Football / Bristol Rovers

Rovers’ return to the Mem blunted by Wycombe

By martin booth, Saturday Aug 10, 2019

With off the field talk still dominated by takeover rumours and a possible new stadium in St Philip’s, Bristol Rovers took to the field at the Memorial Stadium for the first time this season in a kit harking back to the 30th anniversary of the 1989/90 season when the club were Third Division champions.

In the matchday programme, Geoff Twentyman from that promotion-winning team said that Jonson Clarke-Harris will be key to Rovers’ chances this year.

The 25-year-old striker scored 11 goals in just 14 appearances last season but due to injury began this game on the bench after not featuring in pre-season.

Rovers manager Graham Coughlan gave him 20 minutes on the pitch towards the end of the second half, with his best effort a free-kick on 77 minutes that despite lining up like Johnny Wilkinson was hit low straight into the wall from the edge of the box.

Wet and blustery conditions meant that across town, the Balloon Fiesta site remained closed all day. In BS7, some of the higher balls looked as likely to end up on Horfield Common than their intended target.

“Let’s be honest, we should have possibly won that game,” said Coughlan after the match.

“The one thing that footballers don’t like is wind because it’s unpredictable, you don’t know where the ball is going or where it’s landing. But it’s the same for both teams. All in all, it was a battling, hardworking, honest display.”

Rovers’ best chance came from Victor Adebeyejo soon before the end of the first half. He held his hands to his mouth in disbelief as a shot on the turn from just inside the box beat Wycombe keeper Ryan Allsop, hit the inside of the left post and spun agonisingly along the goal line before going out of play beyond the other upright.

In a sign of the lack of chances in the game, Wycombe left-back Joe Jacobson went for a spectacular shot from inside his own-half on 81 minutes hoping that the wind would help take it goalbound, but the effort went wide and Anssi Jaankkola in the Rovers goal looked as if he had it covered.

Liam Sercombe hit a couple of good free-kicks in the first half; and Tom Davies saved Rovers’ blushes just before the end of regulation time in the second half, just managing to block a shot on the line despite it almost getting stuck under his studs.

Coughlan said that “possibly, a year ago, we might have crumbled”. He added: “We have kept a clean sheet today, we have created a number of chances. It just hasn’t gone in the net. And we have got some game time for Jonson Clarke-Harris.”

The manager thanked the home fans after what will quite possibly be the least memorable game of the season. He said: “We knew it wasn’t going to be a spectacle. The crowd stuck with us. There’s a lot more to come from us. This is work in progress.”

Main photo of Jonson Clarke-Harris by JMP

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