A look ahead to tomorrow's game
This weekend Bristol Rovers face a long trip up the M5/6 and over the Pennines to face Capital-One Cup Finalists Bradford City at Valley Parade. This is without doubt a clash of two of the sleeping giants of the Division.
City lead the home attendances table with an average gate of 9,951 - the highest in the Division, Rovers with 6,158 passing through the gates of the Mem, rank 4th.
Whilst City have been slaying Premier League giants in the Cup their League form has suffered somewhat, whereas for Rovers, John Ward’s arrival has seen a revival only rivalled by Lazarus. The month by month statistics are very telling in this regard and this table shows just how rapid the improvement has been since Ward’s second coming.
Month Position Played Points
August 20 2 1
September 18 6 5
October 21 6 7
November 21 5 4
December 23 4 1
January 4 4 9
February 4 7 11
March 1 5 12
Rovers are top of the current form tables for March and the Bantams are in 5th place having won 2, drawn 3 and lost 1 of their last 6 games.
There was much relief at Valley parade on Tuesday night as City secured a much needed home victory, 1-0 over Wycombe. The Bantams went ahead in the eighth minute through Garry Thompson's close-range finish after James Hanson had headed down Kyel Reid's free-kick.
Bradford had earlier had a Hanson header cleared off the line as they aimed for their first league victory at Valley Parade since their Boxing Day defeat of Accrington.
The Bantams were pushing for the security of a second as half-time approached and Zavon Hines was not too far away with a 20-yard drive from another Hanson header. Then Aussie James Meredith overlapped to whip a cross towards the near post but Thompson was caught on his heels and keeper Jordan Archer got there first.
Wycombe's Matt McClure missed a chance to equalise as Dean Morgan’s cross found him unmarked six yards out but the striker’s header went over the bar.
It was City’s first victory since winning 2-0 at York on 2 March. Since then they had drawn 3 games and lost one. Worryingly two of those draws came to cellar dwellers Aldershot and Plymouth.
Considering that Rovers and City have been in existence for so long and have spent so much time in the lower divisions there has been surprisingly few games between them. The very first meeting didn’t take place until 22nd November 1969 when they played out a 1-1 draw at Eastville. Rovers won the game at Valley Parade the following March 4-2.
The overall record between the clubs favours Rovers with 13 wins, 5 draws and just 3 defeats in the 21 games played. Perhaps the most memorable game for Rovers fans was one of the early meetings at Eastville on 4 September 1971.
After just 20 minutes the Gas were 5-0 ahead and had hit the woodwork 3 times! Bruce Bannister, playing for his home town team and later to become a Gas hero, pulled one goal back for the visitors, but two late strikes sealed a 7-1 victory for the boys in blue.
Rovers’ record in Yorkshire is excellent, Rovers have won 4, drawn 3 and lost 3 of the games at Valley Parade. A remarkable feature of this fixture is that the Yorkshire team has never scored more than 2 goals against Rovers at home.
Last season the game played on 10 September finished 2-2. Matt Harrold gave Rovers a first half lead with a goal on 40 minutes. Michael Flynn crashed home a penalty on 64 minutes before Elliot Richards put the Gas back in front 14 minutes later. With Rovers seeming on the way to victory a last minute penalty gave Welshman Flynn the chance to crash home his second spot kick of the game.
Bantam’s Boss Phil Parkinson was delighted after Tuesday night’s victory. He said: “I haven’t looked at the league table in all honesty. It was just important we got the home win. We’ve got five home games left and it was important our supporters saw a spirited performance. We can build on that.
“The first one’s in the bag. We put a lot of work in and the lads have earned their day off. We played well and were competitive all over the pitch. The difference to other home games is that we got a goal when we had a period of pressure, which we’ve not been able to do.
“I felt confident we would have got a second but we showed more resilience to make sure we got the points. It was a thoroughly deserved victory. Ricky Ravenhill’s first-half performance set the tone. It becomes infectious when you’ve got someone playing like that with their heart on their sleeve.
“It was as good a midfield display as any of our players have put in for a long while. He did his job excellently.”
One statistic that shouts out for Bristol Rovers this season is that they have never come from a goal down to win a game. It would be nice to think that should the game go ahead (and the weather forecast is not looking too promising) and the Bantam’s take the lead that the Gas have the new found fight to come back to pick up all three points.
Written by Gerry Prewett