Forest Green Rovers put in a spirited performance to claim all three points at a packed Fully Charged New Lawn, registering a 2-0 victory over Bristol Rovers.
Captain Jamille Matt netted both goals for Rovers, moving onto ten league goals for the season, as the 32-year-old put in an impressive display to fire Rob Edwards’ side to a crucial victory.
Rovers would be forced to play out the final 30 minutes with ten men, as Udoka Godwin-Malife received a second yellow card and his marching orders.
The result means that Rovers have extended their lead at the top of the League Two table to six points, with Harrogate Town up next in the league for Edwards’ men.
The Rovers Head Coach elected to make two changes to the starting XI that beat Barrow in midweek, as Udoka Godwin-Malife replaced the injured Kane Wilson and Jack Aitchison took the spot of Regan Hendry in the line-up.
The visiting side started on the front foot in Nailsworth, as Luke McGee and the Rovers backline were put under pressure in the opening stages by Bristol Rovers.
Rovers would grow into the game and were unfortunate not to open the scoring through the enigmatic efforts of Nicky Cadden.
The Scotsman made a powerful drive into the edge of the box on the 15th minute, finding Matt with his left-foot, although the Rovers’ captain couldn’t quite find his feet in the box and Cadden fired over after the ball bounced into his path.
Cadden would continue to cause problems for Joshua Grant down the left-hand side, elegantly beating his opposite number and finding the outstretched leg of Matty Stevens, who would’ve broken the deadlock had it not been for the efforts of Belshaw.
Rovers continued to grow into the game, and their efforts were rewarded as they finally got their goal in the 19th minute, much to the pleasure of the home fans.
Captain Jamille Matt latched onto the delivery of Ben Stevenson from deep, making a fine run past a helpless Bristol Rovers’ backline before firing past James Belshaw, to register his ninth league goal of the season.
Nick Anderton would be handed a yellow card after catching the leg of Udoka Godwin-Malife in the 28th minute.
Rovers took advantage of the set-piece and could count themselves unfortunate not to double their lead.
Stevenson provided yet another top-class delivery into the box from the subsequent free kick after a well-worked routine, his cross evading the opposing defence, finding Matty Stevens, who headed against crossbar in 29th minute as Rovers continued to threaten.
Barton’s side could’ve found themselves level just two minutes later, as a goalmouth scramble from a Bristol Rovers corner ensued, falling into the feet of Connor Taylor – Luke McGee had to be alert in order to ensure the lead remained intact.
The visitors continued to step up their attempts to find a goal as Baily Cargill was forced into a last-ditch challenge in the 36th minute to prevent the oncoming Antony Evans, who would’ve had a clear sight at goal.
Rovers would be handed a huge blow in the second half after Udoka Godwin-Malife received a second yellow card in the 62nd minute, leaving his side with an uphill battle having to see out the remainder of the second half with ten men.
The challenge wouldn’t concern the league leaders, who showed great spirit to dig in with some inspired defending to ensure the lead remained intact.
Edwards’ men would go one better in the 80th minute, after referee Simon Mather pointed to the spot as Ebou Adams’ strike hit the arm of Antony Evans, providing huge opportunity to seal all three points at the New Lawn.
Rovers’ captain Matt stepped up to the spot for his side, with the ever-reliable marksman netting yet another crucial goal for his side.
The 32-year-old fired past Belshaw with conviction on his right-foot to register his 10th goal of the season at a period in the game.
Cadden thought he had wrapped up a sublime victory in the 85th minute, firing into the net with a controlled finish on his left foot – only for the Scotsman to be ruled offside.
Bristol Rovers continued their efforts to try and salvage something from the game, but Edwards’ side showed an abundance of spirit to see out the remaining stages and claim an impressive clean sheet.