Tom Hopper’s first-half goal gifted Blues their first win on the road this season…
The number nine’s goal not only got Blues on the scoresheet for the first time in over six years at the Memorial Stadium but also their first win against the Pirates in their last seven attempts in the league.
The suspended Chris Powell made two changes to his side from the midweek clash, with Theo Robinson coming in for Simon Cox and the experienced Michael Kightly coming in for Timothee Dieng.
Blues who were in search of a reaction from Tuesday nights 2-0 defeat to Luton were all over Bristol Rovers from the first whistle.
Powell's side started well and came close to scoring within the first minute following a quick counter-attack from kick-off, but Michael Kightly’s cross was punched away from the high rising Michael Turner.
Up the other end, Bristol had their first chance after Kyle Bennett broke through the midfield and played a through ball to the pacy Stefan Payne but Blues’ skipper Mark Oxley was at hand to stop an early share of spoils for themselves.
The Pirates almost handed Blues a 1-0 goal advantage but Bristol keeper Adam Smith just poked Ed Upson’s back pass away from goal.
But the hosts came close after their little miss hap when Liam Sercombe pinged the ball into Oxley’s box and found the poked out toe of Payne who’s effort rose high into the air and bounced off the cross-bar.
The first change of the game came when Bristol midfielder Sercome had to come off following a collision with Jason Demetriou, the number seven was replaced by Alex Rodman.
Blues had a penalty shout halfway through the first-half when Theo Robinson was brought down in the area but the referee Ross Joyce waved the claims away and gave the hosts a goal-kick.
Powell’s side got their revenge however and went infront just before half-time. Theo Robinson found room to swing the ball into the box from outside the area and the forward’s ball was flicked on by Kightly in the centre of the box leaving the advancing Tom Hopper open to smash the ball home from six-yards out.
The Pirates came out the stronger of the two sides in the second-half and came close to scoring the leveler withing five minutes, but Oxley saved Ollie Clarke’s 20-yard shot with ease.
The hosts kept piling the pressure onto Blues and in an attempt to aid this they brought on their final two subs. Stefan Payne and Tom Nichols both came off for Alex Jakubiak and Gain Reilly.
After a number of appeals, Bristol got a free-kick outside the area but Rodman’s set piece was sent straight into the head of Turner who smashed the ball away from goal.
Blues’ first change of the game saw a swap up top with Theo Robinson coming off for Simon Cox as Powell’s side aimed to double their lead.
The game started to fall Blues’ way in the dying minutes of the game and both frontmen had golden opportunities to extend the lead.
Cox was fed a great ball from Coker and the number 10 was through on goal only to be brought down in the area and regain his stride to lay the ball to Mantom who sends the ball wide.
Moments later another chance came about with a great counter-attacking move between Sam Mantom and Stephen McLaughlin. Macca burst down the left and side and fired a low cross into the box which was met by the diving header of Hopper who’s effort was deflected over the bar.
McLaughlin had run his socks off for the entirety of the game and in turn, was subbed off in the 86th minute for Stephen Hendrie.
The Pirates kept pushing and pushing for the equaliser right to the final whistle but their efforts came to nothing as Powell’s solid back four battered away any attempt that came their way.
The final change of the evening meant the impressive Kightly came off for youngster Michael Klass, with the number 20 gaining another few minutes under his belt.
Saturday 25th August 2018
The Memorial Stadium
Bristol Rovers vs Southend United (League One)
Bristol Rovers: Smith, J.Clarke, Lockyer ©, Craig, Broadbent, Sercombe, O.Clarke, Upson, Nichols, Payne (Jakubiak), Bennett.
Southend United: Oxley ©, Bwomono, Turner, White, Coker, Kightly (Klass), Demetriou, Mantom, McLaughlin, Hopper, Robinson (Cox).
Southend – Tom Hopper (41’)
Bristol – Payne (11’) Jakubiak (75’)
Southend – Coker (45+2’) (Demetriou 75’)
Attendance – 8172 (356 Blues supporters)