A look at tomorrow's opponents
This weekend Bristol Rovers face a Sunday trip up the M5/M6 to face 7th placed Rochdale. It will not be an easy task for Rovers as Dale have won more home games, 8, and scored more home goals, 24, than any other team in the Division.
The Lancashire team are on a high after their 3-0 Boxing Day victory over Mansfield.
Rochdale started the game brightly and took the lead after just five minutes. Graham Cummins delivered a perfect cross into the box from the left hand side for Scott Hogan, who rose above his man and powered a header into the top corner for his tenth of the season.
Just six minutes later Dale doubled their advantage through ex-Gas Loanee Matt Lund. Peter Vincenti found himself in acres of space on the right and sent a low delivery across the face of goal. Hogan couldn’t quite get to it with his outstretched boot but Lund came racing in at the back post and slotted the ball past Alan Marriott.
The second half got underway in unusual circumstances with the referee starting the match before Mansfield Town had all eleven players on the pitch. He waited for a late Calvin Andrew to join his team mates, but started the half without Ollie Palmer, who took his time returning to the action.
Just five minutes into the second-half it was game over. From a corner on the left, Michael Rose delivered a fantastic ball into a dangerous position and Hogan steered a low ball past Marriott.
Rochdale manager Keith Hill said his side were ‘right on point’ in their quest for promotion after the game “The league table doesn’t matter to me. Performances and results takes care of themselves.
"Who knows what will happen except after 46 games? That’s when we can sit down and look at what we’ve done right and what we’ve done wrong. At the moment, we’re right on point, we’ve won 50 per cent of games this season and it was an excellent result.
“We’re right on track at the moment. We’ve kept a clean sheet, we’ve won 3-0 at home after scoring three good goals, and it could have been more. It was a very professional performance.
“I trust these players. They’ve not let me down all season. We’ve had two superb training sessions this week and having the weekend off was good as it rejuvenated us and gave us a lot of energy.”
Looking back at previous clashes between the teams it is remarkable that the games more often than not result in draws, with half of the 28 games played overall finishing level. At home Dale have won 6 of the 14 games, with just 2 Rovers wins and 6 draws.
The very first game between the two teams took place on 27th September 1969 at Eastville. Both teams had got off to a bright start to the season and newly promoted Rochdale were happy to play an expansive brand of attacking football to thrill the 8,653 crowd.
Harold Jarman opened the scoring with a penalty after Robin Stubbs was brought down. Great work by Butler created a deserved equaliser for Dale and in the second half they took the lead with a headed goal.
Stubbs brought the game back to parity with a weak shot past Harkin into the corner of the net. Bobby Jones put Rovers in front again as he took a high up field ball and struck it past an advancing Harkin. Dale stunned the Eastville faithful with a deserved last minute equaliser. So 3-3 for the first ever game between the clubs.
The return game at Spotland proved to be a dull 0-0 result and this has been the pattern of games at Spotland, with few goals scored by either team.
Rovers’ first away win at Spotland was a 1-0 victory on 25 March 1974 at their 5th attempt. A Bruce Bannister goal in front of a meagre 1,499 crowd secured the two points for Rovers. It took another 6 trips before Rovers secured their second victory at the venue, again 1-0 on 13 January 2006
In 2002-03 season goals from Paul Simpson and Clive Platt gave Dale a 2-1 victory in Bristol, whilst Lee McEvilly scored in the 1-1 draw at Spotland in March.
The following season both games finished 0-0 although the game at Spotland in December ended in high drama, as late in the game Gary Jones blazed a controversially awarded penalty over the bar.
Rovers’ game at Spotland on 8 February 2011 seemed to be heading for a 0-0 draw until a late flurry of goals brought the game to life. Dawson put Dale ahead with 18 minutes left.
It took only 7 minutes for Will Hoskins to bring the game back level but right on 90 minutes Akpa Akpro put Dale 2-1 up before Done finished the scoring 3 minutes later to give the home team a comfortable win.
Last season both games finished 2-1 to the home team. In the game at Spotland David Clarkson’s 14th minute penalty gave the Gas the lead. Wayne Brown was brought down by Peter Cavanagh and Clarkson sent Lillis the wrong way with his well struck spot kick.
Neil Etheridge in Rovers’ goal was beaten, on 27 minutes. Phil Edwards stepped over a corner from the right, allowing Tutte a free shot at goal and he swept the ball past the Rovers’ custodian from 12 yards.
Bobby Grant scored the winning goal, on 59 minutes when his curling shot glanced off the top of Tom Parkes’ head and nestled in the top corner of the net.
Garry Kenneth was sent off after picking two yellow cards and Eliot Richards received a straight red for a reckless challenge in the final minute of the game to complete a very unhappy afternoon for Rovers.
Written by Gerry Prewett.