By Connor Ryan
With the football coming to a halt last weekend across the UK, we decided to look back at the how the season has gone for Rovers with plenty of action already being seen across the Cinch League 2, the SPFL Trust Trophy, and the Betfred Cup group stages.
The Betfred Cup:
Rovers were landed with a tough group when the group stage draw was made with Premiership side Livingston, Championship play-off hopefuls Inverness Caledonian Thistle, current League 1 champions Cove Rangers, and current League 2 champions Kelty Hearts joining Rovers in group G.
The first matchup of the group for Rovers would see them take on Livingston at Cliftonhill which resulted in a 3-2 defeat. Livingston would run into a 3-0 lead just after half time but goals from new signings Ayrton Sonkur and Michael Paton would see Rovers almost stage an unlikely comeback, but sadly this wasn’t to be leading to defeat in the first fixture.
The next game against Cove Rangers would see Rovers at home again, and once again they would be unlucky not to come away with something as Cove secured a 2-1 win despite some heavy Rovers pressure late on in the game. Rovers would take the lead on the half hour mark with a Mark Reynolds own goal but a goal from Robbie Leitch before half time and another from Connor Scully with 23 minutes to play seen Cove leave with all three points.
Rovers would pick up their first win of the group stages with a brilliant 2-0 win over familiar opposition Kelty Hearts away from home. The 2 goals would come in the final ten minutes of the game as Ayrton Sonkur opened the scoring with his second goal of the season while Charlie Reilly’s penalty with five minutes left secured all three points to take back to Coatbridge.
The Betfred Cup group stage would end with a trip to Inverness Caledonian Thistle, and it would prove to be a game to forget as Inverness ran out with a 4-0 victory against an injury hit Rovers. This result meant Rovers finished 4th place in the group with three points and a -4-goal difference from four games played, which was the exact same record as bottom placed Kelty Hearts.
The SPFL Trust Trophy:
With the league seeing a tough and unlucky start with two narrow defeats from two games, Rovers would turn their attention to the first round of the SPFL Trust Trophy as they took on Celtic B who have been playing their football in the Lowland League in the last couple of seasons. It looked to be Rovers were set to pick up their second win of the season as they rushed into a 2-0 lead just before the half hour mark with goals from Sean Fagan and an own goal from Dylan Corr. The game however would not turn into Rover’s favour as Celtic scored twice before half time and added a third in the 50th minute to ensure they went through to the second round with a 3-2 victory at Cliftonhill.
Cinch League 2:
With us only being 6 games into the Cinch League 2 season, Rovers have seen an average start to the season by managing to accumulate five points so far which includes one win, two draws, and three losses. This leaves Rovers at second bottom of the league however only five points away from second place, showing how tight the league is this year excluding Dumbarton who have won every game.
The league season kicked off with an away trip to Stenhousemuir which saw Rovers fall to a 1-0 defeat with Tommy Orr getting the only goal of the game in the first half. It was a very balanced game which saw Charlie Reilly strike the bar late on from a free kick as well as Rovers missing a couple of other good chances.
The next game would see Rovers play their first home game of the league campaign as they took on promotion favourites Dumbarton. Rovers would take the lead in this one with Lewis Kidd’s calm finish putting Rovers in front in the 17th minute. Rovers’ fortunes would turn for the worse however as Kyle Fleming would be sent off just five minutes later for a high challenge. Despite this, Rovers would battle on but a Stuart Carswell penalty and a late winner from former Rover’s man Ryan Wallace would secure a 2-1 win for The Sons.
Rovers next home game would come after the defeat at the hands of Celtic B, and this poor form would continue as a 67th minute strike from East Fife’s Liam Newton would hand Rovers another defeat in a game they dominated with plenty of missed chances. This would leave Rover’s rock bottom of the table and the only team to not get a point on the table after the first three fixtures.
It was expected that this run would continue as Rovers travelled to Bonnyrigg Rose for their second away game of the league campaign, but Rovers fortunes turned positive as a brilliant performance seen them take all three points back to Coatbridge with a 2-0 victory. An own goal from Jonathan Stewart in the first half and a Charlie Reilly strike late on following a superb counterattack secured the win. This would also be James McGowan’s last game for the club in which he put in a stellar performance himself to help secure a clean sheet.
Rovers would return to home action as they took on Annan Athletic in a fixture with plenty of entertainment and late drama as the game ended 2-2 on the day. Rovers had taken the lead in the 23rd minute through Adam Fernie but Tommy Goss would equalise from the penalty spot in the 36th minute, despite Tony Wallace missing a penalty for Annan just ten minutes later. The late drama would see Rovers convert a penalty in the 91st minute through Charlie Reilly which looked to be the winner, however Tommy Goss would equalise just a minute later to snatch a point from the clutches of defeat for Annan Athletic.
The most recent fixture for Rovers was the trip to Stirling Albion which saw Rovers manage to grab a point as Charlie Reilly’s 4th goal in all competitions helped Rovers to a 1-1 draw as they recovered from Kyle Banner’s opening goal in the 48th minute. This means that Rovers are now undefeated in their last three despite their poor start to the season as the goals are finally starting to show and points are starting to be put onto the league table.
Rovers now turn their attention to bottom of the league Forfar Athletic at home this Saturday as they look to build upon the good form they have seen recently, with a win potentially sending Rovers into early play-off/mid-table contention.
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