O’TOOLE STINGS ROVERS AGAIN

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

CHRIS Wilder couldn’t re­sist af­ford­ing him­self a pat on the back for se­lect­ing match-win­ner John-Joe O’Toole at Bristol Rovers.

The Northamp­ton boss was con­cerned – rightly as it turned out – at the re­cep­tion the midfielder would re­ceive from Rovers fans fol­low­ing com­ments he made when leav­ing the club in 2014.

O’Toole was roundly booed ev­ery time he re­ceived the ball, but he re­fused to take the bait and gave the crit­ics a re­minder of his eye for goal by net­ting the win­ner on 49 min­utes.

David Buchanan volleyed in a cross from the left and O’Toole rose to power a header past Steve Milden­hall from 12 yards in the fash­ion that brought 15 Rovers goals in his fi­nal sea­son with the club.

Wilder said: “It would have been easy to leave John-Joe out be­cause of the off-the-field stuff that hap­pened when he left Rovers.

“But I felt he could han­dle what­ever was thrown at him. He took it from the start, but never re­acted once and came up with a goal that is typ­i­cal of him.

“Over­all, I felt we played bet­ter af­ter go­ing in front. Our two cen­tre-backs were strong and we ended up win­ning what was al­ways go­ing to be a tough open­ing game against op­po­nents with mo­men­tum from last sea­son.

“They had a cou­ple of good chances, but we had op­por­tu­ni­ties to make the game safe. We didn’t take them and could never af­ford to re­lax, but it’s an ex­cel­lent start for us.”

Both sides should have scored in the first half. Marc Richards broke clear for Northamp­ton on eight min­utes and slid his low shot wide with only Steve Milden­hall to beat.

Rovers’ Matt Tay­lor was equally at fault on 36 min­utes when he ran onto a weak back-header from Richard Cress­well and rounded goal­keeper Adam Smith only to de­lay his shot and lose pos­ses­sion.

An er­ratic sec­ond half of few op­por­tu­ni­ties saw Milden­hall save from Cress­well and Richards to pre­vent fur­ther Northamp­ton goals. It was an en­er­getic game de­spite the hot weather, but for Rovers boss Dar­rell Clarke a dis­ap­point­ing re­turn to the Football League in front of an 8,000 crowd.

He ad­mit­ted: “We can play so much bet­ter.We were sucked into the sort of game Northamp­ton wanted to play and they slowed it down at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity, which is to their credit.

“The play­ers knew all about John-Joe O’Toole’s abil­ity to score goals, so I am par­tic­u­larly dis­ap­pointed that we al­lowed him room to score the win­ner.

“I have told the lads they need to take more re­spon­si­bil­ity on the ball if we are to cre­ate enough chances in League Two.

“And we are go­ing to have to take a greater per­cent­age be­cause there won’t be as many as we had in the Con­fer­ence.

“We will be back on the train­ing ground on Mon­day and have a League Cup tie against Birm­ing­ham City on Tues­day, which will give me the op­por­tu­nity to look at one or two op­tions.”

PIC­TURES: JMP

FIRST IN: Ryan Cress­well of Northamp­ton heads clear from Jer­maine Easter

ON THE WAY: John-Joe O’Toole cel­e­brates scor­ing for Northamp­ton

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