Ayunga: Kenya striker’s Bristol Rovers relegated after defeat to Portsmouth

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Jonah Ayunga of Bristol Rovers.
Bristol Rovers.
The 24-year-old Harambee Stars forward will now play in League Two for next season after the Gas lost to Pompey away

Harambee Stars striker Jonah Ayunga’s Bristol Rovers have been relegated from League One after being beaten 1-0 by Portsmouth on Saturday.

It was Ronan Curtis’ goal in the 27th minute which separated the two sides, as the defeat ended Rovers’ five-year spell in League One. Curtis curled home the only goal of the contest after the winger was set free down the left by goalkeeper Craig MacGillivray’s set-piece.

Joey Barton's side needed to win at Fratton Park to stand any chance of keeping their slim hopes of survival alive but the defeat confirmed their relegation to League Two – with a nine-point gap between the Gas and safety, with only two games remaining.

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Ayunga, who joined the Gas on a two-year contract from Havant & Waterlooville on July 29, 2020, however, did not feature, as Barton made three changes to the side that started Tuesday’s encounter against MK Dons, with James Daly, Zain Westbrooke, and Jack Baldwin all returning to the starting XI, replacing Cian Harries, Zain Walker, and Ayunga.

Portsmouth in turn made just the one change, with both former Rovers players, Lee Brown and Ellis Harrison missing out through injury.

The goal that earned Pompey their first win in five matches came when keeper MacGillivray started an attack from his own half which ended with Curtis stroking his shot into the net from George Byers' well-delivered cross.

On the stroke of half-time, home defender Rasmus Nicolaisen had to clear the ball away from under his own crossbar as Rovers pushed for an equaliser.

However, it was not long before Curtis’ scored the opener and a few minutes later, Nicolaisen glanced a towering header wide of the target, after being picked out from a free-kick as the hosts held onto the lead at half-time.

Early on in the second half, Rovers were able to test MacGillivray, as McCormick’s effort from outside the box forced the Portsmouth ‘keeper into action.

Before joining Rovers, Ayunga, who earned his maiden Harambee Stars call-up in August 2016, scored 22 goals last season in the National League South, which is the sixth tier of English football.

He scored 17 league goals and got five in cup competitions as Havant and Waterlooville finished second and was the joint top scorer in the competition.

Ayunga, who started his career at Dorchester Town, scored his debut goal in the 2015/16 campaign. After a good show at Dorchester Town, the striker joined Brighton & Hove Albion in 2016 and played for the U23 side.

He was loaned to Sligo Rovers in 2017, played in 22 games, and scored four goals before moving to Gallaway briefly, where an injury restricted his playing time.

Sutton United became Ayunga’s next club, spent the 2018/19 season on loan to Havant & Waterlooville but was later recalled by United.

Bristol Rovers will play their next fixture on May 1 against Crewe Alexandra at Memorial Stadium.

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