Bristol Rovers: Mildenhall, Leadbitter, L. Brown, Lockyer, McChrystal (capt), Mansell (Lawrence 90’), Taylor (Easter 84’), Lines, Montano (Clarke 62’), Bodin, Gaffney.
Subs: Puddy, Parkes, Harrison, McBurnie.
Goals: Bodin 13’, L. Brown 45+3’, Taylor 69’
Exeter City: Olejnik, Woodman (McAllister 54’), Noble, Ribeiro, Harley, Holmes (Grant 86’), Moore-Taylor (capt), Watkins, Stockley, Taylor, Brown (Nicholls 62’).
Subs: Pym, Davies, Reid, Tillson.
Goals: Taylor 48’
Referee: Nigel Miller
GOALS from Billy Bodin, Lee Brown and Sky Bet League 2 top-scorer Matty Taylor consigned Exeter City to a second defeat of the week at the Memorial Stadium, ending the Grecians' hopes of a play-off finish.
City had an uphill battle in the second period after conceding goals at either end of the first half, but they came out flying after the interval with Jake Taylor scoring within seconds of the restart. In the end though the Grecians couldn’t quite mount a comeback, as Taylor’s twenty-eighth goal of the campaign wrapped up the points for the hosts midway through the second-half.
There was one change to the City side as they looked for a sixth successive win at the Memorial Stadium; Christian Ribeiro resumed starting duties at right-back after his screamer in mid-week, and Football League Young Player of the Month Ollie Watkins continued in an advanced midfield role having found the net five times in as many matches since late March. For the hosts, Rory Gaffney, who made his Rovers debut in the corresponding fixture at St James Park last November, was partnered up-top with Matty Taylor.
With Rovers chasing automatic promotion and the Grecians on the coattails of seventh-placed AFC Wimbledon, it was no surprise to see both sides begin the game with plenty of attacking intent. Within the first sixty seconds Cristian Montano registered a first shot on goal for the home side, but his driven effort from the left of the D deflected off one of his own teammates and out for a goal-kick. It was the visitors turn to threaten seven minutes later, as Lee Holmes’ in-swinging corner narrowly alluded a queue of attackers on the edge of the six-yard box.
Bobby Olejnik was called into action twice in quick succession as Rovers cranked up the pressure with ten minutes played. First Chris Lines tested the Austrian with a speculative effort from twenty-five yards out, before a header from close-range was pushed wide. The hosts weren’t to be denied though as they broke the deadlock with their next attack. Montano was involved again, sliding a well-weighted ball into the path Billy Bodin who made no mistake in firing past Olejnik to take his tally for the season into double figures.
The Grecians responded brightly, though, carving out two chances soon after falling behind. First Steve Mildenhall was at full stretch to deny Jake Taylor, before Jordan Moore-Taylor headed over from close-range. City were made to rue their missed chances as the hosts doubled their lead in first-half stoppage time. After Troy Brown was adjudged to have fouled Taylor on the edge of the area it was Lee Brown who stepped up to take the free-kick, and the defender finished with aplomb to send his side in for the half-time interval two goals to the good.
HALF-TIME: BRISTOL ROVERS 2-0 EXETER CITY
The Grecians made the best possible start to the second-half as Jake Taylor halved the deficit just three minutes after the break. After being picked out by Ryan Harley, the former Royals midfielder dropped a shoulder before curling an expertly-placed strike into the far corner.
The visitors looked upbeat after the goal with Jayden Stockley, Holmes and Watkins all going close in a rampant ten-minute spell. Rovers’ goal tally is currently only bettered by the top three sides in Sky Bet League 2, and they made that attacking potency count in the sixty-ninth minute. Just as it looked liked City had the momentum heading into the final twenty minutes, a swift counter-attacking move resulted in Taylor cutting in from the left and drilling home with his right to make it ten goals in as many games for the in-form striker.
Ollie Clarke looked lively after his introduction, dragging one wide of Olejnik’s right-hand post with fifteen minutes of regulation time remaining, before the lively Bodin tested the City stopper with a curling effort from long-range.
There was still time for the Grecians to threaten at the death as substitute Joel Grant saw two efforts blocked by Rovers defenders, and then Taylor’s volley spun narrowly wide of the right-post. It wasn’t to be though for City, as after six minutes of stoppage time the referee brought to an end a frustrating afternoon in the West Country sunshine.
FULL-TIME: BRISTOL ROVERS 3-1 EXETER CITY
Attendance: 10,254 (893 away)
Man of the Match: Jake Taylor