1 at Sunderland last week with former Blues youngster Ed Upson returning in midfield for the injured Sam Nicholson.
The game, again played at an empty stadium, was preceded by a minute’s silence for former Rovers chief executive Gordon Bennett, who died recently.
The Blues were wearing last year’s burgundy and blue away shirt but with blue shorts with a yellow and burgundy trim with the home side wearing their traditional blue and white quarters.
The game’s first chance fell to the Pirates in the eighth minute when new Rovers striker Brandon Hanlan was found in space on the edge of the box with Town appearing to expect a linesman’s flag which was never raised. Fortunately, the former Gillingham man failed to make much of the opportunity, shooting low to Holy’s left but weakly and too close to the Czech keeper.
Wide men Edwards and Sears has presented the main threat for the visitors in the early stages, both making quick breaks down their flanks before sending in crosses which Pirates keeper Anssi Jaakkola was able to claim.
Neither side was able to gain control or create anything of note before the 21st minute when Chambers found Edwards in space on the right but the Welshman’s low cross was again too close to Jaakkola.
Rovers centre-half Alfie Kilgour will feel he should have done better with a Zain Westbrooke free-kick from deep on the left sent into the box which he allowed to scuff off his foot and behind at the back post.
As the half moved into its final 10 minutes, Norwood was fouled by home skipper Max Ehmer not far outside the Rovers area. Sears took the free-kick and hit a low shot which Jaakkola saved down to his left. Edwards reached the loose ball and played it back to Chambers, who scuffed his effort wide.
The Blues were gaining the upper hand as the 40th minute passed, Dozzell playing looping balls beyond the home defence for first Norwood and Sears to chase but both were flagged offside, very narrowly in the latter’s case.
On 42 Upson, the scorer of Town’s wining goal in the 2005 FA Youth Cup final, was booked for a foul on Dozzell.
Soon after, Dozzell, who was at the heart of everything for Town, just overhit a cross-field pass aimed towards Nolan, who was breaking into the left of box.
That was the last action of a rather scruffy half in which chances were a rarity. Overall the Blues had been the better of the teams but had often been careless in possession with too many passes going astray or out of play, with the opposition similarly guilty.
Rovers, however, had had the two best chances, Hanlan’s early effort which failed to test Holy, although he appeared to be offside, and Kilgour’s misconnection with Westbrooke’s free-kick. Sears’s free-kick was Town’s best chance.
Norwood hit an early shot against a defender as the Blues had the better of the opening minute or so after the restart before Bristol Rovers threatened at the other end following a free-kick on the right, Upson seeing a strike from the edge of the box blocked.
Having been adjudged offside very narrowly, Norwood was booked for dissent on 53. Two minutes later, Edwards sent in a cross from the right which the striker stooped to head wide when he should have found the target but with the linesman’s flag raised again.
On 57 Westbrooke sent a dangerous low free-kick from the right across the Town area but with no one able to get a touch on it.
Just after the hour mark a cross from the right reached Sears on the edge of the area but the former West Ham man’s shot was blocked and the ball cannoned off him and behind. At the other end, Upson hit a well-struck effort straight at Holy.
Chances were being created far more regularly than in the first period. In the 63rd minute, Nolan found Edwards on the right of the box but Jaakkola saved well. Moments later, Town swapped Sears for Lankester, who was making his first appearance since January 2019.
The sub, who was on the right of the front three with Edwards moving to the left, almost made an immediate impact, Bishop finding him in behind the defence and in on goal with a clever ball but again the linesman’s flag was raised for another tight offside.
In the 67th minute Bishop, who had been quieter than in this season’s previous games although more involved after the break, and Norwood, who still looks a little way off his sharpest, were switched for Flynn Downes and Oli Hawkins.
Town were increasingly dominant and in the 71st minute Rovers defender Kilgour wasn’t far away from scoring an own goal when he diverted Nolan’s cross into the side-netting.
The Blues went even closer a minute later when Nolan played in Edwards, who took the ball around Jaakkola but Mark Little got back to block on the line. Hawkins following up under pressure was unable to get in a second attempt at goal. Soon after, Rovers replaced Hanlan with Jonah Ayunga.
Town continued to dominate, Edwards saw a strike from the edge of the box blocked, then failed to find Hawkins when hooking the ball towards the sub when grounded. On 78 the Gas swapped Jayden Mitchell-Lawson for James Daly.
A minute later, Downes fed Edwards to his left and the Welshman hit a shot which Jaakkola claimed comfortably.
But the Finn’s clean sheet wasn’t to last too much longer. In the 80th minute, Lankester whipped a cross into the box from the right and home skipper Ehmer reached the ball ahead of Jaakkola and inadvertently nodded into an empty net. In lieu of a scorer, the Town players celebrated with Lankester, the 20-year-old having made his mark after such a long time out.
Rovers tried to hit back immediately but Josh Grant screwed his effort over from the edge of the area over the bar.
In the 85th minute Hawkins should have made it 2-0. Dozzell did brilliantly down the left then sent over a cross which the big former Portsmouth striker headed beyond the far post from the edge of the six-yard box when he really ought to have scored his first goal for the club.
Town’s second 2-0 league win of the season was sealed in the 89th minute when Lankester found Nolan, who took the ball wide of his man just inside the area and hit a low left-footed shot back across Jaakkola and into the net.
The Blues saw out the final moments to claim a deserved three points.
They had looked far better after the break, particularly after the introduction of the subs, and could have scored on a number of occasions before Ehmer’s own goal with Nolan’s well-taken second confirming a six points from six start for Town.
The Blues now top the league from Lincoln and Hull City on goal difference ahead of next week’s home fixture with fourth bottom Rochdale.
Rovers: Jaakkola, Little, Leahy (Tutonda 84), Grant, Ehmer (c), Upson, Westbrooke, Hanlan (Ayunga 74), Mitchell-Lawson (Daly 78), Kilgour, Harries. Unused: Van Stappershoef, Baldwin, Hare, Hargreaves.
Town: Holy, Chambers (c), Nsiala, Wilson, Ward, Dozzell, Nolan, Bishop (Downes 67), Edwards, Norwood (Hawkins 67), Sears (Lankester 63). Unused: Cornell, Donacien, Kenlock, Huws, Downes, Hawkins. Referee: Craig Hicks (Surrey).
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