Goals from Joe Wright, Madger Gomes, Taylor Richards and Jon Taylor secured an emphatic 4-1 victory over Bristol Rovers. Luke Leahy registered the Gas’ only goal.
Two set-pieces gave Rovers the lead in the first half. Joe Wright stabbed home from close range after Bristol were unable to clear the danger from Taylor’s free-kick and Gomes leathered the ball beyond Annsii Jaakola from close range. Luke Leahy got one back almost immediately, neatly chipping Josef Bursik to reduce the deficit.
Bristol probably started the second half the stronger, but Rovers clinical finishing was the undoing of the visitors. Some superb passing play down Rovers right eventually set Richards up for his first goal of the season while superb play down the left allowed Taylor to register his first.
Darren Moore made just one change to the XI that started against Charlton Athletic. Rayhaan Tulloch is still out with the injury picked up at The Valley and, just like in that match, he was replaced by Jason Lokilo.
And it was the Belgian who registered the first real chance of note for either side – a through ball put him in behind the Gas defence and his shot at the near post wriggled under Annsi Jaakola but he was thwarted by the post.
It was a fairly scrappy affair in the middle of the field in the open stages with both sides limited to shooting chances. The Gas were a well-drilled defensive unit and Rovers had to be at their passing best around the box to earn a shooting chance. While Rovers were vulnerable to a quick break by the visitors.
Wright showed all the instincts of a natural striker to give Rovers the lead just after 20 minutes. Jon Taylor’s free-kick appeared to be overhit, but the towering figure of Tom Anderson kept the ball alive at the byline, Ben Whiteman was first to react to the loose ball but his miscued shot became the perfect assist as it fell into the path of Wright who stabbed home from close range.
Rovers doubled their lead six minutes later – another set-piece bearing fruit and again it was Taylor’s cross to the back post which was kept alive by Anderson with the centre-back nodding back across the box. This time, however, it fell to Gomes who did what he has done in every league match this season and finished in spectacular style.
The home side were only able to enjoy their two-goal lead for two minutes before Leahy got one back with a neat lob over Josef Bursik.
Gomes had a chance to get his second of the game on the 40th minute – a sublime first touch from Tyreece John-Jules took two Bristol defenders out of the game and his pass into the no.6 was nicely weighted for a first-time strike. The Spaniard didn’t catch it quite right and it looped wide of Jaakola’s goal.
At the other end, The Gas kept pushing for their equaliser but Wright and Anderson had answers for everything while Brad Halliday and Reece James were the hardest working players on the pitch getting forward to join the attacks and somehow being in the right place at the right time when the visitors looked to threaten.
Jon Taylor did his bit defensively to block to throw himself in the way of an effort by Luke McCormick right on half-time to ensure Rovers carried their lead into the break. Darren Moore made his first change at half-time with James Coppinger brought on to replace Lokilo.
The two captains exchanged the best chances of the opening five minutes. The Gas could and perhaps should have taken the lead within three minutes. Zain Westbrooke’s free-kick was met by Max Ehmer at the far post. The Gas’ skipper connected almost too well with his volley and leathered it over the bar. At the other end – Whiteman met Taylor’s corner-kick with his head, but it looped just over.
While Bristol’s Brandon Hanlan should almost certainly capitalised when he beat Wright to the ball across the box but somehow fired over from close range. As Bristol squandered chances, Rovers were clinical.
There was some really nice play between John-Jules and Taylor down the right to give Richards a shooting opportunity. His first effort was well blocked by the defence, but it felt back to the young Brighton and Hove Albion loanee who took the ball away from the Bristol defence and finished neatly inside the far post.
Rovers stretched their lead again four minutes later – this time through an impressive move down the left. Coppinger’s first-touch was delightful as he found space to play John-Jules in. The Arsenal loanee was calmness personified to nick the ball away from his marker and send a perfectly weighted ball across the face of goal for Taylor to knock into an empty net.
An injury to Anderson, which saw the defender leave the field briefly for treatment, did give the visitors a short period of pressure as Rovers adapted to having ten men. Moore opted to introduce Cameron John at this point to shore up the defence while James pushed into a more advanced midfield role.
Rovers had a few chances to make it five. James almost capitalised in his more advanced role but he could only fire beyond Jaakola’s far post. John-Jules was put through one-on-one – he squared the ball to Coppinger but the pass was just behind the no.26 and the chance was gone. Fejiri Okenabirhie also had a chance in injury time, but he pulled the shot wide.