Saturday, September 21, 2013

Bristol Rovers 2-2 Hartlepool United (League Two)

John-Joe O'Toole netted a late equaliser to rescue a point for Rovers against Hartlepool United. The midfielder fired home from the edge of the box to cancel out a Luke James brace in a much better second half performance.
JJ rescues point - Lifted from:

It was an awful first half showing from Rovers. The ball was hoofed forward at every opportunity, our defending was panicky and there was no attacking intent. It was inevitable that we would pay the price, even against poor opposition such as Hartlepool, although nobody would have anticipated that this would be the case once we had, unbelievably, opened the scoring. Striker Matt Harrold swivelled in the penalty area and fired a terrific effort beyond Scott Flinders into the bottom corner. There was a collective sigh of relief from around the Mem - surely we could now raise our game and build on the lead?

Well, no. Almost before celebrations had died down the Monkey Hangers equalised through the lively James. The teenage forward received the ball outside the penalty area and manoeuvred space to drill a low strike into the bottom corner for 1-1. They say that you are at your most vulnerable after scoring but our defending was shambolic as James waltzed away from every Gas shirt.

Inexplicably, Rovers offered no response to the goal and Hartelpool doubled their tally just before half-time. Poor defending from a set-piece saw the ball bounce around the box towards James, who scrambled the ball home past a stranded Steve Mildenhall. Groans emerged from the Blackthorn End as they nobody could believe how woefully we were playing. There needed to be a big revival at half-time if we were to bring the game back from what looked like defeat. Hartlepool hadn't played particularly well for their lead and that was the most disappointing aspect - we were losing to a poor outfit.

Thankfully there was a massive improvement in the second half and the boys came out fighting. Immediate pressure was exerted on a stretched Pools back-line and a number of corners were forced from right wing crosses. There were near misses and desperate late blocks from their defence but it looked for all the world that an equaliser was arriving from striker Eliot Richards. The Welshman nudged a shot on goal that took a deflection and bounced agonisingly off the crossbar and behind for a corner. Then, Harrold headed inches wide when well placed before an Andy Bond effort cannoned off a diving defender.

The Gas have not won from a losing position in 70-odd matches and it seemed like that was set to continue with time elapsing. We deserved to get at least an equaliser for our second half exploits but even that didn't look like it was going to come. Thankfully, however, substitute David Clarkson got the ball out left, a low ball eventually found O'Toole, who drilled home through the legs of a distraught Flinders.

We didn't have enough nous to go on and get a winner but it is a point gained considering the fact we were trailing going into the final seconds. The second half was much better than the first but it still wasn't good enough to warrant 3 points and that's the most frustrating thing. We simply are not performing well enough and that's a major concern because it isn't good enough.

We now face a difficult trip to Southend United next Friday looking for our first points away from home.

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