DAZ: MY LADS CAN LIVE WITH THE BEST
DARRELL Clarke insists his Bristol Rovers team can live with any League Two opposition as they battle for back-to-back promotions.
And the manager pointed to a second 1-1 draw against high-riding West Country rivals Plymouth Argyle this season as proof that last term’s Conference play-off winners can achieve at least a top-seven finish.
Rovers looked like taking all three points when substitute Billy Bodin headed them in front from close range 11 minutes from time.
But Plymouth midfielder Josh Simpson conjured up a superb right-footed finish from the edge of the box on 88 minutes to send the 1,200 away fans in a 10,190 crowd home happy.
Clarke said: “The league table doesn’t lie and Plymouth are not up there for nothing, but we feel we can beat anyone in the division on our day.
“Our two games against them this season could have gone either way, which suggests there isn’t much between the teams.
“If I’m honest, they had the edge for much of this game, but we created some good chances and might easily have won.
“I made a couple of substitutions early in the second half and switched to 4-4-2 because they were causing us problems on the flanks.
“We looked more solid after that, but might have seen the game out better after going in front.”
Argyle boss Derek Adams claimed Bodin’s goal owed much to good fortune, feeling there was a handball in the build-up and that Jermaine Easter’s back-heel into the scorer’s path eight yards out was lucky, rather than skilful.
Adams’ mood improved when Simpson connected sweetly with Carl McHugh’s chest down to beat Steve Mildenhall and earn a point.
But the manager felt his side deserved more. “We controlled the first half and had the chances to be two or three up at half-time,” he said.
“I’m disappointed with a draw because I couldn’t see Rovers scoring and when they did it was with two slices of luck.They are a very good side, who had won at Oxford in their previous game, so I’m pleased with the way we performed.
“For most of the game only one side looked like winning and had we taken our opportunities we would have earned all three points. But an away draw is not the end of the world and we could take a lot from the game.”
Tom Lockyer had a second-half header tipped onto a post by Plymouth goalkeeper Luke McCormick, in a competitive and evenly-fought West country derby.
Plymouth controlled the early exchanges and almost went ahead on the half-hour when the dangerous Greg Wylde saw his fierce left-footed shot hit the bar.
Wylde caused problems on Argyle’s left flank and his 41st minute cross set up an opportunity for Jake Jervis that was deflected over. Both sides had chances in the closing stages, Chris Lines firing narrowly wide for Rovers and Jervis seeing a far post header blocked from another Wylde cross.
CRUCIAL SCORE: Josh Simpson is congratulated on his late equaliser for Argyle, after Billy Bodin had put Rovers in front, inset STAR MAN TOM