YOUTH IS MATCH FOR EXPERIENCE
BRISTOL Rovers’ young guns came of age, staying solid to frustrate an experienced Scunthorpe United line-up and get their season up and running.
The Pirates never really looked like scoring, with the Iron dominating up front and in midfield.
But the way 18-year-old midfielder Tom Lockyer performed as a makeshift centre-back, when skipper Tom Parkes was stretchered off with concussion after just 17 minutes, typified a display of courage and industry.
“I couldn’t ask any more of the young players,” said Rovers manager John Ward, missing as many as ten members of his first-team squad because of an horrific injury list.
“They’ve shown they’ve got no fear, but they are also good players. They take a bit of knocking back – I’ll have to protect them at some stage, but hopefully in two or three weeks we’ll get some players back and I can look after them.
“One or two of them will probably say on Monday ‘can I have a breather?’ but they probably won’t get one.
“Obviously you want to win your home games, but by the same token you don’t want to get beat.
“I’m pleased we’re off the mark. That’s the big thing for everybody, it’s a plus for the players and the supporters.”
Clear-cut chances were non-existent at both ends, but Scunthorpe dominated, even if home goalkeeper Steve Mildenhall was rarely called into action against the club where he spent two months on loan last season. United were most threatening in the 15 minutes before half-time, when Sam Winnall hit the outside of the post from an angle and then had another effort cleared off the line by full-back Michael Smith.
Terry Hawkridge, a constant threat on the right wing, also struck the woodwork with a cracking shot from 30 yards out.
After the break, veteran front man Deon Burton – almost 20 years the senior of the majority of names on the Rovers bench – did test Mildenhall, but the keeper reacted well to flick his header over the bar.
Substitute Mitch Harding, another of the Pirates’ talented teens, came closest for the home side when he fired wide from Ellis Harrison’s pass 11 minutes from time.
Scunthorpe boss Brian Laws – who has seen his side pick up four points from their two games – described the result as a missed opportunity, but acknowledged the effort of their hosts.
“They dug in deep,” he admitted. “We had large portions of the play and dominated at times but when you get in the final third, you’ve got to score.
“We had a few chances and it would have only taken one goal to win it, but we couldn’t get it.We were very organised and solid, which gives us a good base to work from.We had to come and take advantage of Bristol Rovers’ problems.”
BRISTOL ROVERS: (4-4-1-1): Mildenhall 7, Smith 6, Parkes 6 (Santos 17 6), McChrystal 6, Brown 5, Clarkson 5 (Harding 74 6), Lockyer 6, Norburn 6, Harrison 7, O’Toole 6, Richards 6 Subs not used: Gough, Keary, Southway, Lucas
SCUNTHORPE: (4-1-4-1): Slocombe 6, Ribeiro 6, Mirfin 7, Canavan 7, Nolan 7, Collins 7, Hawkridge 8 (Welsh 79, 5), Sparrow 7, McAllister 7, Winnall 7 (Godden 69 5), Burton 6 (Iwelumo 69 5) Subs not used: Severn, Waterfall, Howe, Clark
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