MATCH REPORT: Bristol Rovers 2 Fleetwood 1

Fleetwood striker Ash Hunter
Fleetwood striker Ash Hunter

Town missed an opportunity to move into a play-off spot as they let a one goal lead slip to let Bristol Rovers rise back from the dead at an eerie Memorial Stadium.

Just 16 minutes after netting the winner against Gillingham at Highbury on Saturday Ash Hunter popped up with a fourth minute opener as he pounced on Jake Clarke-Salter’s loose ball to sprint in and open the scoring.

But as the mist descended at the break with Town transforming into a different beast and the night after Halloween a mini-minute horror show at the back saw Rovers rise back from the dead.

Town were undone on their left flank as Daniel Leadbitter whipped the ball in from the right and with Town’s defence doing a disappearing act Matty Taylor popped up unmarked to nod home in the 61st minute.

The goal reignited the wasteful Rovers side and after Town’s defence had finally crumbled the hosts managed to put the nail in the coffin in the 73rd minute as Christian Montano’s deflected effort crept past Neal.

Fleetwood head coach Uwe Rosler made two changes to the side that beat Gillingham 2-1 for this rearranged fixture.

The game was moved back a month due to call-ups on the last international break with Rosler giving Gills hero Hunter a start in place of the rested David Ball and Eggert Jonsson came in for Jack Sowerby.

Town made a blockbuster start to the game as Hunter pounced on England U19 prodigy Jake Clarke-Salter’s dismal pass to break into the box and rifle the ball home in the fourth minute.

But after taking an early lead Rosler’s men sat back and put a number of bodies behind the ball which invited pressure from the hosts but Town’s solid back line and midfield held strong.

The Gas created a number of opportunities on their right flank with full-back Daniel Leadbitter and Moore whipping in a number of crosses to no avail as Town’s defence coped with everything the lively Taylor threw at them.

Despite their dominance the closest the home side came to a leveller was from two errors from their former defender and Town centre-half Cian Bolger who also missed a free header up the other end.

Firstly the giant defender left a Moore cross for Neal to collect with Taylor on the prowl in the middle but fortunately the forward just missed getting a toe to the ball.

Then the centre-half nearly marked his return to the Memorial Ground with an own goal as he stuck a leg at Montana’s fierce ball from the left across the six-yard box but fortunately it flew the right side of the left stick.

Town defended in numbers with the midfield joining the back four to thwart Rovers but as always Rosler’s men looked a threat on the counter with pace-men Long and Hunter both forcing the Kelle Roos into saves but failed to get that all important second goal.

There was late drama at the end of the first half with the home faithful roaring with indignation after two penalty appeals were waved away by referee Charles Breakspear.

Firstly Moore rifled the ball into the arm of Bolger, it looked to have struck the ex-Gas defender’s arm but it was more a case of ball to arm rather than hand ball with the big defender in such close proximity and no ability to move his arm away from the shot on the right of the box. Seconds later Stuart Sinclair tumbled inside the box under pressure from a host of red and white shirts but the referee waved away both claims.

And Town keeper Neal popped up to rescue his side in added time as Taylor beat the offside trap to creep into a one-on-one position but his first time stab was just tipped away by the cat-like keeper.

Rovers continued where they left off in the first half at the start of the second half but once again left their shooting boots back in the changing room as they failed to carve open Town with Ellis Harrison nodding way wide.

Fleetwood continued to absorb Rovers’ attacks and had some neat passages of play but without a killer touch or pass in the final third as they lost the danger they possessed on the counter in the first 45.

As they lost their danger up top their solid defence also finally cracked in the 61st minute.

Town had not headed their warnings from the first half as Millwall galloped down the right flank with and with Grant and Bell outfoxed Leadbitter put the ball into the mix where Taylor ghosted in with Pond and Bolger nowhere to be seen to nod home unmarked.

After the goal Rosler mixed things up as he threw Nirennold on for Ryan moving Dempsey in from the right wing to the middle of the park and put Ball on in a midfield role on the left for Grant moments later.

The goal had reignited Rovers and they pushed further bodies up to press for a winner.

And the hosts second goal came in the 73rd minute as Montana’s strike bounced in despite Neal getting a hand to it.

Rosler responded by taking off defensive midfielder Jonsson, who made his 50th league appearance for Town, to put Devante Cole on up front and shifted to 4-3-3 to try and get an equaliser.

But despite having a number of attacking players on the pitch and Bolger pushed up as a make shift target man Town failed to find a leveller.

Fleetwood: Neal, McLaughlin, Pond, Bolger, Bell, Dempsey, Ryan (Nirennold, 66), Jonsson (Cole, 79), Grant (Ball, 71), Long, Hunter. Subs not used: Cairns, Eastham, Ball, Woolford, Sowerby.

Bristol Rovers: Roos, Leadbitter, Brown, Lockyer, Harrison (Gaffney, 72), Taylor (Easter, 90), Lines, Montano (Colkett, 72) Moore, Sinclair, Clarke-Salter. Subs not used: Puudy, Hartley, Roberts, Boateng.

Referee: Charles Breakspear.

Attendance: 10088 (Fleetwood 41)