BRISTOL ROVERS were hit by a sucker punch as Walsall struck in the 94th minute to take all three points at the Mem on Saturday, writes Stephen Knowlson.

The play-off chasing Saddlers promised a tough test for Darrell Clarke’s men after enjoying a positive start to the season. Darrell made four changes to the team that ground out a stalemate at Rochdale, dropping Sercombe, Partington, Broadbent and Payne and bringing in Nichols, Reilly, Martin and Leadbitter to set up in a 4-4-2 formation.

The early exchanges were fairly scrappy with a lack of attacking quality from both sides. Jack Bonham was forced into a decent save from Morgan Ferrier whilst Rovers’ Gavin Reilly tested Liam Roberts in the Walsall goal. The first half saw some decent blocks from Craig and Olly Clarke and a couple of searching Chris Lines crosses, but in truth it was pretty uneventful with both defences well on top.

The second period was more of the same except Rovers looked increasingly unlikely to score, relying on long distance shots from Clarke, Lines and sub Alex Jakubiak. As the game opened up, Walsall were increasingly threatening Bonham’s goal, with the on-loan stopper saving from Andy Cook when the Saddlers man was through one-on-one.

Just when the game appeared to be petering out into a draw, Sam Matthews’ free kick clipped a post but within seconds Walsall swept up the pitch and Kieron Morris slotted home to give Walsall all three points and break Gasheads’ hearts.

It was a cruel blow, but Rovers will not win if we don’t find the net. It’s been five and a half hours of league football since we last scored and our attack-minded players need to step up to the plate and deliver. The result means that we slip into the relegation places with a quarter of the season played.

Tuesday night saw a change of scenery as Rovers hosted Yeovil for a Checkatrade Trophy tie with our Somerset neighbours. Goals from Jakubiak and the returning Alex Rodman secured a win and a place in the knockout stages.

Hopefully Rovers will take that solid Trophy performance into Saturday’s tricky looking away tie at Burton Albion.