O’TOOLE FIXES IT FOR THE PI­RATES

The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE TWO - By Richard Latham

JOHN-JOE O’Toole headed his 12th goal of the sea­son to sal­vage a point for strug­gling Bris­tol Rovers and earn high praise from boss John Ward in the process.

The free-scor­ing mid­fielder had been asked to adopt a deeper role af­ter the 67th minute in­tro­duc­tion of new sign­ing Steven Gille­spie as an at­tack­ing sub­sti­tute.

But that didn’t stop O’Toole get­ting for­ward in the 84th minute to head home Lee Brown’s cross from a free-kick on the corner of the box.

Ward purred: “The sup­port­ers voted JohnJoe man-of-the-match and I thank them for that be­cause he was asked to play sev­eral dif­fer­ent po­si­tions over the 90 min­utes.

“I hope that was ap­pre­ci­ated. I wanted Steven Gille­spie to get into for­ward po­si­tions, which meant John-Joe had to curb his at­tack­ing in­stincts.

“But he makes a habit of get­ting into good scor­ing po­si­tions and we man­aged to find him with a qual­ity de­liv­ery.

“Our heads could have dropped in tough con­di­tions against a very good side, but we are strong as a group and that men­tal­ity will see us through.”

Ox­ford care­taker-boss Mickey Lewis was frus­trated that his side could not hold onto a tenth-minute lead gained when Deane Smal­ley chested a Dave Kit­son cross into James Con­sta­ble’s patch.

The striker net­ted with a deft vol­ley out of the top drawer and it was a goal fit to win any game.

Lewis said:“We looked pretty com­fort­able for most of the game and had good chances to in­crease the lead, so I’m dis­ap­pointed in that re­spect.

“James hadn’t scored for a few games, but we know he is a qual­ity fin­isher and he got on the end of a very good move.

“We should have seen the game out, but we started giv­ing away too many free-kicks and putting our­selves un­der pres­sure.

“In the end we could have lost it. A point away at Bris­tol Rovers is still pleas­ing be­cause they have some very good play­ers and an ex­cel­lent man­ager.”

Josh Ruf­fels wasted the best chance to dou­ble Ox­ford’s lead when he blazed over on 57 min­utes af­ter the dan­ger­ous Con­sta­ble had laid on a clear open­ing.

Tom Lock­yer forced a good sec­ond-half save from goal­keeper Ryan Clarke in a game of few clear cut op­por­tu­ni­ties for ei­ther side.

Rovers had the ball in the net on 31 min­utes when Kaid Mo­hamed’s header was de­flected in by O’Toole, whose cel­e­bra­tions were cut short by a lines­man’s flag for off­side.

And the home side nearly won it at the death when a low in­jury-time shot from Brown grazed a post.

Both teams had to con­tend with a fierce wind and a tricky play­ing sur­face, which made ball con­trol and ac­cu­rate pass­ing very dif­fi­cult.

And it was prob­a­bly fit­ting that both sides left with some­thing to show for their ef­forts.

PIC­TURES: Pin­na­cle

JOHN-JOY: Bris­tol Rovers’ John-Joe O’Toole af­ter he scores, inset, the equaliser

STAR MAN JAMES CONST

ABLE Ox­ford

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