A goal from Fejiri Okenabirhie wasn’t enough as Rovers suffered a 2-1 defeat to Plymouth Argyle in Sky Bet League One.
The first 15 minutes came and went with neither side really imposing themselves on the match but the home side took the match by the scruff of the neck for the rest of the second half and Rovers were perhaps fortunate to only be 1-0 down at the break courtesy of a Luke Jephcott strike.
A much better second half performance from Darren Moore’s men was frustrated when Plymouth doubled their lead through Joe Edwards arguably against the run of play.
Okenabirhie’s equaliser came with just over 20 minutes to go but despite real effort from Rovers, they were unable to find a second.
Darren Moore made two changes to his side that suffered defeat at the hands of Crewe Alexandra. Cameron John and James Coppinger came into the starting XI, with Josh Sims dropping to the bench and Madger Gomes not included in the matchday squad. Danny Amos was brought onto the bench.
The opening 15 minutes played out mostly in the middle of the park with neither side really managing to carve out any chances but the home side started to turn the screw just before 20 minutes and Rovers found themselves absorbing a lot of pressure.
Crosses by Ryan Hardie and Panutche Camara caused a threat, a brave block by Matt Smith denied Danny Mayor from the edge of the box and Brad Halliday’s diving header relieved pressure from a corner-kick.
Josef Bursik followed this up by claiming a couple of crosses and made an excellent save to deny Luke Jephcott from six yards. Bursik came off his line quickly, made himself big and made the block with his chest.
He made some arguably interceptions a few minutes later as he got himself first to the ball on two occasions to take the ball off the toes of Hardie and then Byron Moore but there was nothing he could do to stop Jephcott’s strike just after half-an-hour which gave the hosts the lead.
An unfortunate slip for Jon Taylor left Mayor with the freedom of the park. He had time to pick out his pass which Jephcott guided the ball home with his first touch.
Rovers almost hit back immediately as they created their best chance of the first half. Taylor got beyond his man and picked out Coppinger who tried to send the ball goalwards. There was a bit of a mix-up for Plymouth as goalkeeper Michael Cooper and defender Jerome Opoku collided in their efforts to prevent the goal. The unconventional approach did the trick though and diverted the ball out for a corner which was punched clear by Cooper.
Despite this brief lift in form, the home side continued to dominate possession and tried to probe for a second, but Rovers did enough to contain Plymouth to half-chances and a couple of good interceptions from Bursik ensured they were still in it at the break.
Rovers flew out of the blocks in the second half and created as many chances in the first minute as they did in the who of the first half. A really nice cross found Taylor who did a neat header to evade his defender. The ball sat up nicely for the winger, but the shot was blocked really well.
Joe Wright was inches from his second of the season as he made a great run towards the back post but somehow nodded Coppinger’s corner-kick the wrong side of the post.
The bright start appeared to have bore fruit after just five minutes when Fejiri Okenabirhie tapped the ball into the net after a nice passing move opened up the host’s defence, but Reece James was flagged offside for his part in the build-up.
The Rovers no. 9 earned himself an excellent chance a few minutes later. He did everything right in the build-up, holding off his man and driving toward the penalty box but he smashed the effort over the bar. He had a second effort soon after. Taylor’s cross was a good height for the striker but it was just too close to the keeper who claimed it well.
Moore opted for his first change on the hour mark introducing Josh Sims into the fray and his first part in the action was to attack a good Coppinger cross with real venom only to have it glanced away before he could connect.
The substitution also sparked a bit of a change around for Darren Moore’s men. James stepped into the midfield place alongside Ben Whiteman (which had been vacated by Matt Smith for Sims’ introduction) – which allowed Sims to slot in on the left wing.
Despite a much better second half, it was Plymouth who got the next goal. Joe Edwards met Moore’s ball across the face of goal and finished well to double the difficulty of the challenge facing Rovers.
There was still plenty of effort from Rovers and in particular Ben Whiteman who seemed to have made it his personal mission to drive Rovers up the pitch. Whiteman’s driving run through midfield presented him with chance from the edge of the box – but he placed it too close to the keeper. The ball fell to the skipper again soon after, he struck the ball on the spin but couldn’t trouble the keeper this time.
The no.8’s next involvement did bring a goal. His through-ball found its way to Okenabirhie who was left onside and in acres of space in the six-yard box and slotted home well to half the deficit.
As the game entered the final ten minutes, Rovers opted to go more direct and the approach was close to earning them an equaliser. Anderson made a nuisance of himself in the box as Whiteman looped a ball in. The ball eventually fell to Okenabirhie who took a snapshot towards the near post but Cooper got down well to make the stop.
The match began to peter out in the closing stages and despite Rovers’ efforts and two good efforts by Danny Amos, the home side were able to see out the match and take the three points.