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Match Report: Bristol Rovers 1-2 Bolton Wanderers

Bolton racked up their second away win of the season at the Mem, here is how the game unfolded.

Spearing lines up his free-kick
Spearing lines up his free-kick

So we won away from home again. This is the first time the club has won their first three league games of the season since 2001. For anyone who wants reminding who we beat that season it was Leicester City 5-0, Middlesbrough 1-0 and then Liverpool 2-1 thanks to a 90th minute Holdsworth winner.

This was also the first time we recorded back to back away wins since April 2014. Not only that but this tweet highlights how our away form compares to last season, in case anyone was unsure whether we are doing better this term;

This result of course leaves us top of the pile something which according to Marc Iles has happened 10 times since the 1996/97 season 9 of which came in the Premier League. The last of these occasions was under Owen Coyle in 2011. This is also the first time we have topped what is now League One in quite a while;

But that’s enough of highlighting how bad we have been over the last few years let’s talk about last night. I missed the kick off and first minute or so having tried to use a closed entrance to the stadium, if that’s what you can call a place with two tents in it.

When I arrived Bolton were on top and it was not long before they would take the lead. Good interplay between Mark Davies and Jamie Proctor led to a chance for Josh Vela to shoot from range and he gladly took it smashing home via a deflection from a Bristol Rovers leg.

Bolton continued to dominate proceedings against a Rovers side not used to matters not going their way at the Mem having not lost there since December 2015 and angling for a record 11th consecutive home win.

20 minutes after the first Gary Madine was dragged to the ground and won what must have been the only free-kick not to go to the defender in such circumstances all night. Jay Spearing grabbed the ball and lined it up, no one else seemed interested in it. Either that or maybe they knew what was coming. Spearing proceeded to hit the ball straight into the top corner, Philippe Coutinho eat your heart out it was a marvellous strike.

Rovers failed to really create an opening in the first 45 minutes managing only two shots on goal, one of which sailed over the tent the away fans were in.

But Bristol’s most irrelevant sports team did come out in the second half determined to find a way back into the game. They saw a fair amount of the ball around Bolton’s penalty area but were unable to really craft any clear cut chances. At this point it was all Rovers with Bolton happy to defend their half time lead.

After failing to really find an opening Rovers lined up a free-kick of their own in a similar position to the one Spearing struck home. It was a brilliantly taken free-kick headed for the top corner as well but Mark Howard in the Bolton goal was able to turn it onto the post. It was a great save but it would be to no avail as the onrushing Harrison smashed the ball home.

2-1 and it was the time for the nerves to set in, at least for me. Rovers continued to see most of the ball and push forward. But by the same token they continued to fail to really create any clear cut chances. Only once did they have a real opening, but as quickly as it appeared the Bolton defence slammed the door in their faces. Despite my nerves it has to be said Rovers never really looked like finding the equalised.

Bolton though did have some chances to extend their lead. First Proctor had some space in the box but was unable to find a shot despite seemingly having an opening to do so. Then Mark Davies broke into the penalty area but wasn’t able to find the space to shoot.

Then Zach Clough, who looked lively after his introduction in the place of Proctor, surged through a mass of blue and white shirts and appeared in the Rovers penalty area. The shot was crying out to be hit. But instead Clough tried to play in the onrushing Bolton attacker but there were too many defenders in the way and the danger was cleared.

Conor Wilkinson also managed to craft an opportunity surging into the Rovers penalty area. The space in front of him opened up and he took the shot. It was a tame effort which made it even more unforgivable that he missed the onrushing Clough in acres of space. Bolton looked like they could find a third but it didn’t happen. With some fine tuning though Bolton can be a threat on the counter attack this season.

A special mention needs to be made at the end of this and that is for Liam ‘Yaya’ Trotter. He appeared to have lost the ball and was back tracking. A groan went up in the away end. But then he pulled off a perfectly executed roulette trick. The away fans went wild, it was a beautiful moment.

I will leave this with another Marc Iles tweet. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. But wouldn’t it be amazing if we could match this long standing landmark when we take on Fleetwood Town at the Macron on Saturday?