A look ahead to Saturday's gameAs Bristol Rovers take the short journey across the country to Adams Park to face Wycombe Wanderers on Saturday, the question on all GasHeads lips will be, can lightning strike twice?
Seeking their first victory of the season back in August, Rovers were leading 3-1 when a cloudburst over Adams Park led to torrential conditions. What made the abandonment so unusual was that the call was made by the Wycombe Health and Safety Officer as the stand in which the GasHeads were housed was struck by lightning.
On Saturday the Buckinghamshire team lifted themselves out of the relegation zone with a 3-0 dumping of Burton Albion to record just their second home win of the season in front of a 3,191 crowd at Adams Park. The Chairboys opened the scoring on 13 minutes when Matt McClure reacted quickest after Dean Lyness in the Brewer’s goal parried Joel Grant's shot.
In the early stages of the second half Brewers captain Zander Diamond was sent off after hauling down McClure. Joel Grant converted the subsequent spot-kick sending Lyness to wrong way.
Just six minutes later the game was finished as a contest as McClure once again reacted quickly to knock in a loose ball, after a Grant header was cleared off the line, to score his fourth goal in a week.
Wanderers Boss Gareth Ainsworth commenting after the game said, "First half was a real battle against the elements and 11 men. At half time the lads came in tired, as if they had played 90 minutes. They really put everything into that first half and I had to pick them up and get them ready. I said this is our half, this is where we can get passing, they went out and did it.
"Second half you saw how difficult it was for defenders, because our lads ran riot."
Reflecting on the game before where his team had beaten high flying Rotherham he noted, "The Rotherham result was really special and I honestly thought we don't have to fear anybody after that result. I've believed that since I took over and it's come to fruition.
"We're not going to win every game but I think we will win more than we lose. The spirit in there's fantastic at the moment. We've turned that corner and we'll keep going forward now.”
Looking at the history of games between Rovers and Wycombe the ledger is pretty even with 13 Rovers wins, 4 draws and 12 wins to the Chairboys. It was a Wycombe away win that was one of the most significant results in the history of Bristol Rovers. On 2 May 2001 a spectacular Dannie Bulman strike sent Rovers to the basement Division for the first time ever.
At Wycombe, Rovers hold a slight advantage with 6 victories to the Chairboys 5, with 4 draws. The last league clash came on 29 August 2009 when two stunning strikes from Jon-Paul Pittman and Matt Phillips secured a 2-1 win for the home team and gave Peter Taylor his only win as Blues' boss in League One.
On 9 November 2010 Jo Kuffour, had a game to remember at Adams Park. His two first half goals set Rovers up for what looked like a good away win, but on 58 minutes, Scott Rendell pulled one back for the Bucks team. Within a minute Kuffour had hit back to restore Rovers two goal lead and to complete his hat-trick.
Chris Lines added goal number four with a surging run into the area which took him past three home defenders and he comfortably beat Bull from eight yards. Rovers fifth goal came from the penalty spot after Alan Bennett brought down Kuffour and Hughes sent Bull the wrong way with his spot kick.
A foul on Rendell by Lines enabled the home striker to add his second goal of the evening from the penalty spot on 83 minutes. Five minutes later Rendell completed his hat trick when he headed home a cross from Matt Bloomfield.
That wasn't the end of the scoring as Ben Swallow got in on the act, cutting in from the right and unleashing an unstoppable shot that flew past Bull and into the roof of the net and secure a 6-3 away win.
Kuffour is now playing for Wycombe but damaged ankle ligaments sustained in a game with Oxford could prevent him from notching his first goal for the Chairboys after 12 appearances.
Once fit he will be in contention with 21 year old Irishman Matt McClure who has now notched 5 goals in 8 games, including those 4 scored in the last week. Unsurprisingly he has been tipped to be the man to get goals for Wanderers this season by manager Gareth Ainsworth.
Ainsworth said, "Matt is an out and out goalscorer. He's one of those strikers who plays as high as he can, almost offside half the time. He's highly thought of by me and he plays a big part in my plans."
Wanderers’ top scorer Joel Grant says he’s loving being part of Wycombe’s exciting attacking displays. He took his tally for the season to six against Burton.
“Saturday was fantastic,” said Grant. “We scored three goals and kept a clean sheet. I’m delighted. If they go down as assists, I’m more than happy. Matt works very hard. He was unfortunate earlier in the season with his hamstring injury, but to have him firing now will help us no end.”
“I was a bit gutted not to get a hat-trick but when someone’s following in like he does, I’m more than happy. When I’m out wide, he makes a run in the box. He’s an all-rounder, he can run in behind, he can hold the ball up and can finish.
“I’m delighted for him, but I’ve also got excellent players around me like Dean (Morgan) and Bruno (Andrade), everyone makes my job easier.”
Reflecting on back to back wins, something Rovers have yet to achieve this season, the midfielder said, “After these two wins, I’m sure the lads’ confidence will really start to come out. First half on Saturday we did what we needed to do to stay 1-0 up. Second half we played some excellent football. Hopefully we can push forward from here and get a few more wins.
“The fans, like I’ve always said, have been fantastic and I’m enjoying playing in front of them. Hopefully they’re enjoying watching me too.”
Mark McGhee is well aware of the importance of this game to Rovers’ season and has pointed out that he has a number of players starting their returns from long-term injury.
If Rovers can repeat the attacking performance of last weekend but without the defensive woes there is no reason they should not start to climb the table. 3 points from this weekend’s game would be a good start.
Written by Gerry Prewett