Half-time: Lee Brown penalty offers Bristol Rovers a slender advantage at Rotherham
Lee Brown has converted from the penalty spot to offer Bristol Rovers a deserving lead against promotion-chasing Rotherham United at the New York Stadium this afternoon.
Defender Brown stepped up to send Rotherham goalkeeper Andy Warrington the wrong way from 12 yards after debutant striker Ryan Brunt was wrestled to the ground by defender Claude Davis following a floated delivery in to the penalty area off the boot of John-Joe O'Toole.
Things went from bad to worse for Steve Evans' promotion-chasing side when defender Davis, making his debut after arriving from Crawley Town earlier this week, received a second yellow card for a trip on Eliot Richards to prevent him from going through on goal in first-half stoppage time
Evans was red-faced in his dug-out, clearly livid, – but could have few complaints over Rovers holding a slender advantage at the break following a disciplined opening 45 minutes in which they defended stoically to frustrate the Millers.
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Ward's men actually enjoyed the best of the few chances that were presented to either side; Richards having an effort from distance deflected away for a corner before Brunt saw a similar attempt go the same way.
Rotherham, meanwhile, failed to pose any sort of threat on Rovers' goal for over half-an-hour – when the first chance did come, midfielder Michael O'Connor could only curl his free-kick from the edge of the Rovers penalty area into a well-formed defensive wall.
Millers Striker Daniel Nardiello also guided a header well wide – but other than that an organised rearguard action ensured Rovers were relatively comfortable for the majority of proceedings. Ward, meanwhile, had made three changes to the side that secured an impressive 3-0 victory at Fleetwood Town a fortnight ago.
The manager handed a debut to new boy Brunt after completing a deal to sign the striker from Stoke City earlier this week – but decided to retain the back four that performed so admirably at Fleetwood last time out by starting recent arrival Clayton McDonald amongst the substitutes.
Joe Anyinsah started on the right-hand side of a front three following his return from a hamstring injury – but David Clarkson only made it as far as the bench after recovering from an ankle complaint that has sidelined him since Boxing Day.
Oliver Norburn started in a three-man midfield for the first time since the New Year's Day victory over Plymouth Argyle. Ellis Harrison, Danny Woodards and Tom Hitchcock were the unlucky trio to drop out of the starting line-up after all performing impressively at Fleetwood.
Rovers (4-3-3): Mildenhall; Smith, Parkes, McChrystal, Brown; Clucas, O'Toole, Norburn; Anyinsah, Brunt, Richards. Subs: Gough, Broghammer, Woodards, Harrison, Hitchcock, McDonald, Clarkson.
Rotherham United (4-4-2): Warrington; Tonge, Mullins, Davis, Ridelagh; Arnason, Frecklington, O'Connor, Pringle; Nardiello, Revell. Subs: Thompson, Morgan, Odejayi, Noble, Agard, Cameron, Kearns.