Bristol Rovers 6-0 Darlington: Gas rampant over non-league Quakers
Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

Bristol Rovers would be looking to avoid a similar embarrassment they faced a decade ago, when Darlington bested the Gas 2-1 in the FA Cup, which eventually resulted in the sacking of then-Rovers manager Paul Trollope.

New manager Paul Tisdale, who has been in charge of just two games so far, will be looking for his first victory as the Gas gaffer, hoping it will be a road without any bumps against a team who are three divisions below. 

Meanwhile with the away side, they will be hoping to use their impressive form away from Blackwell Meadows, having won their last four matches on the road including a fantastic victory over Swindon Town in the first round.

Darlington boast the quality of Nicky Hunt in the back line, who featured in the Premier League for Bolton Wanderers, making over a century of appearances for the Trotters.

Bristol Rovers: Jaakkola; Hare, Ehmer, Baldwin, Leahy, Grant, Liddle, McCormick, Oztumer, Nicholson, Daly

Darlington: Saltmer, McMahon, Atkinson, Hunt, Watson, Reid, Wheatley, Hatfield, Campbell, Charman, Rivers

  • Story of the match

A very slow start to the game as it took eleven minutes before either side had a sniff of goal. It was Jarrett Rivers who sent a teasing ball into the box which forced Luke Leahy to fire clear. 

The away side continued to ponder the chance of a breakthrough, as another cross from Rivers was mishit by David Atkinson.

Bristol Rovers had their first attempt on goal, as a poor Atkinson clearance fell to the feet of Chelsea loanee Luke McCormick, but his strike cleared the stadium.

Darlington looked to open the scoring, as Sean Reid laid the ball back to Josef Wheatley who fired narrowly wide. 

Adam Campbell was the first to test Anssi Jaakkola, as he received the ball from Rivers on the edge of the box but his curling effort was comfortably held. 

However, despite the Quakers raking up the chances, it was Tisdale's side which took the lead within the opening thirty minutes. A mishap from Atkinson, who chased a long punt up the pitch from Josh Hare and without thinking headed back towards (and over) Jonathan Saltmer in goal, before James Daly raced Saltmer and poked the ball over the line.

Erhun Oztumer looked to capitalise on the fragile Darlington defence, but Saltmer held his shot. 

And capitalise they did, as McCormick picked up the ball on the edge of the box and poked it through to the on-rushing right-back Hare, who, despite the pressure from Jordan Watson, fired into the far corner with the outside of his foot to double the Gas' lead- a striker's finish by the defender.

The Bristol Rovers onslaught prevailed, as Daly was once again heavily involved after Atkinson collided into the striker, and the referee pointed to the spot. Up stepped Leahy, who comfortably disposed of the finish to score on his 50th appearance for the club.

Daly nearly netted Bristol Rovers their fourth, as Oztumer's looped up ball was flicked on by Sam Nicholson, but Daly's shot was parried by Saltmer.

Quality began to show now, as Oztumer linked up nicely with Nicholson and raced clear on goal, before calmly firing into the far corner to grasp the Gas' fourth of the first half. 

Brett Huxtable spared Darlington their blushes and brought the first half to a conclusion, with Tisdale's side rampant in front of goal and he Quaker's outclassed- a regrouping was needed.

Alun Armstrong looked for a reaction, as he replaced Reid for Tyrone O'Neill.

However, the hopes of change would be absent, as Daly's strike was pushed away by Saltmer, but as the forward hunted for the rebound, Tony McMahon shoved his man over to award Bristol Rovers their second penalty. Once again, up stepped Leahy, who showed composure and calmness to place the ball into the bottom left corner and send the goalkeeper the wrong way- Bristol Rover's fifth and Leahy's second. 

McMahon looked to rectify his mistake, as he found space in the Rovers box and fired against the post , following a threaded ball from Campbell and the fingertips of Jaakkola. 

But despite the Quakers coming close to penetrating the Rovers clean sheet, it would be the Gas who would grasp the next goal. A new name on the scoreline, as Hare's corner was headed down by Max Ehmer and Nicholson was present to force the ball over the line to extend the home side's lead.

Bristol Rovers had now matched their record FA Cup scoreline, which was a 6-0 win over Merthyr Tydfil in 1987.

Nicholson looked to add to his tally, but Saltmer was on hand to hold onto his crack.

A double change for the winning side, as Ehmer and Nicholson were replaced by Alfie Kilgour and Zain Westbrooke.

Meanwhile Darlington also made a substitution, as Luke Charman was swapped with Omar Holness

Rivers found time in the box, flicking it around Leahy and volleying towards goal but Jaakkola reacted strongly.

Heading into the final fifteen and Darlington were in search of a consolation, as O'Neill fired narrowly wide.

A final change for Bristol Rovers, as Ben Liddle was swapped for Cian Harries.

However Tisdale might regret this, as Daly later rolled his ankle and was forced off of the pitch, leaving the Gas with ten men for the final ten minutes.

The Quakers also made their final change, as Will Hatfield was replaced by Theo Hudson.

Following a rather uneventful close to the game, Bristol Rovers ended up thwarting any potential upset, as Darlington bowed out of the club in a humiliating result for Armstrong's men.

  • Takeaways

In a game where David had the chance to defeat Goliath, it wasn't the fairytale story Darlington desired as they were outclassed.

The level of football Bristol Rovers played is the level Darlington should aspire towards, suitable communication, an understanding of each other's game, and most importantly trust in the collective ability.

It's difficult to blame individual mistakes in a game which ended in a six goal deficit, but it proved costly in a match where Darlington heads dropped after the first goal. Mistakes by Atkinson and McMahon resulted in three goals, which ended up obliterating the confidence of the away side and beginning the downwards spiral.

Full credit to Bristol Rovers who dominated the game, and manager Paul Tisdale will be delighted with his first victory being a 6-0 drumming, one which will be remember in the Gas' history books. 

  • Stand-out player

Bristol Rover's right-back Josh Hare had an outstanding game, patrolling his right side and controlling the dangerous wingers Darlington possessed in Jarrett Rivers and Adam Campbell. His goal was a brilliant one, with composure and power behind a defenders strike, he left Saltmer no chance between the sticks. 

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