Harrogate Town fell to defeat on their first visit to The Memorial Ground as goals from Aaron Collins either side of Elliott Anderson’s solo goal sealed victory for Bristol Rovers.
Simon Weaver made five changes from last weekend’s defeat against Hartlepool as Josh Falkingham, Nathan Sheron, Brahima Diarra, Rory McArdle and Mark Beck all came into the starting line-up, the latter making his first Town start of the season.
Dropping to the bench were Alex Pattison, Jack Muldoon and Lewis Richards, while Will Smith (illness) and Lewis Page (injury) missed out. Joey Barton named an unchanged Rovers lineup, with former Town number one James Belshaw between the sticks.
Town started the brighter of the two sides with Diarra forcing Belshaw into an early save after Beck had won the ball high up the field, before teasing low crosses into the box by Luke Armstrong then Jack Diamond caused problems for the Bristol backline.
The home crowd were growing frustrated at their side’s inability to make any inroads into the Town half early on, frustration that was shared by their Manager Barton who was shown the afternoon’s first yellow card.
Rovers soon reminded Town of the threat they pose though with Elliott Anderson curling wide of Mark Oxley’s post.
Rovers then took the lead in the 33rd minute as Collins was teed up on the edge of the area from where he could expertly curl into the top right corner to put his side ahead.
The hosts doubled their lead six minutes later when a quick free kick was played to Anderson, who was able to dribble past Falkingham and Warren Burrell before slotting home, giving Rovers a two-goal lead at the break.
Two became three ten minutes after the interval when McArdle’s wayward pass found Collins, who clipped the ball over the advancing Oxley to claim his second of the afternoon.
With Town three down and playing against a strong wind, Bristol were able to enjoy large spells of posession for long periods of the second half.
Lewis Richards was introduced with 20 minutes to play and provided some positive moments from left back, almost setting up Beck after a strong run from deep into his own half.
Despite Beck being denied late by Belshaw, there were no signs of an unlikely comeback as Bristol Rovers claimed all three points.
Town: Oxley, Fallowfield, Falkingham, Burrell, Thomson, Beck, Sheron, Diamond, Diarra (Pattison 23), McArdle (Richards 70), Armstrong (Kavanagh 72)
Subs not used: Cracknell, Muldoon, Austerfield
Bristol Rovers: Belshaw, Connolly, Finley (Saunders 70), Collins, E Anderson, Coutts (Whelan 70), Anderton, Taylor, H Anderson (Loft 79), Evans, Hoole
Subs not used: Ward, Thomas, Clarke, Harries
Goals: Collins 33, E Anderson 39, Collins 55
Booked: Barton, Hoole, Taylor
Referee: D Drysdale
Attendance: 7,884 (138 away)