A look ahead to Saturday's game
Bristol Rovers face a 446 mile round trip this weekend when they visit York City. It is the 9 points and 8 League positions between the clubs that is of more concern to Gasheads.
Having won the Blue Square League Promotion Play Off Final last season, York City have settled to League Two football very well. Although they have collected only 10 points from their 10 home games, 17 points from 11 away trips explains why the Minstermen are in a comfortable mid-table position.
However a recent run of 1 win, 3 draws and 3 defeats has seen them slide away from the edge of the Play-Off spots.
In their latest game at Plymouth, the Yorkshire team went down to only their third defeat in the league away from home during 2012. In a scrappy first half, the Minstermen only troubled home goalkeeper Rene Gilmartin to make one save, a weak 41st-minute effort from Matty Blair.
Plymouth were not much more threatening at the other end of the pitch with Paris Cowan-Hall shooting over an empty net, before Jamal Fyfield gave them a welcome boost on the stroke of half-time as he turned in Luke Young’s corner to the far post into his own net.
Substitute Nick Chadwick then secured the points for Argyle on 89 minutes, heading in from four yards after York goalkeeper Michael Ingham had produced an impressive save to keep out Young’s low drive
Speaking after the game City manager Gary Mills admitted that his team were poor after meekly surrendering to defeat, “We were second best from start to finish and didn’t win any second balls. If that’s the case, you end up losing and we got exactly what we deserved – absolutely nothing.”
Looking at the history of games between Rovers and York the record of matches between the clubs is pretty even overall, with plenty of away wins; so home advantage is not all it usually is.
Meetings between Rovers and the Minstermen didn’t start until 1965-66 season as York were either in Division 3 North or the 4th Division up until then apart from 1959-60 season when they had one year in Division 3 (and Rovers were still in Division 2).
That first meeting between the clubs was worth the wait, it was a real stunner. After 15 minutes of the Bootham Crescent game on 10th September 1965 York keeper Tommy Forgan suffered a broken finger and had to leave the game. Right back Alan Baker took over goal keeping duties and he performed brilliantly at times.
Once Alfie Biggs had opened his season’s account in the 35th minute there was only going to be one winner. Terry Oldfield and Harold Jarman added goals that would have beaten any keeper. York fought hard and in-form centre forward Paul Aimson pulled one back but two goals in two minutes by Alex Munro and Harold Jarman gave Rovers a 5-1 victory.
The return game at Eastville on 26th February was tremendously disappointing for Rovers. In a real mud bath Tommy Forgan stopped good efforts by Alfie Biggs and John Brown. Andy Provan for York could have secured a hat trick with better finishing, but the game ended 0-0. York went straight down that season finishing bottom by five points and conceding 106 goals.
It wasn’t until 1971-72 that the teams met again. After a dull 0-0 result at York the Eastville game on 16th October was a real nail biter. A Harold Jarman hat trick and a Kenny Stephens double saw Rovers come in with a 5-4 win. That result is by far the highest score in these matches.
On 12 March 1986 Rovers went down to a 4-0 defeat at Bootham Crescent, but just over two years later on 15 April 1988 turned the tables with a 4-0 victory. Rovers have not won at York since a 1-0 win on 16 August 1997, since then there has been 3 defeats and 1 draw. Rovers overall record at York reads, Played 20, Won 6, Drawn 5, Lost 9.
York skipper Chris Smith is looking for strong fan support to help the team. Talking about his teams’ response to a negative crowd reaction at the end of the game at Plymouth he said, "At the end, we were going over to clap them and thank them irrespective of the result.
"There were a few booing and some fans were shouting stuff at certain players, management and staff. If that's what they want to do, but some of the verbals were a little harsh.
"They have every right not to be happy with the performance and we wanted to thank them for making the effort. They had probably spent a lot of money and I know it's disappointing for them, but we feel it as well."
Despite it being almost Christmas there was one card he was not happy to receive , "The Gaffer wasn't pleased with the yellow card but it was just instinct. I've been pretty pleased with my discipline for a defender otherwise. Suspensions are always there of course and I want to play every game if I am fit and the manager chooses me. If I'm suspended, it will also mean I have to fight to win my place back."
Latest news from Bootham Crescent reveals that Gary Mills has initiated the early return of midfielder Jonathan Smith from a loan at Luton Town. Mills said, "We are pleased to have him back. We've lost a couple of players to injury so it's nice to make the squad that little bit bigger and stronger. He knows that he's a good player and it's down to him to force his way into my team by starting to do what he's good at."
Explaining more about his thoughts of the Plymouth game, Mills went on to say, “We passed the ball very well in our last match at Rochdale but you need the ball first to enable you to play. They were in our faces from the word go and did not allow us to pass it.
“If that happens, you have to make sure you are first to the ball and just hook it up the pitch if you have to. They did that sometimes and our back four were under pressure from the first minute. Theirs were not.
"It’s a long way to come to perform like that and we have to learn from the game because you cannot play without the ball – you have to go and get it. Plymouth wanted it a bit more than we did.
“They were switched on and looked hungrier and that’s what hurts most. I counted that they put the ball in our box six times from free-kicks in the opening 20 minutes just because they had won the ball. We didn’t do that once until right at the end.”
On the change to a 3-4-3 formation in the second half, he explained: “I did a couple of things and I’ve not done that before. They only had one up front and I wanted to push us further up the pitch.
“We decided to be more direct to try to get something out of the game that way. We needed to try something different to try to nick an equaliser, as poorly as we were playing, but we never got into a situation where we looked like we were going to score.”
“What happened doesn’t happen to this team every week and we’ve now got to go in front of our fans during the next two games and show the same desire that Plymouth did to win a game in front of theirs.”
With Rovers just 2 points away from the bottom spot in the League there is a pressing need to start accumulating points.
Written by Gerry Prewett.