Bristol Rovers 1-2 Port Vale: an injury ravaged Port Vale side were too good for nine men Bristol Rovers as Darrell Clarke enjoyed his return to the Memorial Ground.
With a lot of focus on the numerous injuries to the frontline, manager Darrell Clarke named Devante Rodney and Dennis Politic as his pairing upfront but there was no forward to be found among the substitutes. Aidan Stone made his first League start in goal.
Tom Conlon, who was displaying his full range of passing, was to play a prominent role in the first-half. On eight minutes, he played in David Worrall whose low shot was met by Dennis Politic producing a fine save.
The home side countered with chances for Finley and Anderson before an incident on fourteen minutes saw Finley dismissed after he appeared to clash with Conlon. The dismissal handed the Valiants the upper hand and they took advantage in some style.
The influential Conlon took a 30th minute free-kick which whipped across the box and Ben Garrity connected with his drive going in off the crossbar. Minutes later, a stunning pass from Conlon set Lewis Cass free and he drove into the box, passing the ball to Garrity who converted from close range for his second of the game and sixth of the season.
It could have been more as Vale dominated. The most spectacular was a Conlon long-range effort which was tipped wide. However, a depleted Vale side would have been delighted with their half-time lead.
Half-time: Bristol Rovers 0-2 Port Vale
It was a much improved second-half display by the home team as they put Vale under pressure in the early stages. There was another striker injury for Vale as Devante Rodney was forced off, leaving the half-fit Politic as the only recognised forward. A great ball from Jones set Politic free but his shot was blocked. However, it was Rovers who would score next as Collins’ effort was deflected past Stone.
Jones was fortunate as he received only a yellow for hard challenge on a Rovers man as Vale came under mounting pressure. Vale’s only effort of note was a Conlon free-kick as the home side pushed for an equaliser.
The game looked to be still in the balance at that stage. However, the wind was taken out of the home side’s sails when Harries put in a head high challenge on Garrity who was through on goal. It was a clear red both in terms of a dangerous challenge and a professional foul and Rovers were rightly reduced to nine men.
Despite their two man advantage, Vale were largely content to manage the closing stages although they nearly made it three only for Conlon’s free-kick to be well saved. Despite four minutes of added time, the Valiants held on relatively comfortably to record an excellent away victory.
Credit to Darrell Clarke and his side for the performance they put on despite the club’s striking woes. It was a good all-round display but midfield duo Ben Garrity and Tom Conlon were particularly influential. Rovers fans showed their dissatisfaction with the referee at the end and while it was difficult to judge if the first red was justified as it took place off the ball, the second dismissal looked justified. However, Vale won’t care less about the referee’s display and will be happy to travel back to Burslem with a hard fought three points in the bag.
Full-time: Bristol Rovers 1-2 Port Vale
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Port Vale: Stone; Cass, Smith, Jones; Worrall (Martin), Pett, Conlon, Garrity, Gibbons; Rodney (Walker), Politic (Burgess)
Subs: Covolan, Legge, Amos, Benning
Port Vale bookings: Jones, Politic