Bristol Rovers grabbed their first win of the season with a gritty 1-0 victory against Lincoln City at Sincil Bank this afternoon.
The hosts made two changes to the line up that lost to Wycombe last weekend, with Jorge Grant picking up an injury in midweek. He was replaced by Bruno Andrade, with Joe Morrell also returning to the side after his stint with Wales.
The visitors made three changes; Ed Upson returned to the starting XI after missing out on the draw with Accrington. Anssi Jaakkola came back from Finland duty to take the keeper’s jersey and former Bolton man Mark Little replaced Josh Hare.
If Lincoln were affected by the loss of their manager earlier in the week, it wasn’t evident from the start. They had a good shout for a penalty within three minutes, Rovers appearing to push the ball out for a corner using an arm.
Clarke-Harris blocked the resulting delivery to keep the scores level. The home side were undeterred though and with ten minutes on the clock, Jack Payne cut across the front of the 18-yard area and lashed an effort at goal which was saved by Jaakkola.
Lincoln continued to have the bulk of the possession in the early exchanges, but as the half wore on Rovers certainly grew into the game. Jonson Clarke-Harris had their first effort at goal, slicing a shot horribly wide; so horribly wide it went out for a throw.
Just after the hour mark Rovers impressed themselves on the game further. A lovely ball from Ed Upson found Tom Nichols, whose header drew a fingertip save from Josh Vickers. From the resulting corner, Ollie Clarke found acres of space but fired high and wide.
As half time approached the Imps found another chance, a loose pass from the visitors was cut out by Bruno Andrade. He fed in Tyler Walker, but the striker hooked his effort across goal and wide of Jaakkola’s far post.
Another loose ball, this time from Harry Anderson, was intercepted by Tom Nichols, who fed in Ollie Clarke only for the Gas man to drag his daisy-cutter wide. Still the hosts pressed and could have grabbed a lead thanks to a frantic few seconds in which Mark Little and Clarke-Harris had shots blocked.
0-0 was perhaps fair at half time, although the bulk of the clear chances had fallen to the visitors.
The early exchanges of the second half belonged to the Imps. Tyler Walker was at the centre of most of their good work, but no clear cut chances presented themselves.
The best chance fell to Jack Payne, a Harry Anderson cross evading the diminutive midfielder and arrowing across the six-yard box. Neal Eardley blasted over from a free-kick, Ollie Clarke doing the same at the other end from a corner.
The game turned on 65 minutes, Tom Nichols found some space in the area and was bundled over by Eardley for a penalty. Despite the protests Carl Boyeson held firm and Jonson Clarke-Harris fired in from the spot to give the Gas the lead.
It was the first goal they’d scored away from home and it knocked the home side off their stride. The visitors certainly managed the game, with plenty of stoppages for injuries and game management.
Lincoln fans felt they deserved a penalty with 20 minutes left, Michael O’Connor going down in the box under an Ed Upson challenge but nothing given.
The noise levels cranked up as the game wore on, with Rovers almost grabbing a second with five minutes left. Tyler Smith got away from his man and lashed a shot at Vickers, who saved well. At the other end, Joe Morrell fired an effort through a crowd which deflected for a corner.
Despite the referee signalling six minutes of injury time, the home side couldn’t find a way through. Michael O’Connor hooked a late half-volley over, meaning the Imps suffered their first defeat at home in the league this season.