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WYCOMBE FOCUS

25 April 2014

All you need to know about tomorrow's opponents

With two games left to go Bristol Rovers' league survival rests on a knife edge and their opponents and hosts this weekend are in exactly the same position.

Both teams go into the game with just one win in their last ten games and hovering dangerously above the relegation zone, which Northampton Town (23rd), also on 47 points, and Torquay United (24th), on 42 points, currently occupy.

Whatever the result, it will be a hard fought and worrying time for all concerned as Northampton travel to Dagenham and Redbridge and Torquay travel to Mansfield Town in their fight to retain Football League status.

Looking nervously over their shoulder at the bottom two are Morecambe, who sit just three points above the relegation zone ahead of their trip to AFC Wimbledon (who are threatened with a points deduction that may suck them into the battle).

Exeter City are a point and a place worse off in 20th - and they look to have the toughest task of the weekend among the division's strugglers as they host promotion-chasing Scunthorpe United, who are unbeaten in 28 league fixtures.

On Easter Monday the Chairboys failed to make any ground on the Gas, who had lost earlier in the day to Rochdale, as they went down to a 10 man Fleetwood team.

Josh Morris scored the decisive goal at Highbury to keep Graham Alexander's men in touch with the automatic promotion pack and send the Buckinghamshire team closer to the relegation zone. 

The home side looked in the ascendency until a costly moment of madness in the 13th minute. Alan Goodall swung a boot at the already grounded Nick Arnold; a straight red was justified. 

But Wycombe, teetering on the fringes of the relegation zone, created little in a first half dominated by the 10 men. Matty Blair came closest to scoring but he blasted his shot over the crossbar after charging through the visiting defence. 

David Ball had a chance to break the deadlock in the opening minute of the second half but Matt Ingram clung on to his blistering shot. But there was nothing the Wanderers goalkeeper could do when Fleetwood grabbed the lead just before the hour mark. 

A neat move through the middle saw Morris launch a 20-yard pile-driver into the bottom corner of the net. It was the on-loan Blackburn midfielder's second goal in two games to help keep Fleetwood's automatic promotion hopes alive. 

It forced Wycombe out of their shell and on the attack. Substitute Junior Morias tested keeper Chris Maxwell with a curling effort and with seconds of normal time remaining the forward flashed another shot past the post. 

Chairboys Boss Gareth Ainsworth felt it was an opportunity missed by his team, he said after the game, "I'm really frustrated. We had a glorious chance. We thought even a point would be good. 

"When they went down to 10 men it was all very well thinking we could go and win the game but sometimes it's hard. The players didn't react. It was a sloppy goal. We've got to put this to bed quickly because we've got a huge game next weekend which to all intents and purposed will probably decide the future of this football club."

Looking at the history of games between Rovers and Wycombe the ledger is pretty even with 13 Rovers wins, 4 draws and 14 wins to the Chairboys.

It was a Wycombe away win that was one of the most significant results in the history of Bristol Rovers. On 2 May 2001 a spectacular Dannie Bulman strike sent Rovers to the basement Division for the first time ever.

At Wycombe, it is all even with 6 victories to the Chairboys 6 to the Gas and 4 draws. On 29 August 2009 two stunning strikes from Jon-Paul Pittman and Matt Phillips secured a 2-1 win for the home team and gave Peter Taylor his only win as Blues' boss in League One.

On 9 November 2010 Jo Kuffour, had a game to remember at Adams Park. His two first half goals set Rovers up for what looked like a good away win, but on 58 minutes, Scott Rendell pulled one back for the Bucks team. Within a minute Kuffour had hit back to restore Rovers two goal lead and to complete his hat-trick.

Chris Lines added goal number four with a surging run into the area which took him past three home defenders and he comfortably beat Bull from eight yards. Rovers fifth goal came from the penalty spot after Alan Bennett brought down Kuffour and Hughes sent Bull the wrong way with his spot kick.

A foul on Rendell by Lines enabled the home striker to add his second goal of the evening from the penalty spot on 83 minutes. Five minutes later Rendell completed his hat trick when he headed home a cross from Matt Bloomfield.

That wasn't the end of the scoring as Ben Swallow got in on the act, cutting in from the right and unleashing an unstoppable shot that flew past Bull and into the roof of the net and secure a 6-3 away win.

In the Wycombe camp Aaron Pierre has called for his team mates to go the extra mile in what he described as a must win game.

Pierre showed the levels of determination Blues are going to need to come out on top in the scrap, scoring a crucial goal against Northampton in another relegation six pointer on Good Friday before playing through the pain barrier three days later. 

He said he was following the example set by former England skipper John Terry in putting the side before himself in an attempt to win at all costs.

The 19-year-old said: "It's definitely a must win game. When we beat them, it gives us more confidence and less pressure. When we play Torquay on the final day we've got all that confidence, all that energy, so when we win that we'll stay up, 100 per cent.

"Our aim is to stay in the league; we don't want to be a non league club. We have to win regardless of any other team in the bottom three. We have to win games and whatever happens, happens. If we win our games, we've done all we can do.

"If the club or the gaffer needs me to be playing and I feel OK then I'll give my best and help the team out as much as I can. You have to play as hard as you can, the best you can, even through little niggles. John Terry does it all the time, he's at the top of his game and if he can do it, why can't people like me do it?"  

Meanwhile his Gaffer Ainsworth denied it's vital his side needs to take all three points. The manager said his target is simply to avoid defeat.

"Not getting beaten is the priority. A win would be fantastic - that's the quote I'm giving on the result. I believe we can beat Bristol Rovers.

"I don't like saying it's a must win game. It's always a 'do not get beaten' game for me, because if you don't get beaten we stay above Bristol and that's important, to stay above two teams at this stage of the season." 

Talking about the Fleetwood game he said, "The sending off affected us in a negative way rather than a positive way. It was us then gambling a little bit, instead of a point being a good result. We've left gaps at the back. Once they scored they parked their bus in front of their goal and there was no way we were going to score. 

"It's a lesson learned but it's a very costly one because one point would have been great for us. We'd have still have needed to not get beaten on Saturday, which is still the case for me. It's a big game now against Bristol Rovers and not to get beaten is the aim. 

"The fear came with it as soon as Fleetwood scored. It became panic rather than fear, because we were 1-0 down against ten men. If you open up the whole situation and looked with peripheral vision, it still wasn't such a bad thing. We still could have got back into the game and I felt we panicked. We were a bit tense in our play. 

"It comes with experience and being able to draw on past games in your career, which is one thing a lot of our players don't have because it's their first season in football. You can understand why fear can manifest itself in games as different things, whether it's mistakes or tiredness. 

"I'll be doing all I can to say to the boys there's absolutely no pressure on any of you, there's no fear - you go out there and play freely, because if you do that no team in the world can live with you. 

"In life you've got to have no pressure and enjoy yourself, but it's easy to say and hard to do."

Written by Gerry Prewett

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