A look at tomorrow's opposition
Bristol Rovers head north to Mansfield Town looking to secure their first win in 6 games against the 5th placed home team. The midlanders are themselves looking to recover some form, having picked up 10 out of 12 points on offer in September, the Stags have lost both their games in October so far.
Town's eight-game unbeaten league run came to a surprise end with a thumping home defeat by Hartlepool on Saturday. Mansfield made a bright enough start, Ryan Tafazolli heading against the post and sending the follow-up wide after six minutes, then Calvin Andrew's diving header flew just wide a minute later.
They were set back on their heels when Andy Monkhouse's unstoppable 25-yard strike on 8 minutes gave the visitors an early lead. From then on the Stags’ Alan Marriott remained the busier keeper and had to save well from Jack Compton's 22nd-minute shot.
Compton doubled the lead a minute before half-time when he cut in from the right and fired a low shot under Marriott who appeared to go down late.
Compton scored another 5 minutes after the break with a curling free-kick over the Stags defensive wall. Sam Clucas' penalty, awarded on 75 minutes after Sam Collins was penalised for handball, gave the home team some hope, but that was dashed just four minutes later as James Poole's low 20-yard finish from a Compton pass completed a 4-1 away win.
Despite that defeat and a narrow 1-0 home loss to near neighbours Chesterfield on Tuesday in the JPT, Town Chairman John Radford has claimed that the club should be looking to achieve a playoff spot during their first season back in the Football League.
"We have high expectations and I think we can exceed the expectations of non-Mansfield fans," said Radford
"I can't see us not being in the playoffs or coming first or second. I'm a really happy Chairman and it's so much easier to run a club back in the Football League. The fans have been fantastic and I'm really happy with the manager and the squad. Everything is going right at the moment."
Rovers’ last three visits to Field Mill has seen them collect two wins and a draw. A Junior Agogo double secured a rare away win on 7 August 2004. On 28 December 2005, Nathan Arnold, Adam Rundle and Allan Russell scored for the home team whilst James Hunt and a Richard Walker double (including a penalty) replied for the visitors.
Rovers last visit to Field Mill was on 7 April 2007 when Steve Elliott secured maximum points for Rovers. Those recent results have been very much against the grain as the overall record stands at 5 wins, 5 draws and 13 defeats for Rovers in the mining town.
The Nottinghamshire team’s last win over Rovers was on 6 April 2002 when a team containing Craig Disley scored goals by Adam Murray and Andrew White to secure a 2-0 home win.
A game in Bristol on 19 March 2005 was a real thriller, with the Stags taking an early lead but Rovers scoring twice before half-time to go in 2-1 up at the break.
Two goals in three minutes, just after play resumed gave the advantage to the Nottinghamshire team and a Callum Lloyd goal on 68 minutes seemed to have ensured that all three points were going back to the midlands. Rovers’ determination was not to be underestimated and two goals in the last 10 minutes ensured a remarkable 4-4 draw.
That result was the second time that the teams shared 8 goals in Bristol. The previous occasion was 15th October 1966. Alfie Biggs, Harold Jarman (2) and Kenny Ronaldson scored for the home team and John Rowland (2), Tommy Mitchinson and Stuart Brace scored for the Stags. In some respects that match was even more fabulous in that the half-time score was 0-0!
The first ever League meeting between the clubs took place on 19 September 1931 and ended in a 1-1 draw at Eastville. Billy Routledge scoring for Rovers and Ernie England scoring a penalty for the away team.
The return match at Field Mill saw Rovers run out 3-0 winners, their best ever result at Mansfield, with Routledge, Ronnie Dix and Tom Cook notching the goals.
Looking back at some more of the home games, on 4th January 1958 the clubs met in the F.A. Cup and Peter Hooper (2), Alfie Biggs, Dai Ward and George Petherbridge thrilled a 20,446 Eastville crowd as Rovers ran out 5-0 victors.
The opening day of the 1964/65 season saw Rovers win 4-1. Robin Perry in his Evening Post match report described the performance as “Efficient and often exciting….in the style that has become traditional under the Tann management”.
Harold Jarman opened the scoring after just four minutes and Johnny Brown scored a second goal very shortly afterwards. Alfie Biggs netted the third and Jarman created the fourth for Ian Hamilton. Peter Morris the Stags left half netted a consolation goal eight minutes from time.
The following season Rovers were in a shocking slump and had their longest spell ever without a win. Then they suddenly saw off Grimsby with two goals in four minutes and beat Brentford away 5-0. Their next home game was against the Stags.
Alfie Biggs headed Rovers into a second minute lead, scored another 22 minutes later, which was quickly followed by a Johnny Brown goal. Bobby Jones and Roger Frude added quick second half goals before Johnny Petts sealed a 6-0 victory with just four minutes left.
In Nottingham the story has been very different. Rovers first six visits after the War all resulted in defeat. During that time they scored one goal and conceded fifteen.
They finally broke the sequence with a 0-0 draw on 26th October 1968. Rover’s worst result at Field Mill came on 31st January 1987 when they went down 5-0.
Latest news from Mansfield is that Keiran Murtagh is in line to make his first League Two start with fellow midfielder Jamie McGuire suspended. Ritchie Sutton is a doubt after being concussed in Tuesday's 1-0 Johnstone's Paint Trophy defeat to Chesterfield, but may be considered.
McGuire picked up his fifth yellow card of the campaign on Tuesday night. Manager Paul Cox said: “Jamie has been outstanding since the beginning of the season. He is infectious and everything I want in a footballer at this club. Jamie leads by example and he will be a massive loss.
“The plus point is that Keiran Murtagh came in for his debut on Tuesday and looked like he had been there all season and played extremely well. We have players here that can come in and do a job.
“I thought the whole side were excellent on Tuesday. Players like Junior Daniel and Lee Stevenson need another couple of games in terms of match fitness to get the sharpness they need and if they’d had that on Tuesday I think we’d have probably scored three goals. Both of them worked very hard.
“We performed very well against a very good side, but just missed away putting one of the chances we created. But this is a results-based business and that is two defeats on the trot. We just have to get back on the horse on Saturday.
“There are no easy games at this level as we saw last week. I hope our mindset will be better on Saturday and we play with fresh impetus from Tuesday. I hope we can carry on that performance but get a better result.
“The main thing now is not to be complacent. It was a good performance on Tuesday but that’s all. This game is all about winning and if we can play like Tuesday but get three points on the board as well we will be starting to head in the right direction.”
Defender Lee Beevers commenting on the Chesterfield match said, “It was a lot better performance than last Saturday. We got the ball around and created many chances but were unfortunate not to score. We could have scored a couple but tonight wasn’t the night.”
“We defended really well. We had a few chances in second half but overall I was quite pleased with the performance. It’s never nice to lose at all but tonight we have lost in the right way. We are a little bit happier than what we were but it’s still not nice to lose.”
He added: “Now we have to concentrate on the league and see what we can do. It’s going to be a tough game [against Bristol Rovers] with them playing in the higher divisions in previous years. We showed tonight we don‘t want to see anything like we did last week and make a habit of it. We carried on and looked to put things right.”
With both team’s looking to secure maximum points to get their respective season’s back on track there is every prospect of this being a thrilling game.
Written by Gerry Prewett