A look at tomorrow' opponents
Bristol Rovers face the haul up the M5/M6 this weekend looking for just their second away win in the League this season. Tuesday’s encouraging win against Cheltenham on Tuesday followed the 1-1 draw with Oxford, and saw the Gas make some progress up the League.
Meanwhile opponents Bury have been stymied by the lack of games with matches at Torquay United and Mansfield Town called off due to waterlogged pitches; their last four scheduled away matches have been postponed.
With David Flitcroft’s side in good form, losing just one of their last seven matches, captain Craig Jones admits to wondering what might have been, “It’s obviously very frustrating,” noted the 26-year-old winger, “We feel like we have been playing well and just want to get on a run so we can start putting some points on the board.”
Jones admits that he and his team-mates had highlighted Saturday’s scheduled match at Torquay United and Tuesday’s game at Mansfield as must-win, “The opportunity was there to make our move up the table,” he added. “So in a way that makes it all the more frustrating. The lads were really up for both matches and are now hoping to take out those frustrations on Bristol Rovers.”
Meanwhile the majority of their closest rivals have been picking up points, which has seen them drop from 17th to 21st in the League Two table. Despite being 15 points outside the play-offs, the Shakers captain believes manager Flitcroft has assembled a squad good enough to bridge that gap.
“That’s our aim, we just need to start the ball rolling by putting back-to-back wins together,” added the wide man, with one eye on Bristol Rovers and the other on Tuesday’s rearranged match at Accrington Stanley.
“We want to win every game from now to the end of the season and I believe we have a squad capable of doing that, or at least putting in a really strong finish. When I look at the players who are around me, I am really proud to lead the team out, it’s a great feeling.
“I would say that most, if not all, of the players in the current squad should be playing at a higher level and I hope we can all make progress up the leagues together. That’s what the manager would like to do and I feel we have the quality in our ranks to do that.”
Looking at the background to games between the clubs, the very first meeting took place on 7th September 1953 in a 2nd Division game at Eastville. Goals by Petherbridge and Massey (own goal) sent a 29,002 Eastville crowd home happy. The return match at Gigg Lane just nine days later saw the Shakers run out 3-1 winners.
Whilst Rovers have a pretty good home record against the Shakers the away results are woeful. During Rovers' first 7 visits to Bury they came away with 1 win and 6 defeats. At Eastville the results were exactly reversed, as Rovers won 6 and lost 1 against their visitors from Lancashire.
Season 1956-57 really showed remarkable results by the two teams. This was during the days when teams played against one another on Christmas Day and the return fixture on Boxing Day.
The Christmas Day Fixture was at Gigg Lane and the Shakers ran out 7-2 victors. Whether they over celebrated their victory or not the Pirates gained their revenge with a 6-1 win the following day. How can a team get 10 goals better or worse in one day?
Amongst the memorable games between the two clubs was one at Eastville on 18th October 1969. Rovers had got off to a good start to the season and were shocked when George Kerr scored after only 4 minutes. After 16 minutes Ray Graydon changed wings with Harold Jarman and scored with a fierce drive. Bury were looking very strong on the break.
In the second half Graydon again fired in a fierce shot and Lyons in the Shakers goal was beaten just inside his near post to give Rovers a 2-1 victory. Rovers finished the season in 3rd spot (missing out on promotion) and Bury in 19th position.
On 15 November 2003 Rovers fought hard to gain a lead through Lewes Haldene only to throw away an equaliser in the 70th minute to Dan Swailes. In the push for all three points they lost to a last minute Joe O’Neil stunner. As so often that season Rovers snatched defeat from the jaws of victory!
In the last four games Rovers have won 3 and drawn 1. The draw being the game played out at the Mem on 16 November. There was an explosive start to the game as Rovers took the lead on just three minutes. Eliot Richards made a great run down the left, and was brought down by Shaun Beeley to win a penalty.
John-Joe O’Toole then stepped up and coolly slotted the ball into the top left hand corner. Bury equalised with less than 10 minutes left of the half. The ball in from Shaun Beeley, was headed across goal; Rovers fail to clear and Hylton bundled the ball in from close range.
The Shakers’ Tommy Miller is looking to reach 600 career games with Bury after recently passing another milestone with the Lancashire team. Burys’ 1-0 win against Wycombe Wanderers at the start of this month was the veteran midfielder’s 500th league game.
The 35-year-old is expecting to figure in his 502nd league game and 576th match in total on Saturday, “I may have played 501 league games, but I keep telling everyone that I have played nearly 600 games in total,” he quipped, “Milestones are something I will maybe look back on when I finish, but I don’t really think about it now.
“I keep looking after myself, and the gaffer has got someone alongside me who can do my running, so I am happy and I keep on going. I feel healthy and injury-free and, hopefully, long may that continue and we will see where it takes us.”
Talking of the pitch at Gigg Lane he commented, “It is hard to play football on that pitch,” he said. “It may not look like it from the stands, but it is very, very heavy. We have some good footballers at this club now and the gaffer wants us to play football, it’s as simple as that. We knock it around well but the pitch is causing a few problems.
“We are trying to do things first time but the ball is not coming at you properly, it is rolling funny and bouncing up awkwardly, so it’s tough, but we will get on with it.”
Despite the tough conditions or maybe because of them, Bury have started to pick up points. They are unbeaten in eight league matches at home and, after drawing with Oxford last time out, Miller is confident they will soon have their sights on the top half of the table.
“It’s very tight,” he added. “A couple of wins gets you up there and we are hoping we can get the points on the board to drag us away from the lower reaches of the table, starting with Bristol Rovers on Saturday.”
Written by Gerry Prewett