A look ahead to tomorrow's game
Bristol Rovers make the short trip across to visit Oxford United’s Kassam Stadium in much better form since the start of 2013. In the 6 games played so far this year Rovers have picked up 13 points with the only defeat coming at high riding Gillingham.
Rovers will be seeking an element of revenge for the opening day defeat by the U’s which set the tone for Mark McGhee’s 2012/13 season. After coming in as manager McGhee’s team had not lost a home League game until that game.
Oxford opened the scoring on 21 minutes, Adam Chapman fed the ball into Jake Forster-Caskey, who turned and shot on the edge of the area. Alfie Potter doubled Oxford’s lead just after the half hour mark, after a slip from Michael Smith near the half way line. The Oxford winger made a great solo run, and slotted the ball home past Walker in the Rovers goal.
That 2-0 defeat was just a precursor for a dismal start to the season for the Gas.
United meanwhile have had a mixed season but are looking to push on for a promotion spot at the season’s end, having come so close to the play-off place last season, falling away dramatically by picking up just 3 points from their last 7 games. Their 2013 form has not been very good so far having picked up just 8 points from the 7 games played.
On Saturday the Yellow’s visited Southend United and it was the Essex team who came out on top, when Ryan Leonard scored four minutes after coming on as a substitute to earn his team all three points.
Leonard headed Michael Timlin's cross past new Oxford keeper Luke McCormick, who was playing his first Football League game since being jailed in 2008. United’s Alfie Potter had the two best opportunities, but after being sent clear the winger was unable to beat Southend goalkeeper Paul Smith.
United Boss Chris Wilder was furious with his team after the game. He said: “I’ve said what I had to say to the players, regardless of whether they like it or not. I let them have it and I think rightly so, because this is a game we should won, without a shadow of a doubt.
“From the first minute we should have been 1-0 up – I’m not saying every chance should go into the back of the net, but my goalkeeper’s not had to do anything apart from pick the ball out of the net and boot it a few times. We’ve defended pretty well, but we haven’t defended all the way through.
“We passed it in midfield pretty well, we created chances, but we’ve not stuck the ball in the back of the net. I can’t dress it up. We’ve lost a game of football and I’m very annoyed.”
Speaking about the manner of the winning goal Wilder went on, “We have to put teams to bed, but we haven’t. It’s not even as if they’ve created anything – it was one long ball. Instead of getting there quickly and clearing it we haven’t and the ball ends up in the back of our net. It’s an absolute joke.”
Looking at the history of games between the teams, there have been 45 meetings since Oxford first entered the League back in the mid 1960’s, replacing Accrington Stanley.
In terms of results the games between the teams have been remarkably even over the years with Rovers winning 16, United 17 and 12 draws. In all respects it’s the home teams who dominate in these fixtures with 5 United away wins and 5 Rovers away wins.
In recent years it is the Yellow’s who have dominated with 5 wins and 2 draws in the last 7 meetings. Rovers’ last win was a 2-0 victory on 2 October 2004
The first game between the two teams was played on 18th September 1965 at Eastville. There were four goals scored, all by Jones, one by Oxford’s Tony, but the star of the day was Rovers’ Bobby who bagged a hat tick.
However my vivid memory of that day was the Oxford custodian, Harry Fearnley who was smoking during the game! He used to rush into the back of his net whilst play was at the other end and have a quick puff.
Also in the Oxford team was "Big Fat" Ron Atkinson, who the Evening Post noted failed to keep a tight grip on Bobby Jones.
The most goals scored in a Rovers’ home game was a stunning 6-2 win at the end of the 2000-01 relegation season, which ended up being meaningless as Rovers’ season fell apart at the death.
That 2 goal haul was only the second time the U’s have managed two goals on Rovers territory. However the next time they registered that number at the Mem was in 2002-03 season when they secured a 2-0 win.
Rovers’ worst defeat at Oxford, until the 6-1 thrashing in 2010/11 in the Coca Cola Cup, was a 4-1 loss on only their second visit to the ground on 2 February 1967. Alfie Biggs was Rovers’ scorer.
Rovers’ next visit, only 7 months later, was much more productive, a mid-week 2-0 victory with goals by Harold Jarman and an own goal by John Shuker sent the Eastville faithful home happy.
It wasn’t until September 1995 that the victory was to be repeated when the two Marcus’s, Browning and Stewart scored in a 2-1 win for the Gas. Back in 1982 and 1983 Rovers played two Boxing Day games at the Manor, scored 2 goals in both and lost both, 4-2 and 3-2 respectively.
Rovers had a remarkable spell at Oxford between 1995 and 2002. They played there five times, won four and drew the other game. Amongst those victories was a 5-0 thumping on 22nd January 2000, which looked as though it had set Rovers on the path to promotion.
United hope to have Lewis Montrose available for his home debut on Saturday. The on-loan Gillingham midfielder has missed the last two games with a slight hamstring problem after a first game for the U's away at Bradford.
Boss Wilder said, "He's in our thoughts. Having players like Lewis and Andy Whing available again gives you players who are real winners and will scrap for every ball, and it is good to have them coming back right now."
Meanwhile midfielder Peter Leven has been ruled out until the final month of the season after undergoing knee surgery. The 29-year-old has been a key member of the U's squad this season, playing 25 times and scoring six goals.
He is set to be sidelined for eight weeks due to a keyhole procedure meaning he could return with just a handful of games left in the League Two season. One player who may be on his way back is Andy Whing.
The former Coventry defender has endured an injury-hit season but is well on the way to a return after his latest ankle injury.
With Rovers getting goals from all round the team, they have just set an all time club record with the last 10 goals scored by 10 different players; there is no obvious strike threat to the United defence.
But as both Barnet and Cheltenham have recently experienced they will need to be on their mettle right up until the Referee blows the final whistle.
Written by Gerry Prewett.