A look ahead to tomorrow's game
After their thrilling 2-0 win over promotion chasing Port Vale, Bristol Rovers entertain Rochdale in a clash that could see the home team rise into the top half of the table. Whereas Rovers have picked up 17 points from their last 10 games, Dale have picked up just 10.
As Rovers were putting the Potteries team to the sword on Tuesday night, Keith Hill’s team were battling it out to earn a point from a 0-0 draw at York. The best chance of the game fell to George Donnelly but he could only fire straight at the Minstermen’s keeper Michael Ingham when clean through on goal.
That result was the Lancashire team’s sixth without gaining maximum points and sees them sitting nine points above the relegation zone.
Speaking after the game, the Dale Boss, Hill said, “We just didn't do enough. I thought the lads gave me every ounce of energy they had but they realise and they know how difficult it is to play the way I want to play the game.
"We had the one stand-out chance of the game when George Donnelly went through. He finished two on Saturday and I was expecting him to finish but he didn't.
"I'd take the clean sheet every day, it's another point and hopefully we can now build some momentum. The opposition showed good energy as they have a new manager, I thought both teams were good value for a point."
Looking back at previous clashes between the teams it is remarkable that the games more often than not result in draws, with 14 of the 27 games played finishing level. In Bristol, Dale has proved to be a real bogey team for the Gas with Rovers recording just 2 wins from 13 games whereas the Lancashire team has 3 victories to its name.
The last time the two teams met at the Mem was on 16 October 2010 when a League One game ended up with a 2-1 result in Rovers’ favour.
A Jeff Hughes penalty on half time gave Rovers the lead. Chris Lines appeared to make the game safe on 82 minutes before Byron Anthony put one past his own keeper four minutes later to ensure a nervous finish.
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 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.
At Eastville the story was different, the following season saw another draw, this time 2-2, before Rovers scored their only home victory over the Lancashire team with a 5-2 win. Bruce Bannister, Kenny Stephens, Wayne Jones and Frankie Prince were all on target as Rovers entertained the Eastville crowd.
In the 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.
Former Colchester player Ian Henderson made a goal scoring home debut for Dale on Saturday as they thrashed Wycombe 4-1 and after the game commented, “The manager spoke to us in the week saying that this game would kick-start our season and the result reinforced that. Hopefully we can continue winning games and build on the Wycombe result.
“If we put a few wins together no one knows what could happen and we could emerge as a dark horse. It was an important win. I think people would be lying if they suggested they didn’t look at the table. It’s human nature to have a look at where you are and how you are doing.”
Team news from Spotland is that former Manchester United mid-fielder Ritchie Jones will miss this weekend's match as he continues his recovery from an ankle injury. Keith Hill explained, “Ritchie turned his ankle before we played Wycombe and he has not recovered."
Rovers will be looking to make it 4 wins from 4 home games this weekend. They have picked up 30 points from the 16 games under John Ward.
Although Rovers are 12 points (and goal difference) below the Play-Off spots, 10th placed team Southend United are just 6 points above the Gas, a top 10 finish would not be an unreasonable target at this stage.
Written by Gerry Prewett.