Half-time: Bristol Rovers 1 Exeter City 0
Oliver Norburn has offered Bristol Rovers a half-time lead at the Memorial Stadium tonight – although John Ward’s men owe a debt of gratitude to Exeter goalkeeper Artur Krysiak for the opening goal.
Norburn opened the scoring in the 23rd minute with a speculative shot from distance that looked set to be collected quite comfortably by the Polish stopper. Krysiak, however, somehow managed to fumble the ball and let it goes through his legs before watching in horror as it crept over the line.
Krysiak was taunted with chants of ‘dodgy goalkeeper’ sporadically for the rest of the opening period – little surprise considering the goalkeeper also made a hash of trying to save an Eliot Richards shot earlier in the season at St James’ Park, which eventually turned out to be the winning goal in a 2-1 victory on that day.
Norburn, meanwhile, was only in the side after Joe Anyinsah failed to shake off a hamstring complaint, but looked the player most likely to create some sort of opportunity in the opening exchanges due to some neat and incisive passing at close-quarters.
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Chances, however, were few and far between during an opening 15 minutes during which there were more yellow cards, one each for Michael Smith and Kevin Amankwaah, than shots.
Rovers did enjoy the best part of the territorial advantage, though, and the first opportunity did come soon after when Tom Parkes was only denied a goal because Amankwaah was in the right place at the right time to clear off the line.
The opening goal did eventually come – in the 23rd minute – as Norburn profited from Krysiak’s moment of madness following dogged work from John-Joe O’Toole to win the ball on the halfway line before beginning the successful passage of play.
Exeter did perk up towards the end of the opening period, but Rovers stood firm and almost doubled their advantage when the ball dropped kindly for Parkes at another corner. The Rovers skipper, though, scuffed his effort wide.
Rovers (4-4-2): Mildenhall; Smith, Parkes, McChrystal, Brown; Norburn, Woodards, O’Toole, Harrison; Richards, Brunt. Subs: Gough, Paterson, Broghammer, McDonald, Hitchcock, Lockyer, Tounkara.
Exeter City (4-4-2): Krysiak; Amankwaah, Coles, Baldwin, Woodman; Oakley, Doherty, Bennett, Davies; O’Flynn, Cureton. Subs: Evans, Tully, Bauza, Keohane, Dawson, Gosling, Moore-Taylor.