A look ahead to tonight's game
The last time Bristol Rovers clashed with Bristol City in a competitive fixture was on 27 February 2007. A JPT Southern Final tie was decided by the only goal in the two games, a Rickie Lambert rocket in the 65th minute of the second leg at the Mem.
There were 11,530 packed into the ground that night and a near capacity crowd is expected for the Ashton Gate game tonight.
Players who have never experienced a Bristol derby before (and that will be almost all of them) have noticed how passionate the fans of both teams are in what is usually a low key competition, certainly in the early rounds. Sky TV are well aware that this is likely to be a full bloodied tie and are covering the game live.
Rovers’ most dominant spell in games against City was between January 1987 and January 1991 when they won 6 times and drew 4. One thing Bristol derby games usually guarantee is goals. Goalless draws are rare.
The biggest winning margin? Five goals, City beat Rovers 5-0 on 9 October 1926 at Eastville, Tom Walsh scored a double (including a penalty), with Bert Keating, Arthur Rankin and John Paul also making their mark.
The traditional rivalry of these games was probably best illustrated in one of those rare 0-0 games at Eastville on 2nd February 1957 when Earnie Peacock and Jackie Pitt were both sent off and were still fighting on their way to the dressing rooms.
What many claim was the best game ever played between the two sides took place on 15 February 1958, the 5th Round of the FA Cup. 39,126 packed into Ashton Gate and saw Barrie Meyer, Norman Sykes, Dai Ward and Geoff Bradford score as Rovers recorded a remarkable 4-3 win. Many City fans who were there claimed Bradford’s winning goal in the last 10 minutes was offside.
The next time the two sides met in the Cup it was in the 3rd Round on 17th January 1967. Maybe not a classic game but one full of tension and no goals! 37, 237 crammed in to Ashton Gate to see their teams battle it out.
Another scoreless game and also tension packed was on 23 September 1989 again at Ashton Gate. Ian Alexander was sent off but a battling Rovers came away with a share of the points.
Alexander is the only player to have been sent off in two Bristol derbies having received his second red card in Rovers 2-1 defeat on 6 April 1993 in a League One game.
On 12 September 1987 the points were once more shared but this time the score was 3-3, with Vaughan Jones, Andy Reece and Ian Holloway on the score sheet for Rovers and Alan Walsh, Paul Fitzpatrick and David Moyes on the score sheet for the Robins. Legendry HTV commentator Roger Malone uttered those famous words “Will the excitement never stop?”
In November 1984 City thrashed Rovers 3-0, so when the two sides met a month later in the second round of the F.A. Cup City fans expected a similar scoreline. However they were in for a shock. Paul Randall was on fire that day and a double by him and a goal by Mark O’Connor sent Gasheads home happy.
Talking earlier in the week, John Ward said, "At the moment the game belongs to Bristol - not the competition or anyone else. It's really exciting and good for the supporters, particularly."
Reflecting on Bristol City he said, "They are tough opponents, especially as we are away from home - they will be the favourites to go through. I respect Sean a lot and his teams play very good football. It's a tough game for us, no doubt, but sometimes the underdogs come through. It will be interesting to see how my lads respond in a partisan atmosphere.
"We'll be outnumbered and probably out-shouted at times but we won't be out-tried."
City head coach Sean O'Driscoll, who ironically managed Doncaster when they beat Rovers in that 2007 JPT Final at the Millennium Stadium, commented, "First round JPTs are usually minimum gates. You usually get through them and wait for the later stages before the interest picks up. But this is something different. Hopefully it will be an occasion for football over anything else."
Speaking about John Ward, O’Driscoll noted, "He's a bit of a legend in managerial terms. Even though it's a big game, he'll be making sure nothing spills over into anything that can be reported on. I'm sure he'll play his part in trying to make it as good a game as we possibly can."
News from the Southern part of the city reveals that O'Driscoll is hoping Joe Bryan wins his fitness battle in time for the game. He has an ongoing hamstring problem which puts him a doubt.
Derrick Williams may make an appearance before he links up with the Republic of Ireland Under-21s squad, but Greg Cunningham has been called up by the senior side and will miss out.
International duty also rules out Jamaica's Marvin Elliott and Wales Under-21 international striker Wes Burns. Elliot Parish and Marlon Harewood may find themselves in the lineup.
For Rovers Ryan Brunt is expected to miss out with Matt Harrold a likely replacement. Saturday’s goal scorer Tom Lockyer is expected to retain his place in the side as Rovers look for their third successive victory.
Written by Gerry Prewett.