O’TOOLE STINGS ROVERS AGAIN
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.”
FIRST IN: Ryan Cresswell of Northampton heads clear from Jermaine Easter
ON THE WAY: John-Joe O’Toole celebrates scoring for Northampton