Murphy double seals fourth successive home League win
Rhys Murphy scored twice in a minute as hardworking Reds moved into the top half of the table with a fourth successive League Two home win against Bristol Rovers.
The visitors would consider themselves unfortunate not to return to the West Country with something to show for their efforts other than Matty Taylor’s 87th-minute penalty, having dominated possession for long spells after Murphy stunned them with a close-range opener in the ninth minute and a superb curling effort into the top corner 56 seconds later.
The back four certainly earned their corn with Sonny Bradley and Josh Yorwerth outstanding and Reds remained resolute and organised throughout to claim a win that moves them up to 14th place and only four points off the play-offs.
Reds made one change to the team which drew 2-2 at Exeter last Saturday. Yorwerth returned in central defence at the expense of Jon Ashton, who dropped to the bench. Ross Jenkins was also named among the subs with Gavin Tomlin dropping out of the squad.
The hosts started strongly and Roarie Deacon had a sight of goal in the fourth minute after a good build-up but his right-foot effort went wide after the midfielder opted for placement rather than power. Gwion Edwards then drifted in from the right but his low shot was always going wide of the near post.
Matt Harrold had a good chance in the eighth minute against his former club. Mitch Hancox made a great run forward and his hanging cross to the far post was headed just wide.
But Reds didn’t have to wait long for a goal as two came along in 56 seconds, both netted by Murphy.
He put Reds ahead in the ninth minute, beating the offside trap to stab the ball home from close range after Deacon had prodded a deep cross from Edwards into the space beyond the Rovers’ central defenders.
His second moments later was a goal of the season contender. Reds broke forward and although Murphy had options to his right he opted to go for goal and his curling effort dipped over Lee Nicholls, who was fractionally off his line, and into the net.
Rovers, who arrived with six away wins this season, were stung into action and won a free kick, after Jimmy Smith was booked for bringing down Jermaine Easter, and successive Billy Bodin corners.
Using the strong wind to their advantage, they went closest when Hancox cleared a flick from James Clarke off the line. Another Bodin corner was met by Taylor but, under pressure from Smith, he headed over.
The visitors had certainly mounted an impressive response to Murphy’s quick-fire double and Bodin should have pulled one back on 26 minutes but his half-volley flew wide of the left-hand post when he ought to have least tested Darryl Flahavan. Bodin then fired in another corner from the right which dropped on the line before Bradley hacked it clear with Rovers’ players slow to react.
Nicholls was relieved to see Yorwerth’s looping header from Walton’s corner eight minutes before the break drop just over the bar before Lee Brown was booked for a late challenge on Bradley.
Reds had the wind behind them now but it was Rovers who created the first chance of the half, Harrison heading powerfully but well from Bodin’s cross. Reds responded well and Deacon and Harrold had both seen shots blocked while Simon Walton's corner just needed a touch from a team-mate as it flew across the six-yard box.
Flahavan was called into action on 53 minutes when Harrison met Brown’s cross with a downward header but the Reds’ keeper plunged to his left to make a comfortable save.
Rovers were again dominating possession too easily for the home faithful but Reds remained organised and compact when they didn’t have the ball and on the break they were a threat. Moments after Bradley almost profited after Harrold’s shot was blocked Murphy embarked on a 60-yard run but as he was about to shoot Tom Parkes got across to make a vital interception.
Yorwerth was booked on 63 minutes for impeding Nicholls before Reds had a big let-off on 65 minutes when Bodin cut inside and saw his shot beat Flahavan with the aid of a deflection and bounce back off the inside of the post into the keeper’s arms.
Walton then made a great tackle as Jermaine Easter led a counter-attack to deny the former Palace striker at the expense of a corner.
Reds made their first change when Harrold was replaced by Luke Rooney before Jake Gosling came on for Clarke for Rovers with 15 minutes to go.
As the game entered its final stages Reds continued to defend impressively. Yorwerth made a brilliant interception on the line to stop Easter converting another dangerous ball in from Bodin.
Murphy gave way for Lee Barnard with six minutes to go before Rovers got one back with three minutes to go. Hancox brought down Bodin inside the box and Taylor sent Flahavan the wrong way from the resultant penalty.
Reds made their final change with Ashton coming on for Edwards to make it 5-3-2 and they negotiated the remaining minutes to secure a precious three points.