Depleted Rovers secured their fourth League win of the campaign, beating Portsmouth in a game that contained enough drama for its own mini-series.
Rovers had only one striker, Liam Mandeville, available but he took just three minutes to find the net. Tommy Rowe drove into the box and found Rodney Kongolo, whose low cross was turned in by Mandeville. Two minutes later Rovers doubled their lead when Harry Toffolo’s corner was headed down by Rowe and helped into goal by defender Christian Burgess. It could have been three soon after, but Andy Butler’s powerful header from another corner was scrambled clear.
Gradually Portsmouth came into the game; their best chance coming when Burgess headed a free-kick over Ian Lawlor only for Joe Wright to head off the line. Rovers lead 2-0 at the break.
Soon after the restart the visitors’ Conor Chaplin fired a free-kick against Lawlor’s post, then on 54 minutes Portsmouth pulled one back in bizarre circumstances. Lawlor allowed Matthieu Baudry’s back-pass to run under his foot and was unable to clear the ball before it crossed the line.
With Rovers struggling to keep possession, an equaliser looked likely until Dion Donohoe was stupidly sent off for kicking out at Niall Mason. Rovers seemed comfortable until the fourth minute of stoppage time when Jamal Lowe’s header was brilliantly turned away by Lawlor, atoning for his earlier error.
That save ensured a valuable three points for Rovers against the side who pipped them to last season’s League Two title.
by John Coyle