A shambolic defensive display saw the Pirates plunder goals aplenty as Albion fell apart on their first ever visit to the Memorial Stadium. A 7-1 victory for the hosts came as Albion crumbled spectacularly in the second period having gone in just 1-0 down at the break. A second half hat-trick from striker Eliot Richards sentenced the Brewers to their heaviest ever League 2 defeat and the first time they had conceded seven since the infamous 7-4 Conference defeat to Telford United.
Former Crewe defenders Danny Blanchett and Patrick Ada both earned recalls to the Burton Albion side for the club's first ever visit to Bristol Rovers. Blanchett slotted in at left back after Aaron Webster failed to shake off a groin injury picked up against Morecambe and Ada was drafted in to midfield as Cleveland Taylor dropped to the bench allowing Jacques Maghoma to move to a wide midfield role. After four goals against a youthful Stoke City reserve side in the week there was a recall to the substitutes bench for striker Adi Yussuff.
Albion had an early chance to test out Scott Bevan as Calvin Zola made his presence felt in attack. An early corner won by the striker from Cian Bolger was only punched away and moments later the big Leicester City loanee was all over Zola like a rash to concede a free kick 25 yards out that former Rovers striker Justin Richards struck low but easily into the midriff of the Rovers goalkeeper.
Rovers soon hit back and as Albion's defenced dithered on the edge of their own penalty area the ball was worked in to skipper Matt Gill and he hit a rising drive that flew over ther bar.
Zola was already proving to be a danger man for the Brewers and was twice close to the opener in the space of a couple of minutes as Albion stepped up their game. Good work from Richards down the right allowed JAcques Maghoma to cross to the back post where Zola saw his header blocked by Danny Woodards. The Congolese striker then received a lovely pass from Maghoma again but on the angle he got to the ball before his defender but could only poke the ball past Bevan and wide of the far post as well.
Rovers began to dominate and Elliot Richards saw a shot saved before Matt Harrold went closest yet on 22 minutes with a long range drive. Ryan Austin got his head to a long clerarance but the ball fell nicely for the big Rovers striker who stepped forward and firted inches wide of the right hand upright.
Harrold had another opportunity just before the half hour from a set piece. Mustapha Carayol fired over a corner kick beyond the back post but the former Shrewsbury striker could only volley over the bar.
The game opened up again and within a minute both sides missed good chances. Matt Gill fired into the arms of Atkins at one end and moments later Jimmy Phillips almost profited from a blunder from Bevan when he turned and fired against the post with the goal gaping.
Rovers went ahead in the 41s t minute as Albion were still rueing that miss. A free kick on the left was played inside to CARAYOL and he advanced forwards before unleashing a shot that swerved and dipped viciously to beat Atkins who got something on it but could not keep it out. It was harsh on Albion who had doen enough to be level at the break only to be denied just before the break.
Half time: Bristol Rovers 1-0 Burton Albion
Before Albion could draw breath in the second period they found themselves two goals adrift. Ryan Austin missed a header on the edge of the penalty area and Elliot Richards was on hand to pick up the loose ball, ride a challenge inside the box and steer home a low shot just fourteen seconds after the referee had blown his whistle for the start of the half.
Albion struggled briefly to gather themselves after such a terrible start to the half but they were back in it on 54 minutes. A clearance from the Rovers defence was met by a meaty header from Stanton that found Calvin ZOLA on the edge of the box and he advanced before lifting a shot over the considerable frame of Bevan and into the back of the net.
The Brewers joy was shortlived as Rovers re-established their two goal cushion from the penalty spot on the hour mark. Elliot Richards burst into the box and as Nathan Stanton challneged there was a clash of feet and both went to ground, referee Trevor Kettle takiong his time before pointing to the spot and allowing Matt HARROLD to step up and slam home the penalty,
It was 4-1 on 66 minutes as Albion again failed to deal with the lively Carayol. The winger drifted past Danny Blanchett all too easilt to latch onto a pass into the penalty and when his cross was only half cleared the ball fell to Jim PATERSON to drive a low shot through a crowd of bodies into the bottom corner of the net.
Albion seemed to fall apart and two goals in a minute added to Albion's woes. Carved apart in the middle of the park the ballk came out to HARROLD and he had acres of space to line up a shot that took a wicked deflection off Blanchett wrong footing Atkins and trickling into the net.
A minute later and calamitous defending between Atkins and skipper Stanton presented RICHARDS with his second of the game, rolling the ball into the unguarded net. Yet more disastrous defending.
Jimmy Philips tried to salvage some pride with a fizzing shot that Bevan beat away but it was at the other end that the naction continued to come as RICHARDS completed his hat-trick thanks to another deflection as his speculative shot flicked off a Burton defender and nestled into the corner of Atkins net.
the end could not come quikcly enough for Albion and thankfully there was no more goals to add insult to injury despite four added minutes that nobody really wanted at the end of the match.
ROVERS: Bevan, Woodards (Smith, 82), Bolger, Parkes, Paterson (W.Brown 69), Sawyer, Dorman, Gill, Richards, Harrold, Carayol (l.Brown, 72). Substitutes: Stanley, Downes.
ALBION: Atkins; Corbett, Stanton, Austin, Blanchett; Maghoma, Ada (Palmer, 56), Bolder, Phillips; Richards (Pearson, 69), Zola (Taylor, 84). Substitutes: James, Yussuf.
Referee: Mr. T.Kettle (Berkshire)
GOALS: ROVERS - Carayol (41), Richards (46, 77, 81), Harrold (60 pen, 76), Paterson (66); ALBION - Zola (54)
Attendance: 5,353 (180 away)