Darrell Clarke’s side returned to winning ways on Tuesday evening as a brilliant hat-trick from Josh Gordon and goals from Wes McDonald, Liam Kinsella and Cameron Norman secured the Saddlers a place in the knockout stages of the Leasing.com Trophy.
After returning to the starting 11, Gordon made his chance count as two goals in the first half pretty much killed the visitors off and the game off after only 45 minutes.
Winger McDonald looked lively from the off and forced Rovers keeper Adam Smith into two early saves, both of his efforts coming from just outside the area.
Two minutes after McDonald’s second effort and the Saddlers took the lead in the 23rd minute. Some brilliant work from Rory Holden down the right allowed him to play in Caolan Lavery who squared the ball across the face of goal and Gordon had a simple tap-in.
Ten minutes after his first, Gordon got his second of the evening. McDonald intercepted a pass on the halfway line before playing it to Lavery. The striker then played it to his counterpart who dummied the first shot in front of Matt Mills before firing across Smith into the bottom corner.
Four minutes into the second half and Holden’s cross struck the arm of Mills and referee Tom Nield pointed straight to the spot.
Unselfishly, Lavery passed the ball to Gordon and the striker converted the spot kick confidently past Smith in the Rovers net.
Moments after the third goal, Rovers were reduced to 10-men as striker Aaron Collins picked up two yellow cards in quick succession for arguing with the referee.
And with the visitors reduced to 10-men, the Saddlers really made them pay. With less than 20 minutes of normal time left to play, McDonald was played in by Holden, both of whom were superb on the evening, and the wide man slotted it home from eight yards out.
Two minutes later and the Saddlers made it five. Substitute Elijah Adebayo was denied at close-range by Smith but with the ball bobbling on the edge of the area, Kinsella took a touch before powering the ball home from 20-yards.
As the clock struck 90, defender Norman got in on the goal scoring act as he met a Holden free-kick powerfully and his header was too much for Smith who couldn’t keep it out.