The Gas pre-season programme got underway yesterday evening and saw a battling draw with Bath City played out at Twerton Park.
The squad went into the match having only finished their extensive fitness camp in Lincolnshire earlier in the day and a number of the players tweeted to explain how tired they were pre-match. It was, however, exactly the build-up John Ward had wanted to thrust on his team. Ellis Harrison and Mitch Harding missed out with slight injury concerns and goalkeeper Steve Mildenhall vacated the number 1 role to give Conor Gough some game-time. Former Stoke City trialist George Rigg was named in the XI who would play in the second half, occupying a central midfield spot alongside Ollie Clarke.
Bath took the lead early in the game when winger Alefe Santos fouled a player in the box. Ross Stearn took the spot-kick and while Gough dived the right way it was struck with enough conviction to find the bottom corner. Rovers grew into the game and equalised 26 minutes in through striker Ryan Brunt, who toed Eliot Richards' lobbed cross home from 1 yard out. The game remained goalless then until the second half but it didn't take long for Rovers to edge in front. Matt Harrold combined with strike partner David Clarkson and swept home from 10 yards out. Almost immediately though Bath restored parity when Andy Watkins rolled past Gough after being supplied from midfield. We had better of the second 45 minutes but in fairness to Bath they were impressive throughout and worked hard to ensure the game finished 2-2.
The players will have taken a lot from the encounter in terms of developing their match fitness and it sets them up nicely for a tougher looking friendly against Hereford United on Tuesday evening.