A look ahead to tomorrow's game
This weekend Bristol Rovers travel to Chesterfield’s Proact Stadium for the very first time to face a team just one position and two points above them in the table.
The Spireites have had mixed form recently losing to Cheltenham on Tuesday after winning at Dagenham on Saturday. The Derbyshire team were held 0-0 in their last home game to Aldershot.
It took a very late Paul Benson header to earn the Robins all 3 points from the mid-week game, to hand them their first-ever victory over Chesterfield in 12 attempts.
Benson met Billy Jones' cross one minute into added time at Whaddon Road. Keith Lowe had headed over the bar as early as the 6th minute for the home team who made the stronger start.
The Spireites improved as the first half wore on and Jay O'Shea saw a firm drive blocked by former Gas hero Steve Elliott 12 minutes later. The big central defender stopped a Drew Talbot attempt and a Conor Townsend header went wide of the near post as the first half ended goalless.
The second half was scrappy but was settled by Benson’s dramatic late winner. Speaking after the game Manager Paul Cook said, "I've got no problem with the lads. Everyone loses games and tonight we've lost. We respect Cheltenham, because they're a very strong side, but our keeper has not had a shot to save.
"We've come under no pressure and at the minute we can't score. Sometimes when you go on these runs of not scoring, it seems to get harder and harder."
Paul Cook had been at the helm for just two weeks when Rovers beat his side 3-2 back on 10 November. John Sheridan was sacked following relegation in 2011-12 and just two draws from the opening three games of this season. In fact it was six games before the Spireites recorded their first victory.
Considering that both teams have been the lower reaches of the League for most of their relative existences there has not been that many meetings, 33 in total. The first League meeting was on 3 October 1970, when Rovers beat the newly promoted Chesterfield 3-2 at Eastville. The return game was won by the home team 2-0 in Derbyshire.
The very first meeting however dates right back to 1 February 1907 when Southern League Rovers beat Chesterfield 2-0 in the FA Cup at Eastville.
Remarkably it was another 57 years before they crossed paths again and this time the Spireites gained their only ever victory in the west country. A First Round League Cup tie saw Fourth Division Chesterfield, inspired by a fine goalkeeping performance by John Osborne, record a 2-0 victory over Third Division, Rovers.
Chesterfield hold a special place in Bristol Rovers club history as an unremarkable 1-1 draw at Eastville on 26 April 1986 was the last ever first team fixture played at Eastville Stadium. Oddly enough the Spireites earned another 1-1 draw towards the end of the following season at Twerton Park; in their first ever visit to Bath.
Since League meetings commenced there have been 5 Rovers victories 5 draws and 5 Chesterfield victories in the midlands.
Team news from Chesterfield concerns right back Drew Talbot who has missed training with a virus but Cook hopes he’ll be available to join the squad. Armand Gnanduillet is expected to take his place in the team alongside either Marc Richards or Jack Lester. Attack is Cook’s main concern as goals have dried up recently.
Cook said, "Getting Tendayi Darikwa out on the pitch and keeping him there is the most important thing for me. I don't believe in rushing people back. We all know it is a results business and no one is hiding from that.
"The target for this club is to be in the play-offs. At the moment we're falling short of where we want to be and we all know that. We need to put a run together quickly and that starts with Bristol Rovers. If we're honest then it doesn't look like we'll get in the play-offs. Having said that Crewe didn't look like they would last season and they won it."
Rovers’ fans don’t need reminding where a late run can take a team, but realistically speaking a top 10 finish would be a remarkable turn around for the Gas under John Ward.
Written by Gerry Prewett.