Football: Allison puffs hope into Rovers

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Bristol Rovers. . . . . . . . . . . . . .4

Bristol City. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

ONE OF Malcolm Allison's pet theories is that the British footballer does not know how to kick the ball properly. 'It's not their fault,' he maintains, 'they've not been taught properly.' Bristol Rovers produced overwhelming evidence yesterday that they are in the rapid stream of learning.

In terms of possession, quick thinking and chances there was little to choose between the two Bristol teams - had Bjorn Kristensen's header for City in the 65th minute eluded Brian Parkin few would have disputed a 1-1 scoreline - but when it came to shooting, Rovers were superior to a point where they stretched credibility. William Tell could not have improved on their marksmanship.

Three of the four goals were from at least 25 yards and even the strike converted from a piffling 10 was volleyed by Marcus Stewart from an acute angle with such power that Keith Welch would have risked losing a limb had he got in the way of it. If the Bristol City goalkeeper had contacted his broker immediately after the match to up his insurance cover, no one would have blamed him.

The first Rovers howitzer came in the 22nd minute and proved to be from the longest range. Some players could not have made out the goalposts from where Justin Channing received a throw-in, but the emergency left-back, covering for the injured captain, Vaughan Jones, walloped the leather off the ball. It was never more than a yard off the ground and was only beginning its descent when it flashed past Welch 35 yards later.

That produced such shock- waves that the players who had been attempting to kick lumps out of each other and who had been involved in a mass brawl after nine minutes, settled down to a method not normally associated with derby matches, applying the boot to the ball. And explosively so in Rovers' case.

Stewart made it 2-0 against the run of play after 66 minutes, at which point the home players got it into their heads that they could shoot from any distance and still have a better than 50-50 chance of scoring. A minute later Carl Saunders thumped left-footed over the by now shell-shocked Welch, and in the 77th minute John Taylor was released by the outstanding Gary Waddock and fired in from beyond the right- hand corner of the area. In another match they would have been described as sensational strikes; at Twerton Park yesterday they were reduced to the commonplace.

Allison, a past-master of hyperbole, seemed almost embarrassed by his pre-match prediction that Rovers would win by a lot of goals. 'I'm a coach,' he protested, 'not a fortune-teller.' But he could not resist the enigmatic refusal to elaborate when he pronounced: 'I've brought one thing to Bristol Rovers.'

With 10 points out of 15 and Rovers rising six places from the bottom of the First Division in the month since Big Mal became caretaker-manager, perhaps it should be summed up in one word. Hope.

Bristol Rovers: Parkin; Alexander, Tillson, Yates, Hardyman, Browning, Channing, Stewart, Taylor, Saunders, Waddock. Substitutes not used: Twentyman, Mehew.

Bristol City: Welch; Harrison, Scott, Kristensen, Bryant, Osman, Shelton, Dziekanowski, Rosenior (Allison, 70), Cole, Edwards (Gavin, 53).

Referee: J Martin (Alton, Hants).