WHETHER they witnessed it in person or not, Wanderers fans will wake up tomorrow morning and rub their eyes in disbelief at the top of the League One table.

Three games, three wins – two of them away – represents the best start to a campaign in 15 years and one barely imaginable considering the club’s circumstances over the last 12 months.

Away wins are apparently like London buses for the Whites. We wait 495 agonising days for one and then two come along in four days.

That Phil Parkinson’s side were able to build on three points at Wimbledon was down to two goals in 20 breathless minutes.

Josh Vela started the party with a scorching deflected shot before Jay Spearing raised the bar even higher with a stunning free-kick.

The last time Wanderers won their first three games they were against Leicester, Middlesbrough and Liverpool, and Sam Allardyce’s side were brand new to the Premier League.

Vela has been through spells of transfer speculation before in his fledgling career, not least when Cardiff City came sniffing around in January at the height of the club’s financial problems.

Two rejected bids from Wigan Athletic tells you the Whites are not only in a better position right now but that Phil Parkinson is serious when he says he wants the Salfordian front and centre in his team this season.

And in this kind of form, why not? Vela had been a little off-colour on a tight, sticky surface at Wimbledon, playing most of the game on the left edge of the midfield diamond. Here, on the right, he rattled around a big pitch like a man possessed.

He opened the scoring with a brilliant effort just six minutes in. Jamie Proctor and Mark Davies had moved the ball quickly down the middle, Vela picked the ball up on the right edge of the box and drilled a powerful effort which nicked off the defender’s boot and looped up over Steve Mildenhall into the net.

Home fans at the Memorial Stadium are not used to seeing their side behind. The club were gunning for an 11th consecutive victory and hadn’t lost a home game since December 2015.

Rovers played like a confident side, too, Chris Lines pulling the strings behind two dangerous front men in Matty Taylor and Ellis Harrison.

Wanderers had to be on their guard and once again David Wheater and Mark Beevers excelled as an impenetrable partnership in the middle of defence but on 26 minutes they pulled another rabbit out of the hat.

Gary Madine had worked hard during the opening 25 minutes with little help from referee Ollie Yates. He finally got a decision after being dragged down on the edge of the box by James Clarke.

Jay Spearing clearly fancied it. No-one else was within 10 square yards as he placed the ball down 20 yards out.

What the former Liverpool man produced, however, wouldn’t have looked out of place in La Liga. Spearing dropped the ball inch-perfect into the top corner, racing away both arms aloft before it had even hit the back of the net.

This wasn’t just good, it was out of this world.

Rovers had plenty of time to repair the damage and wing-back Daniel Leadbitter’s pace certainly gave Dean Moxey plenty to think about.

Harrison lifted a shot over the bar and Beevers made a crucial last-ditch challenge to deny the ever-dangerous Taylor.

Wanderers will feel they should have had a penalty too. Madine – still working his socks off – raced on to a long ball and got beyond Clarke before crumpling to the floor. Again, referee Yates was not in agreement.

At half time it was a case of stick or twist for the Whites. The first half had been played at a frantic pace and Parkinson will no doubt have told his players not to give away the early goal. Best laid plans, and all that.

Rovers had gambled by sending on two attacking players in Jermaine Easter and Billy Bodin and got their rewards, swamping Wanderers early in the half.

Proctor had one brief glimpse of goal and perhaps should have pulled the trigger earlier rather than trying to beat a man after Rovers had got themselves into trouble on the edge of their own box.

Otherwise it was all Rovers and they deservedly got back into the game when Lines’ free kick was palmed on to the post by Howard and Harrison reacted first to bury the rebound.

Wanderers started to look ragged, the fatigue of two long trips possibly setting in. Vela and Spearing were no longer in control of midfield and the gaps were starting to open up.

The last 20 minutes promised to drag. But Parkinson wisely chose that point to add some fresh legs – Chris Taylor and then Zach Clough adding a bit more energy and, more crucially, the ability to hold on to the ball.

Conor Wilkinson also came on for his first Bolton appearance since January 2015 and combined brilliantly with Clough with his first touch, his strike partner beating three men before over-complicating things with an extra pass.

Wilkinson was guilty of some similar wastefulness at the death – but his impressive cameo suggests his time at Wanderers is not necessarily at an end.

Match ratings













Subs: C Taylor 6, 63 (for Trotter), Clough 6, 70 (for Proctor), Wilkinson 81 (for Madine).

Not used: Amos, A Taylor, Wilson, Woolery.

Bristol Rovers (5-3-2): Mildenhall; J Clarke, Leadbitter, Hartley, Lockyer, Brown; O Clarke, Sinclair, Lines; Taylor, Harrison.

Subs: Bodin 46 (for Leadbitter), Easter 46 (for O Clarke), Montano 70 (for Brown)

Not used: Puddy, Broom, James, Gaffney.

Attendance: 9,169 (700)

Referee: Ollie Yates