A look ahead to tonight's game
Bristol Rovers dissection of ‘in form’ Burton Albion. restored their confidence after the narrow loss at Northampton in mid-week. It means they will approach their rearranged home fixture with 4th placed Exeter City in the mood to continue their strong form since John Ward’s arrival.
On Saturday both Rovers and City secured 3-0 home wins. Whilst the Gas were seeing off the Brewers, the Grecians overcame Rovers’ mid-week bête noire the Cobblers.
Northampton hadn't tasted defeat against Exeter in almost 30-years prior to the meeting on Saturday. The Devon team opened the scoring on 22 minutes as the Cobblers’ custodian Lee Nicholls fumbled a Craig Woodman corner into his own net under pressure from Exeter's attackers.
Nicholls atoned when he denied Jamie Cureton who was clean through. But another error saw Arron Davies given an open goal to shoot at but he missed. Just before the hour mark 37-year-old former Gas hero Cureton glanced home Matt Oakley's free-kick for his 20th goal of this campaign.
The Cobblers were denied by a goal line clearance before Jake Gosling saw the game safe in the 83rd minute with ehe Grecians third goal.
City manager Paul Tisdale expressed his delight with the performance of his team, "It was a terrific win and it is all about three points. It doesn't matter whether it is 3-0 or 1-0. It is hard to pick anyone out particularly.
"We defended very strongly. Northampton came very close to scoring and they put a lot of pressure on us. They did their thing and what they do best and we cleared two off the line. Everyone did their thing and we managed to keep a clean-sheet.
"We were excellent today. We have won the last two games and scored five goals. We played with one striker again and scored three goals, we played deep and won, so it is on to the next. It all counts for nothing because it is all about the next game and three points, whether it is at home or away. We will focus on that and go for it."
"Forget fourth in the league. It is so close up there and it is about where finish at the end of the season," Tisdale added. "Let's wait and see – there is still a long way to go yet. It is very tight and at the moment our target is to go for third place.
"It is incredibly tight and it is about consistency, keeping players fit and disciplined. We have got to very careful we don't get carried away."
Earlier this season Rovers secured a 2-1 win in Devon. It was in fact their first win of the season, with goals from David Clarkson on 5 minutes and Eliot Richards on 70 minutes securing the points after Jamie Cureton had equalised for the Grecians.
Since regaining their league status (after a 5 year hiatus) the Grecians experienced some of the best form of their history. They gained immediate promotion in their first season back and had a very successful return to Division One, finishing comfortably away from any relegation danger and playing some very attractive football under Paul Tisdale.
Last season the Devon team struggled throughout and were eventually relegated.
Looking at the history of games between the Grecians and the Gas, the first ever meeting took place in Exeter on the opening day of the 1908-09 Southern League fixtures on 5th September.
An 8,000 crowd saw an entertaining 3-3 draw with goals by Roberts (2) and Peplow for Rovers. In the return game on 2nd January, Rovers ran out 5-1 winners, with goals by Corbett (3), McGubbin and Roberts sending a 10,000 Eastville crowd home happy.
The first Football League fixture wasn’t until the closing weeks of the 1920-21 season. Interestingly the fixtures were played in ‘pairs’ at that time (this lasted for about four seasons).
In the first game on 2nd May at Eastville, Rovers ran out 5-0 winners with goals by Syd Leigh (4) and Ellis Crompton (who was later to captain the Devon team). Leigh became the first player to score four goals in a League game for Rovers. Five days later Exeter gained their revenge at St James Park with a closing day 1-0 win.
Gerry Francis had a brief spell as manager at Exeter during the 1983-84 season and it was a real eye opener to him. Whilst they played very open and attractive football their defence leaked goals alarmingly and they were relegated. Rovers won both their games against their Devon rivals that year.
In the previous season there was a remarkable Eastville game in which Exeter threw everything into attack and were very unlucky to be held to a 4-4 draw.
Paul Randall scored two goals that evening, one of them a trademark run from near the halfway line. It was obvious to all in the North Stand that Randall was well offside when he started his run. But as we all know the Referee is always right, even when he’s wrong!
In recent seasons goals aren’t generally a feature of games between the two teams, although Rovers did secure a 5-0 FA Cup replay victory on 15 December 1998 after a 2-2 draw at St James’ Park.
In Bristol and Bath there have been 42 League and Cup games since 1920 and of those Rovers have won 17, there have been 18 draws and just 7 Exeter victories.
Jake Gosling was suitably happy after scoring his first goal for City on Saturday, yet he was still not completely satisfied with his performance. Gosling hit the national headlines earlier this season when he helped Dorchester Town dump Plymouth Argyle out of the FA Cup with the only goal of the game for his on-loan club back in November.
Speaking after Saturday’s game Gosling said, "I was happy, but I think I can play a little bit better than that. I am just really pleased to get my first goal for Exeter and I hope there are many more to come.
"It was great to score my first goal for the Exeter first team in front of the Big Bank, they are great fans in there and it was a special moment. My family were in the stand, so I gave them a wave as well.
"The lads were all delighted for me, saying, 'Well done Gosy' and stuff like that. It's a good feeling, but I was happy to get the three points, really.
"Listen, I have scored one goal, but I am not silly enough to think I have made it now and will score in every game. I am a young lad developing and I just want to learn and get better every day. It was a great goal and a great performance," he added, "but I am just looking forward to improving and getting better every day.
"Goals give you confidence. I am only a young lad but it was a really massive confidence booster to score my first goal so early [in my career]. It doesn't lift the pressure so much, but I can try and get more now, so it lifts that burden off you. I have to try and play like that when I don't score as well, so it's something for me to work on.
"I'm known as a midget and I looked even more like one out there," he said. "It's a different challenge, but, as a team, we were all really strong and I'm glad we won because it was a great win for us."
Talking about the upcoming game he commented, "It's a massive derby and I can't wait for that. Hopefully I have earned a place, but you never know what the manager wants to do – he does what is right for the team," he said.
"Bristol Rovers did us a favour by beating Burton on Saturday and a few other teams in and around us slipped up, so we are going into the game full of confidence, looking to get another three points and carrying on our good form.
"We are a really tight-knit group and we regrouped after the Burton game and the two wins [against Port Vale and Northampton] are what we needed."
With the Grecian’s away form and Rovers new found confidence there is every prospect of this being a cracking game in front of a packed Mem.
Written by Gerry Prewett