Ellis Harrison’s double plus a late Matty Taylor goal gave Bristol Rovers all three points against Harriers at Aggborough
After a goalless first half, the Gas struck three times in front of Aggborough
’s highest attendance of the season, two of them occuring in the final 10 minutes.
With five of their starting XI aged 21 or under, Harriers fought well, particularly in the first half, with the scoreline perhaps too harsh a reflection of their performance.
But, having failed to build on the four points harvested from their last two games, Gary Whild’s men slip down to 13th in the league.
The gaffer made two changes to the side which drew 1-1 at AFC Telford United on Saturday, as Lee Hughes returned from illness to reclaim his place in the starting XI at the expense of youngster Jordan Harrison.
Aman Verma could not recover from his ankle injury in time, so Huddersfield Town loanee William Boyle was handed his Harriers debut.
Academy player Luke Maxwell kept his place in midfield and George Forsyth, son of Harriers legend Richard, made his first appearance in the first-team squad with a spot on the bench.
After an end-to-end opening half, Rovers took the lead four minutes after the interval through Harrison, who leapt highest to nod home from Chris Lines’ left-sided free-kick.
The 21-year-old then took his league tally to double figures seven minutes from time in an avoidable goal for Harriers to concede, as indecision between Jared Hodgkiss and Danny Lewis
allowed Harrison to capitalise.
And in the final stages of stoppage time, substitute Taylor sent a looping header under the crossbar from Lines’ corner to seal the victory for the Gas.
Harriers’ youthful side battled well in the first 45 minutes and, though just edged out by Rovers in terms of goalscoring opportunities, showed enough mettle to keep the game tied at the interval.
Maxwell especially showed great promise, the 17-year-old catching the eye of many with a composed performance against tough opponents.
But it was Hughes, the oldest player in the team at the age of 38, who had two key chances to give his side the lead.
Within just four minutes, Danny Wright coasted into the box, keeping possession with some deft and skilful touches, and flicked the ball on to his strike-partner, but Hughes couldn’t hit the target from close range.
Then, from a blocked Callum Gittings
free kick five minutes before half time, Wright again found his team mate with a short pass in the box but Hughes mis-kicked from a few yards out.
Elsewhere for Harriers, Jake Green and James Fry both tested Will Puddy with long-range efforts while Jamie Grimes headed over the bar from a free-kick.
Yet Rovers themselves were swift in attack and dangerous going forward, demonstrated particularly by two key opportunities within the first half.
After 36 minutes, Harrison drove through the middle as the Gas broke, drifting onto the right to drill a low angled shot towards the far corner which Lewis did brilliantly to touch past his post with the very tips of his fingers.
Two minutes later, the excellent Blissett rose in front of the Aggborough
terraces, as he had done so often before making the switch to the Memorial Stadium in November, in an attempt to latch onto a cross from the right.
But the imposing centre-forward saw his header come crashing down off the crossbar, as Harriers hastily scrambled clear the rebound.
And on the stroke of half time, Lewis did brilliantly to thwart an angled Andy Monkhouse effort from the byline at point-blank range.
The Gas had tested the waters early on through some half-chances by Lee Brown, while Blissett also put a couple of headers wide.
On the 20-minute mark Harrison was perfectly placed in space to give his side the lead at an earlier stage, but he relied on a key pass from Adam Dawson to his right and his team-mate’s delivery was overhit.
Rovers drew first blood shortly after the interval and it took the wind out of Harriers’ sails somewhat, as the visitors restricted their efforts in front of goal.
Further chances from Blissett and Harrison preceded the latter’s second goal, while at the other end, substitute Akwasi Asante sent a header off-target from Gittings’ corner.
It was a valiant and gutsy effort by Harriers but it is Rovers who left victorious to keep their title hopes alive, as league rivals Barnet visit Aggborough
in Harriers’ final home fixture of the season.