We focus on our next fixture, heading away to Doncaster Rovers...
With Bristol Rovers no longer able to avoid the League One spotlight, now finding themselves in 4th place, their trip to South Yorkshire to face Doncaster Rovers will be a stern test of their credentials. With all the early season focus on Jonson Clarke-Harris, the performance of many other players has largely gone unnoticed. The solid performance against MK Dons last week showed that the Gas are very much a team and not a one-man-band.
Whilst the Gas’ unbeaten run has seen them flying high Doncaster have hit a really poor spell with just 6 points from their last 6 League games. Darren Moore’s team were expected to be amongst the front runners this season after making the Play-Offs and going out to Charlton in the semi-final last time out.
Looking at the Division One table, this time last season, there is something of a reality check seeing Walsall and Accrington right up in the leading positions. Whilst it is great to have the points ‘in the bag’ there is no guarantee that the current form will continue. What is guaranteed, is that Graham Coughlan will demand 100% effort and commitment from the entire squad.
Last season the South Yorkshire team dominated both games in the fixture winning 4-0 at the Mem and 4-1 at the Keepmoat. When Rovers headed up to Doncaster, they were full of optimism, garnering five wins and three draws from their previous 8 away games. Whereas Donny had four wins and four draws in their last eight home games.
As the Gas put in a workmanlike display to collect all three points last weekend, Donny suffered a second consecutive league defeat, going down 3-0 at Oxford and continuing a run in which they have won just once in their last seven in all competitions.
It wasn’t until the stroke of half-time that Oxford’s James Henry was picked out in plenty of space, 25 yards out and smashed a shot into the top corner, to give the home team the lead. They doubled the lead within two minutes of the restart. Mark Sykes saw a shot blocked, with the ball recycled out to Chris Cadden who zipped in a low pass towards Cameron Brannagan who met it first time to slot into the bottom corner from 15 yards.
Matters got worse for Doncaster in the final quarter of an hour when Oxford were awarded a penalty after a cross from substitute Shandon Baptiste was adjudged to have been handled by Tom Anderson. Seny Dieng got a hand to Henry's spot-kick but could not keep the strike out.
Moore’s men failed to register a single shot on target and after the game he reflected, “Goals change games and they got them at the crucial times. We were found a little bit wanting in that respect. Credit to Oxford. We wanted to try to come here and stop that momentum. We wanted to get back to winning ways, but in the end, they were a little bit too strong for us.”
“It was a tough day for us to take, but we’ve got to learn from it. Oxford are on an incredible run, they’re a good team, but in areas, I thought we needed to be a little bit better.”
There has been a total of 41 games between the two teams with Bristol Rovers winning 17 and Doncaster 18. There has only ever once been a 0-0 draw in these matches and that was at Eastville on 9 January 1960 in an FA Cup tie, the Gas won the replay three days later in Yorkshire.
The highest score between the teams was on 22 December 1956 when the home team won 6-1 at Eastville. Barrie Meyer (2), Dai Ward (3) and Geoff Bradford scoring for the home team and Geoff Walker for the visitors.
The 2007 JP Trophy Final, won 3-2 by Doncaster, has been described as probably the most exciting of the Finals ever played. There can be little doubt that the pain of that victory spurred the Gas to their heroic finish to that season culminating in the last-minute Sammy Igoe goal that secured the 3-1 victory over Shrewsbury at Wembley and promotion.
When the Gas visited the Keepmoat Stadium on 9th February 2008, they were defending an impressive unbeaten record against the team in second spot. After conceding two penalties they came back empty-handed, Brian Stock on 65 minutes and Paul Heffernan on 90 minutes, scoring.
Within a month Doncaster had returned from the Mem with all 3 points again and it was Heffernan who was on the scoresheet once more, this time after just 3 minutes.
Two seasons ago at the Keepmoat the home team made an excellent start and took the lead after four minutes when John Marquis side-footed in Matty Blair's low cross at the near post.
The hosts were unsettled after defender Joe Wright was forced off with injury in the 19th minute and the Gas took advantage when Ryan Sweeney bundled in from Liam Sercombe's knockdown. They then took the lead in the 50th minute when Rory Gaffney chested down an Ellis Harrison flick-on and drilled past Ian Lawlor. Harrison made sure of the win in the 85th minute when he was sent clear by Gaffney before slamming a shot under Lawlor.
Last season was an entirely different story! James Coppinger gave the home side the lead after just three minutes when his tame effort squirmed under Jack Bonham, who should have done better. With just 12 minutes on the clock it was Coppinger again but this time the 38-year-old veteran fired home a low effort from 20 yards.
With just over 30 minutes on the clock Malik Wilks converted from 12 yards before, Kieran Sadlier struck a 30-yard shot four minutes into the second half.
Jonson Clarke Harris pulled one back from the penalty spot after 66 minutes after being shoved to the ground inside the area, but it was too little, too late to affect the result.
It’s the goal-scoring department that has been Doncaster’s issue this season, with Darren Moore saying the squad continues to work on their attacking play and backed them to fire, “It’s not just particularly this week that we’ve been working on it, it’s something we’ve been working on throughout. We’ve been working on getting the right contact on the ball, getting people in the right places and the individual having that confidence to get on the end of them.”
“The creating of the chances, we have been doing. And I firmly believe if we still are creating the chances, then we’ll score more. I think that won’t stop, that creativity. We come up against another strong team on Saturday and we’ll have to be at our best in terms of how we go about the game. For us to get something out of the game we’re going to have to be really, really good.”
“They’re solid, they’re efficient, they know each other inside out, they’re in the ascendancy, they play on the front and they’re strong. I think we also know what we’re about. It’ll be an eagerly contested game between two teams that have their own style of play and identity, going head to head.”
“In any game where you get chances you want to take them. That’s no different on Saturday.”