By George Williamson
Andy Cook scored his 12th goal of the season mid-way through the first half against Woking as Rovers earned just their second away win since October 14th, and climbed to 5th in the National League table.
The striker also saw red with just ten minutes remaining for a second bookable offence in what was a busy day for the 27-year-old.
New signing Josh Ginnelly started on the bench for Rovers as they continued with the same side that snatched a last-gasp equaliser against Barrow last weekend.
But that continuity in team selection suffered an early blow almost immediately, as captain Steve McNulty had to be replaced by Liam Ridehalgh in just the 4th minute after taking a boot to the thigh in the opening 60 seconds.
After a re-shuffle at the back, Woking looked to capitalise and created the first chance of the game when Fabio Saraiva headed Anthony Cook’s teasing cross just wide.
Saraiva was certainly the danger man for Woking, and he created a couple of excellent chances shortly before the 20-minute mark, volleying wide from a long-range effort before forcing Adam Buxton into a decent block from another shot from distance for a corner.
The dangerous Cook-Saraiva partnership again linked up just moments later, with Rhys Taylor producing a smart save to deny Saraiva from close range.
Rovers finally found their foothold in the game shortly after that chance though, and both Buxton and Cook had chances that were saved by Chelsea-loanee Nathan Baxter.
And it was the striker Cook who bagged his 12th of the season after Ollie Norburn’s corner caused havoc in the Woking box, and when the ball finally found its way to Cook inside the six-yard box, he made no mistake and powered the ball past Baxter to give Rovers the lead.
Cook almost added a second two minutes later, but his downward header from Buxton’s cross was saved by Baxter, before Declan Appau responded for the home side by firing over from a dangerous free-kick that was only half-cleared by Rovers.
Anthony Cook looked to respond moments before half-time, but his shot sailed inches over Taylor’s crossbar, before Norburn tried a shot of his own which suffered the same fate.
After a slow start from both sides to the second half, Connor Jennings created the first meaningful chance, volleying wide from distance, before Baxter was again called upon in the Woking goal to deny the outstanding Cook with a brilliant double save after James Norwood had played him in.
The game opened up a little after that, and both Norwood and Larnell Cole had chances to double the visitors’ lead, but neither could find a way past Baxter, and it was the man between the sticks for the hosts who was again called into making another double save, this time from Norwood who had grown into the game during the second half.
Woking did push for an equaliser late on, but it never truly looked like it was coming. Substitute Reece Grego-Cox forced a save out of Taylor for the only real noteworthy chance for the hosts late on.
With just 13 minutes remaining and Rovers seemingly cruising to a hard-earned victory, Cook was sent off for a second bookable offence to create a nervy last ten minutes.
Anthony Cook rattled the crossbar from a free-kick as Woking pushed for an equaliser, and Charlie Carter had a stoppage time penalty appeal but was instead booked for simulation.
Rovers did manage to see out the victory in the end to record just their second away win since October, and they’ll be looking to kick on next week against Maidenhead.