Looking ahead to New Year's Day clash
Bristol Rovers entertain Plymouth Argyle in a New Year’s Day clash that is vital for both teams.
Newly appointed Rovers boss John Ward will see how his team performs at home for the first time after their battling 2-2 draw at Aldershot on Boxing Day.
Argyle are five points and three positions above Rovers, having played two games more. The most recent of those games was on Saturday when Wycombe raided Home Park and took home all three points.
Argyle’s four match unbeaten run, which saw them collect six of 12 points on offer, was ended by an 11th minute strike by the Chairboys’ striker Matt McClure. Matthew Spring dispossessed Luke Young to play in McClure, who shot across keeper Rene Gilmartin to find the net.
Argyle had hit the woodwork shortly before, with Nick Chadwick's shot on the turn cannoning off a post. Paris Cowan-Hall hit the bar after the break while Chadwick and Darren Purse headed narrowly wide as the home side could not find an equaliser.
Speaking after the game Argyle Boss Carl Fletcher said; "We dominated for 90% of the game. We just didn't put the ball in the back of the net, and that was the only difference. There was a lack of quality in the final five minutes.”
Probably echoing the thoughts of John Ward, Fletcher went on to say; "There's definitely people we want to get in, but we can't do it until we get the finances right."
Like Rovers, Argyle were founder members of the Third Division in 1920/21 season and they finished one spot below Rovers at the end of that season in 11th place. The first ever League meeting between the clubs took place on 23rd April 1921 when goals by Ellis Crompton and Billy Palmer secured a 2-0 victory in front of a 14,000 Eastville crowd. The return match a week later saw Argyle gain revenge with a 2-1 victory.
In more recent times Rovers bagged five goals in a memorable FA Cup Third Round tie at Twerton Park on 5th January 1992. A rare 'Jockey' Alexander goal was accompanied by four by Carl Saunders. The 'There’s only one Billy Ocean' theme was heard loud and clear in Bath that afternoon.
Looking back over the history of games in Bristol there have been some real high scoring encounters. The Boxing Day fixture of 1973 kept a 22,353 crowd on their toes as goals by Stuart Taylor, Alan Warboys (2) and Bruce Bannister swept a rampant Rovers to a 4-2 win.
Going back even further, to 14th October 1961, a Bobby Jones double, Geoff Bradford and Peter Hooper goals made the score 4-3 to Rovers. This provided some sort of revenge for Argyle’s 5-2 win just 11 months prior.
It’s also worth remembering that 'Goodnight Irene' was first heard on 4th November 1950 in a game between Rovers and Argyle. Rovers came back from being 1-0 down at half time to score three goals. The Rovers’ fans changed the words of the current hit by the Weavers to ‘Goodnight Argyle”
The Mem has been a happy hunting ground for the Pilgrims in recent seasons; they have collected maximum points in the last three League encounters, the last two of which has seen the Devon team record 3-2 wins. The overall record in Bristol and Bath reads, Played 47, Rovers wins 19, draws, 14, Argyle wins 14.
Looking ahead to the game Carl Fletcher expressed the need for his team to recover from two recent games whilst Rovers have been unable to play; “Rest is important. It’s a key factor in getting ready for the game. There’s not a lot of work you can get in a short space of time.
“We’re travelling up on Monday evening to be ready for a one o’clock kick off. They didn’t play today and they didn’t play the other day. We’ve had two games where they’ve had none.
“We’ve got a few bumps and scrapes. Baz [Onismor Bhasera] came off with blurred vision from his bang on the head, so we’ll have to wait and see. But we’ve got good players who can come in and produce something.”
There is no doubt that the extra few days between games should have given Rovers chance to recover more than the Pilgrims. They will certainly need to improve on their recent home record with their Devon rivals if they are to make some headway back up the table.