Rovers' early double proves decisive despite Norwood strike
James Norwood grabbed his eighth goal of the season but Town went down to a third league defeat of the season.
Rovers struck early through Tyler Smith and were two up midway through the first-half when Tom Nichols headed in.
Norwood pulled a goal back before the break and Blues could have been level going into half-time with Norwood twice going close.
Rovers played the last 15 minutes or so with 10 men after Ollie Clarke was dismissed but the visitors held on to maintain their impressive form.
Cole Skuse took up a full-back role with Janoi Donacien missing through sickness, with Will Keane linking up with Kayden Jackson and Norwood in a three man strikeforce.
Jon Nolan fired over after a corner broke to him but Rovers got off to the perfect start, Smith smashing the ball past Tomas Holy on five minutes to edge in front.
The visitors should have added a second soon after, Rollin Menayese heading over from a corner but Blues reacted well, Nolan sending Jackson through with a terrific pass but the striker ran out of space.
Former Blue, Ed Upson, picked up an early yellow card for a foul on Nolan, Menayese diverting Luke Garbutt’s delivery over the bar, the Rovers defender then holding firm again under pressure from Norwood.
Town had a flurry of corners, Norwood unlucky not to connect at the far post from Garbutt’s flag kick but it was Rovers who struck again, Alex Rodman crossed and Nichols was left to head home from close range on 23 minutes.
Blues responded with Flynn Downes driving forward, Jackson crossed and Nolan looked to pounce before Menayese came to Bristol’s rescue again, Keane then denied while at the other end Rodman’s cross into the danger area was dealt with by James Wilson.
Town continued to chalk up corners, Garbutt’s delivery not cleared and the Everton loanee was denied by Anssi Jaakkola but Town got the goal that had been coming eight minutes before the break, Norwood heading in from Jackson’s cross after good play down the left by Blues.
Town swarmed forward looking for an equaliser, Norwood heading at Jaakkola after Garbutt had found him with a cross, Downes almost releasing Norwood with a terrific ball but Menayese stayed strong to quell the danger.
It needed a quality save from Tomas Holy though to stop Rovers extending the lead, the ‘keeper denying Smith, while at the other end Norwood dragged his shot just wide with an entertaining first-half finishing with Downes and Clarke picking up yellow cards and Menayese having an anxious look as the ball diverted off him and went inches wide of his own goal.
The second-half started as the first had ended, with Town on the front foot, Keane just short of getting on the end of a Jackson cross then Jaakkola booked for time-wasting as Rovers looked to weather the storm.
Luke Woolfenden joined the yellow card count but Town continued to press, Jackson forced away from danger by Tony Craig, the Blues striker then losing out to Jaakkola as he chased a ball over the top.
Rovers did carry a threat on the break though, Smith’s run shadowed away from danger by Woolfenden before Town made a first change on the hour with Andre Dozzell making way for Alan Judge, the visitors following suit with Smith replaced by Victor Adeboyejo.
Nolan sent a header on to the roof of the net, Rovers responding with a strike high and wide from Liam Sercombe, then Adeboyejo wasted a great chance to put daylight between the teams after Sercombe set him up.
Jaakkola had to be alert to keep out Norwood’s effort that was arrowed towards the net, Rovers then reduced to 10 men after skipper Clarke was dismissed for a second yellow card.
Nolan’s shot was smothered away from danger as time began to run out for Blues, Sercombe’s long ranger off target as Rovers looked to catch Town on the counter, then Judge’s corner causing major alarms in the visitors box but Bristol survived again.
The Blue Army were on their feet when Jackson’s cross was met by Norwood’s header but the ball landed in the grateful arms of Jaakkola, Anthony Georgiou joining the action for the final stages with Nolan replaced.
Judge found Jackson with a sublime pass but Town couldn’t convert, Craig denying Jackson as he threatened again but Blues couldn’t find that elusive equaliser.
Town: Holy, Skuse, Wilson, Woolfenden, Garbutt, Nolan (Georgiou 88), Downes, Dozzell (Judge 65), Jackson, Norwood, Keane. Subs not used: Norris, Nsiala, Kenlock, Dobra, Huws. Booked: Downes, Woolfenden.
Bristol Rvs: Jaakkola, Craig, Upson, Sercombe, Clarke, Nichols (Tomlinson 76), Leahy, Kilgour, Smith (Adeboyejo 65), Menayese, Rodman. Subs not used: Van Stappershoef, Kelly, Hoole, Hargreaves, Phillips. Sent-off: Clarke. Booked: Upson, Clarke, Jaakkola.