Former Shrewsbury Town Captain Abu Ogogo scored a late winner in an enthralling and dramatic contest.
It had to be Ogogo. The former Shrewsbury Town Captain made 124 appearances during a successful three-year spell which included two Wembley finals.
But the former Arsenal academy product came back to haunt his former employers late on, as the visitors stole all three points.
Shrewsbury demonstrated tremendous resolve to equalise on two separate occasions. Sam Ricketts’ side levelled from 2-0 and 3-1 down.
Graham Coughlan, an ex-Salopian, will have enjoyed his sides fast start. Tony Craig and Ollie Clarke were on target inside half an hour.
Josh Laurent, who had scored just twice in his previous 55 matches, reduced the arrears prior to half time.
However, Bristol Rovers extended their lead in the 47th minute thanks to former Oxford United midfielder Liam Sercombe.
Ollie Norburn, who missed an international debut with Grenada due to a viral infection, netted against his former club to make it 3-2.
The comeback was complete thanks to a rare brace courtesy of Josh Laurent. But Bristol Rovers were celebrating with three minutes to go as Abu Ogogo broke the hearts of the fans that used to sing his name.
Sam Ricketts elected to keep faith with Joe Murphy, despite Max O’Leary returning to full fitness. Norwich City loanee Louis Thompson started his first game for the club, whilst Shaun Whalley and Sean Goss were absent due to knocks. Dave Edwards and Aaron Pierre were reinstated.
Bristol Rovers could have been forgiven for being reeled by the loss of striker Clarke-Harris. The former Coventry man failed a late fitness test, but the visitors certainly didn’t suffer with the loss of the 25-year-old.
Instead the Gas appeared confident on the ball and were ahead in the 11th minute. Liam Sercombe’s corner was powered home by former Millwall defender Tony Craig.
Town responded well to going behind. Donald Love expertly won possession and launched the ball forward. Jason Cummings was ready to pounce, but Finnish keeper Anssi Jaakkola rushed off his line to thwart the Scottish international.
Tempers were flared moments later when Shrewsbury failed to return the ball to Rovers after Donald Love received treatment. The two managers exchanged heated words on the touchline.
And the referee did nothing to improve Ricketts’ mood as he turned down what appeared on first viewing, to be a blatant Shrewsbury penalty. Louis Thompson was upended by Alfie Kilgour but somehow a spot kick was not awarded. The incident caused a melee with yellow cards dished out like confetti, with six players all entering the book.
Following a lengthy stoppage, Bristol Rovers continued to press. Luke Leahy found Abu Ogogo, but his shot was wayward.
However, the Gas were soon 2-0 ahead. Former Wolves full-back Mark Little mis-hit a shot, and the ball fell fortuitously for Ollie Clarke. The midfielder prodded beyond Joe Murphy.
The referee continued to infuriate both sets of fans. Initially, Rovers thought they had extended their lead, but Victor Adeboyejo was flagged offside. Yet his teammates were unaware as they began celebrating. Shrewsbury launched a quick counterattack with Louis Thompson bearing down on goal, but Graham Salisbury inexplicably pulled play back for the original offside decision.
A lively and controversial contest continued to amaze, as Shrewsbury reduced the arrears. Rovers could only clear a free-kick as far as Aaron Pierre. The former Northampton defender cut the ball back for Josh Laurent who was on hand to apply the finish.
The first half was worth the entry fee alone, and the visitors almost reinstated their two-goal advantage before half-time. Ed Upson’s drive was parried by Joe Murphy, a scramble in the penalty box eventually saw Town clear their lines.
The goalmouth action continued after the break, and unfortunately for the hosts Liam Sercombe made it 3-1. Joe Murphy attempted to clear a long punt, but the Irishman slipped, and Sercombe seized control. Instead of carrying the ball or seeking out a teammate, the midfielder opted to send a magnificent lob from 30 yards into the back of the net.
Shrewsbury could have been forgiven for buckling and downing tools, but they were certainly not giving up. Jason Cummings looked to profit from haphazard defending, but Alfie Kilgour made amends with a terrific block.
And Town’s perseverance was rewarded in the 62nd minute. Town won a free-kick on the edge of the box, and Ollie Norburn whipped it beyond the reaches of Jaakkola.
The game continued to provide excellent value for entertainment. Shrewsbury equalised in the 67th minute. Ryan Giles’ cross was sent into a crowded box. Josh Laurent nipped in and headed the ball through the legs of the Bristol Rovers keeper.
A brave individual would have bet on the winner, as both sides traded blows. Substitute Tyler Smith’s low cross was begging to be struck home, but none of his Bristol Rovers teammates accepted the invitation.
It appeared as if a draw was on the cards, but Abu Ogogo had other ideas. The referee gave an advantage and the ball found Liam Sercombe inside the box. He set up Abu Ogogo who drilled in the seventh goal of the game.
There was still time for late drama and Dave Edwards really should have made it 4-4. From six yards out the Welshman blasted over, and Bristol Rovers managed to scrape the win.
The narrow defeat sees Town drop to 12th, whilst Rovers rise to 9th. Shrewsbury face Mansfield in the second round of the FA Cup next Saturday, whilst Bristol Rovers welcome Plymouth a week tomorrow.
Attendance: 6,325 (831 away fans)
Shrewsbury Town: (3-4-3)
1. Murphy, 5. Williams, 2. Pierre, 6. Beckles (57), 17. Love, 28. Laurent, 8. Norburn, 3. Golbourne, 21. Thompson (57), 35. Cummings (78), 4. Edwards
Subs: 10. Okenabirhie (57), 11. Giles (57), 14. John-Lewis (78), 15. Walker, 18. McCormick, 24. Ebanks-Landell, 25. O’Leary
Subs Not Used: 15. Walker, 18. McCormick, 24. Ebanks-Landell, 25. O’Leary
Bristol Rovers: (3-4-2-1)
32. Jaakkola, 24. Menayese, 5. Craig, 15. Kilgour, 2. Little (79), 6. Upson, 4. Ogogo, 11. Leahy, 8. Clarke (95), 7. Sercombe, 29. Adeboyejo (73)
Subs: 1. Van Stappershoef, 3. Holmes-Dennis (95), 10. Nichols, 17. Smith (73), 18. Kelly, 23. Bennett, 33. Rodman (79)
Subs Not Used: 1. Van Stappershoef, 10. Nichols, 18. Kelly, 23. Bennett
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Rochdale 0 – 3 Portsmouth
Southend 0 – 4 Oxford
Sunderland 1 – 1 Coventry
Wycombe 1 – 0 Doncaster