A look ahead to tonight's game
For the first time since 1979 Bristol Rovers start their season with a Cup tie. A trip to Portman Road, Ipswich awaits the Gas.
The results in pre-season are in sharp contrast to last season where the Gas seemed to sweep all before them, but that meant very little once League action began. Mark McGhee has spent the summer trying to build his own team.
The capture of Fabian Broghammer should be a real positive, although the clearance for him to be able to play at Ipswich is still awaited. The experienced Garry Kenneth is likely to be missing after his hamstring injury in the derby game.
Also long time target Oxford United’s Jamie Constable is still in the cross-hairs of Mark McGhee. Although that deal may not go through until Rovers opening day fixture, against Oxford!
The Tractor Boys had a poor season in 2011/12 eventually finishing 15th after a last day away win at already relegated Doncaster.
Their season got off to a great start with a 3-0 away win at our cross city rivals but rapidly went pear shaped with 4 consecutive defeats including a 7-1 thumping at near neighbours Peterborough.
They had also gone out of the League Cup after losing 2-1 at home to Northampton, so Rovers can take some encouragement from that.
Some patchy form lifted Paul Jewell’s team up the table until the end of October when they lost 7 consecutive League games. On 3 December they were level on points with Bristol City in 21st place.
Things didn’t improve for long, after Boxing Day there was another 7 game run without a win, but there were 2 draws. The East Anglian team showed what they were capable of at the end of January when they thrashed Premiership bound West Ham, 5-1. Town’s form remained inconsistent and they never got above mid-table.
Like Mark McGhee, Paul Jewell has also been busy over the summer. There have been new signings Elliott Hewitt, Luke Chambers, Scott Loach, Massimo Luongo and Maurice Edu. Whilst Jimmy Bullard, ex-Gas Nathan Ellington and Jaime Peters all seem to be on their way out.
One remaining target is reportedly Reading striker Simon Church as a season-long loan signing. Last season, the 5ft 11in tall striker netted seven goals in 21 starts and 12 sub appearances but may find it harder to win a place in the side after the Royals’ return to the Premier League.
Rovers’ record against Ipswich is surprisingly good, having won 15 and lost 13 of the 37 games played. Even at Portman Road the return is very good having won 7 and lost 10 of the 18 games played. However as always statistics can be deceptive.
Rovers’ last win at Ipswich was Boxing Day 1958 when goals by Peter Hooper (pen) and Geoff Bradford stunned a 15,808 crowd.
The last victory prior to that was Rovers’ best ever result at Portman Road on 25 October 1952 as the Championship winning team went on the rampage with goals by Brian Bush, Vic Lambden, Geoff Bradford (2), and George Petherbridge securing a 5-1 victory.
Bringing things back in perspective, Rovers last 5 trips to Ipswich have all ended in defeat. Probably the most painful of these was on 26 February 1979 when the Gas went down 6-1 in a 5th Round FA Cup tie.
It only served to rub salt in the wounds of the previous season when Rovers went down 3-0 at Portman Road in a replay, after a 2-2 draw in the snow at Eastville. David Williams notched a double (including a rare header) but Bobby Gould had a perfectly good goal ruled out for offside (you can check it out on You Tube!)
Latest news from Ipswich is that central defender Damien Delaney has been added to the Republic of Ireland squad facing Serbia in a friendly on Wednesday and will be unavailable. Josh Carson and Ronan Murray will also be unavailable.
The real action for Rovers starts on Saturday but a good run out against a Championship team away from home should show Mark McGhee whether his pre-season has come to the right culmination.
Written by Gerry Prewett