Blues progressed to the second round of the Capital One Cup, after Andrew Shinnie’s excellent effort gave Blues the win in an entertaining cup-tie.
Gary Rowett made eight changes from the side that beat Reading on Saturday with Jonathan Grounds, Michael Morrison and Stephen Gleeson keeping their places in a team that included debuts for Adam Legzdins and Jacques Maghoma.
And with a partisan home crowd behind them, the hosts got off to a positive start with two dangerous free-kicks cleared by Adam Legzdins and Jonathan Grounds.
Chances in the opening 15 minutes were limited and neither side were able to stamp their authority on a game that was being played at a vigorous pace.
Blues started to settle when Novak and Shinnie were given space to create in the final third and they went close when a Grounds cross was miscued for a corner. Maghoma’s delivery came with plenty of pace, but it just evaded the onrushing left-back at the far-post.
Blues continued to look the more dangerous with Grounds finding Wes Thomas in the penalty area. The striker, with his back to goal was able to get the ball out of his feet and shoot, but it took a big deflection away from goal.
Thomas went close again just a few minutes later when he met a Grounds cross 10 yards out, but the ball was a little too strong and his stretching attempt went wide.
Bristol Rovers were implementing a new formation of 3-5-2 with attacking full-backs and it nearly worked when Stuart Sinclair broke through midfield to the edge of the area. His run was quickly halted by Paul Robinson, who’s tackle nearly diverted into the path of Jermaine Easter and Michael Morrison was just able to clear.
Blues responded through Lee Novak, when a Stephen Gleeson chip over the defence nearly found the striker six-yards out. Novak’s diagonal run wasn’t followed by the full back, but the covering defender Tom Lockyer was able to get a toe on it ahead of Novak and divert it straight into the keepers arms.
Blues continued to show their control and had two great chances in the 35th minute. Eardley’s first cross was missed by Novak at the near post and Thomas did well to recover possession in the area. The striker found Eardley, who once again delivered an excellent cross to an unmarked Andrew Shinnie, but his downward header lacked pace and was easily saved.
The Rovers fans thought they’d scored with five minutes to go through a Jake Gosling free-kick from 25-yards. Gosling tried to to catch Legzdins off guard with a left footed effort, but his shot curled past the post and into the side-netting.
It was Blues however, who should have broken the deadline with the best chance of the first-half. Lee Brown’s headed back pass to Steve Mildenhall was short and Thomas nipped in and tried to chip the ball over the goalkeeper, but it was too heavy and went over the bar.
The hosts had the final chance on the stroke of half-time when Davis was booked for a late challenge on Gosling. Gosling took the resulting free-kick from 25-yards out, but it was straight at Legzdins.
Half-time: Bristol Rovers 0, Blues 0
The hosts started well and had the first chance after the break through Lee Brown. Blues were unable to clear from Grounds’ tackle on Daniel Leadbitter and the ball fell to the left-back 15-yards out, who’s effort was straight at the keeper.
Blues were on the back foot again and three excellent Paul Robinson blocks inside the area kept the game goalless. The Captain’s heroic defending stopped Sinclair from the edge of the area and Blues were able to clear.
Rovers were in the ascendancy and nearly scored when Easter’s header from the penalty spot beat the far-post with Legzdins scrambling across.
Blues calmed the early pressure and had two good chances of their own. Maghoma’s header was straight at Mildenhall, before Thomas raced into the penalty area and shot wide of the post.
The game continued it’s frantic start and Ollie Clarke’s effort from outside the area just went wide with keeper rooted.
Blues, who were under pressure replied perfectly with a goal on the 57th minute. Wes Thomas was able to nip in and test Mildenhall after a short backpass, which the keeper did well to save low. His clearance found Maghoma 15-yards out, who placed it past the defender on the line to give Blues the lead.
Blues could have made it two moments later, but Shinnie’s effort from the left side of the area went wide.
The miss proved costly when Bristol Rovers equalised through substitute Matty Taylor, who had replaced Jermaine Easter just 60 seconds earlier. The striker broke down the left into the penalty area and his low cross was deflected into the path of Ellis Harrison who volleyed past Legzdins.
Blues were able to silence the partisan crowd immediately when they retook the lead through Andrew Shinnie. Shinnie found space from Davis’ pass and was able to shoot a wonderful low strike past Mildenhall and into the corner.
And the midfield nearly added his second with ten minutes remaining. Shinnie played a lovely one-two outside the area with Maghoma, but his low shot was saved by Mildenhall’s legs.
Encouraged by his goal, Shinnie continued to show his quality on the ball. A delightful cross to Thomas was perfectly weighted over the defender, but his header was straight at the keeper.
With five minutes of injury time added on,the hosts pressed, but despite a late effort going over bar from Tom Parkes, it was Blues who progressed to the second round.