A look ahead to tomorrow's game
Bristol Rovers' take on York City at home this weekend.
Nigel Worthington’s York City team, like Rovers, have registered just one goal from their first three games but they secured all three points with that goal by defeating Northampton on the opening day.
Worthington noted, "I'm not concerned about the lack of goals at the moment because we've got players who can score goals and players who can create them. I thought the performance on Saturday was a strong one and we battled well.”
Worthington was referring to his team’s dour 0-0 home draw with local rival Hartlepool who picked up their first point of the season. Pools had a penalty claim for a foul on Steve Howard waved away, with a free-kick outside the box awarded.
At the other end City’s Tom Allan beat keeper Scott Flinders, only to see his header scrambled off the line by Neil Austin. Andy Monkhouse went close for the away team late on but Chris Smith was on hand to clear his header off the line.
Speaking after the match Worthington said, "It was a real battle, a real competitive 90 minutes and neither team really wanted to give a lot and you are going to get those games.
"As I just said to the players there's a lot of commitment, a lot of effort and a lot of good things happening. I think we just need a little more composure around the opposition's 18 yard box. We need to get it down we need to put an extra pass in and try and open some things up."
“The game was a scrap from start to finish – a real, real battle and, in League Two, you will get that. You don’t get silky soccer like you might in the Premier League and, sometimes, even that’s a bit scrappy too.
"If we were able to play great football and pick up points in all 46 League games then I don’t think we would be operating at this level but we have good, honest players giving their all and that’s all I can ask for.
"I was delighted with the commitment and overall strength of the team and the way we defended resiliently as a group to keep a clean sheet.
“Hartlepool have dropped out of the division above and, even though they’ve had a slow start, you cannot underestimate anybody. Sometimes, we were trying to force our crosses and shots instead of taking that extra pass to try to open things up a little bit.
“We want to be creating more chances and that’s a collective thing that we are aware of. We didn’t create too many but we have been doing and it’s something we have to keep working on.
"We just need to get people in the box and, without having a go at individuals, we need to drive at the opposition’s full-backs and put some crosses in. At set-pieces, we’ve also got five or six bodies who need to be busting a gut to get on the end of the deliveries. The ball won’t just land on your head, you have to go and find it.”
Some of Rovers’ injury problems are diminishing with Ryan Brunt a possibility for a place in the starting line up for the first time this season. Garry Kenneth could also make his first appearance since January after recovering from a knee injury.
Looking at the history of games between Rovers and York the record is remarkably even, with plenty of away wins; so home advantage is not all it usually is.
Meetings 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 field. 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. Paul Aimson, Kevin McMahon and two John Mackin penalties were the York scorers. That result is by far the highest score in these matches.
On 12 March 1986, goals by Tony Canham (2), Keith Walwyn and Marco Gabbiadini ensured that Rovers went down to a 4-0 defeat at Bootham Crescent. Just over two years later on 15 April 1988 Rovers turned the tables as a David Mehew hat-trick and a strike by Devon White secured a 4-0 victory for the Gas.
Rovers’ last home game against York prior to last season was on 27 March 2004 when they ran out 3-0 winners.
Last season Mark McGhee’s last game in charge saw Rovers capitulate 4-1 at Bootham Crescent on 15 December. Then at the end of March, a 0-0 draw at the Mem helped to keep both teams in the League. Rovers’ complete record at home to York reads Played 20, Won 8, Drawn 6, and Lost 6.
Much like John Ward, Nigel Worthington has had to turn to the younger members of his squad early in the season and he is pleased by the progress of teenagers Tom Platt, Ben Davies and Tom Allan.
"They are learning and will make mistakes but I believe we have a good bunch. I enjoy the enthusiasm and freshness that youngsters bring, but they've got to be able to do the job as well," Worthington commented.
"They are not the finished article and I will probably still be saying that at the end of the season because they are learning and will make mistakes but I believe we have a good bunch who will give their all."
One of those youngsters, Ben Davies, on loan from Preston until at least the end of January aims to be City’s free-kick specialist to the extent of staying behind after training in an attempt to improve his team’s goal threat at corners.
Since Richard Cresswell scored against Plymouth on April 1, the Minstermen have forced 50 flag-kicks without any reward in front of goal in eight games.
From the six corners won against Hartlepool on Saturday Nigel Worthington’s men could not even muster a single attempt on goal despite having seven six-foot-plus outfield players in Tom Allan (6ft 4in), Chris Smith (6ft 2in), Dan Parslow (6ft 1in), Tom Platt (6ft 1in), Ryan Jarvis (6ft 1in), Cresswell (6ft 1in) and Craig Clay (6ft) in their starting line-up.
Davies has now been tasked with swinging in deliveries from the right – a responsibility he is taking seriously. The 18-year-old defender said: “I will take it on myself to hit the training ground this week and practise hard on my corners.
"I’ve not had the chance to do that yet but, if I am going to be taking them, I will work on them and hopefully add a bit more quality. A set-piece can be the difference between winning and losing so, as a team, you need to work on them and, hopefully, we will then see some goals from set-pieces.”
John Ward noted this week that, "There is a little bit of light at the end of that injury tunnel, which is good news for me. People will be looking at this game and thinking there's not many goals between the two teams. It was a tight match last year and I'm expecting similar again."
Nigel Worthington told BBC Radio York, "I know John Ward very well and he's a well-respected man. Make no mistake whatever has happened to them this season is not down to the level of work or organisation."
It should all add to what promises to be a tense and tight game.
Written by Gerry Prewett.