Rovers claimed their first point of the 2021/22 campaign as they played out a goalless draw with league-leaders Portsmouth.
Rovers could have had more if Tommy Rowe’s effort early in the first-half hadn’t been ruled out for a foul in the build-up, but Pontus Dahlberg was needed late on to deny Shaun Williams from the penalty spot.
Richie Wellens made two changes to the side that were defeated by Accrington Stanley Cameron John was brought in at left-back which left Tommy Rowe to play a more advanced position and Charlie Seaman returned to the starting XI after a ten-day self-isolation period in line with COVID-19 Government guidelines.
Rovers’ luck was down when an injury to Tom Anderson just ten minutes into the game forced Wellens into an early sub. The captain was replaced by Branden Horton who slotted into his normal left-back position while John, who had started well at left back was moved to centre back.
Seaman added some pace and directness to the Rovers front line and on the 12th minute, he helped set up an early chance. His cross was turned narrowly wide of the far post by Tiago Cukur.
At the other end, Portsmouth’s first shot on target came when Ronan Curtis tried his luck from a free-kick 30 yards out. It was easily saved by Pontus Dahlberg.
From the quarter of an hour mark, Rovers started to control the game. Bostock and Galbraith were conducting play while Close and Rowe founds pockets of space, causing Pompey’s defence headaches – while the wide men were flooding forward in numbers.
Cukur had an effort from distance blocked wide, Ben Close fired narrowly wide, Seaman worked another cross to Cukur which was blocked at the near post and Rowe – enjoying his more advanced position – had a goal ruled off for a foul in the build-up.
Visiting keeper Gavin Basunu made a fantastic save to deny Close. The former Pompey man was played in by a delightful Bostock pass but was shut down quickly by the Manchester City loanee.
Portsmouth’s second effort on target came just before half-time. Clark Robertson’s header from an out-swinging corner kick delivery was straight at Dahlberg. The visitors were probably the better team in the four minutes of added time and the final kick of the first period was Joe Morrell chipping over the crossbar from distance.
The second half began much like the second half finished with Portsmouth having the best of the play, but ball toed gently on target by Curtis was the only chance of note.
After those opening minutes, Rovers started to get on top again moving the ball around really nicely and the Rovers fans responded with a deafening noise from the Black Bank roaring them on. And the front three reacted by harrying and chasing everything forcing defenders and keeper in the Pompey white to slice things out of play.
The Bostock-Rowe combination nearly bore fruit when the No.10 sent a half-volley just over the crossbar but that was to be it before the match became open and end-to-end with both sides creating chances.
Dahlberg made an excellent save to deny substitute Michael Jacobs from just inside the box. Rovers may have had some complaints if that had gone one as Bostock was on the ground during the play with and injury that saw him substituted for Matt Smith.
That corner-kick delivery saw John Marquis – who had been kept quiet for the opening 70 minutes - register his first chance as his header was kept out by the glove of the Swedish keeper.
Smith linked up well with Knoyle and Seaman with the latter spinning away from his marker and unleashing a left footed effort. Bazunu made a meal of it and was close to scooping it into his own net, but he made the save at the second attempt. Curtis sliced an effort so badly it went out for a Rovers throw in.
With ten minutes remaining, a foul by Ro-Shaun Williams provided Shaun Williams with a chance from the penalty spot but Dahlberg made the stop down to his right to keep the score at 0-0 and deliver Rovers’ first point of the 2021/22 campaign.