A look at tonight's opponents
This evening Bristol Rovers entertain Cheltenham Town in a derby game that was rescheduled from New Years’ Day. With both teams desperate for points it is sure to be a hard fought game as was the recent 0-0 draw at Whaddon Road.
Games between the teams are always close with never more than 2 goals between the teams and no team has scored more than 3 goals.
The Robins will be hoping to end a six match run without a win having taken just 3 points from a possible 18 since a 1-0 Boxing Day home win against Exeter. During that time, Mark Yates’ men have been beaten by struggling Accrington and Mansfield and only shared the spoils at home to bottom-of-the-table Northampton on Saturday.
Only Portsmouth (43) and Torquay (41) have conceded more goals in Sky Bet League Two than the 39 shipped by Cheltenham this season although, at the other end of the pitch, until Saturday’s 0-0 draw at York they had scored in each of their last ten matches – a sequence stretching back to November.
Prior to a 2-1 loss at Burton on their last trip, last season’s beaten play-off semi-finalists had also gone seven games unbeaten on their League travels, winning four of those fixtures.
Ex-Stevenage and AFC Wimbledon forward Byron Harrison is the Robins’ leading marksman this season on ten goals but has only netted twice in his last 15 outings. Harrison’s current strike partner is former Gas hero 38-year-old veteran Jamie Cureton, who has notched 7 goals this season.
On Saturday the Robins visited York City where the game, like many around the country, was marred by strong winds. They laid siege to the home team in the first half with the wind behind them.
Things changed after the break as the home side piled on the pressure, but despite a string of corners and long throws they were unable to find a way past Town 'keeper Scott Brown.
Brown made a superb save from a powerful Josh Carson drive from outside the box on 55 minutes, while City skipper Russell Penn almost created a goal against his former club but Ryan Bowman's intervention deflected the ball wide.
The away team went close to grabbing all the points with Jermaine McGlashan shooting narrowly wide in the closing stages.
Speaking after the game Boss Mark Yates looked at the positives to be taken from the long trip north, "I actually enjoyed the last 30 minutes and I thought we battled and scrapped in awful conditions.
"They weren't perfect conditions to play in but you have to dig in sometimes and we showed we could do that. I thought in the last 30 minutes we played with a bit of enjoyment, a bit of freedom and we counter-attacked well and we could easily have nicked it.
"Scott (Brown) has only made saves from the free-kicks in both halves and we've not really tested their goalkeeper enough. I thought we had some really good passages of play and it gives us something to look at for the coming weeks.
"It wasn't free-flowing football but sometimes you have to do what is necessary. It's a good point, even though we would have liked three. The conditions were awful but I thought we dealt with them well."
Rovers’ home League record against the Robins is poor, having won 3, drawn 1 and lost 4 of the games played at the Mem. Last season the Robins took all three points when former Gas player Chris Zebroski made the most of an error from Garry Kenneth who failed to see the high ball into the box.
Etheridge was on hand to block the first shot, but Zebroski rifled home from close range.
The season before Mark Yates' side went on to produce one of their finest displays of the season to win 3-1. Goals from Kaid Mohamed, Luke Summerfield and Jimmy Spencer stunned Rovers as the Robins stormed into form after a mixed start to the campaign.
Rovers’ last home win was on 27 January 2009 when goals by Darryl Duffy, Craig Disley and Joe Jacobson provided Rovers with a 3-2 victory.
The Gloucestershire team’s Chairman Paul Baker, looking to the future has asked Mark Yates to improve the overall quality of coaching at the club during his next two-year contract as manager.
"As a board we will be working closer with Mark, Neil (Howarth, assistant manager) and the rest of the backroom staff to see how we can improve our coaching," Baker said.
"I am not saying it's been short, but we'll be looking at other options like we saw with Dave Kevan coming in earlier in the season. Sometimes you can become stale and that is not a reflection on any individual, it's just a fact of life."
With the club bringing through some talented academy products such as Joe Hanks, Ed Williams and Zack Kotwica, Baker hopes to see more home-grown players breaking into the first team squad.
"Maybe we can look at engaging with Russell Milton (head of youth) more," Baker said. "If you look at the youngsters who have signed pro deals this season, they have not yet made that next step.
"Other teams, Exeter in particular, probably out of necessity, have had five or six young players playing for them this season and they'll probably be even better next season for the experience."
Meanwhile Yates is looking at the immediate future of the first team and has set a target of 12 wins from their remaining 17 League Two matches to salvage what has so far been a disappointing season.
With only eight victories from 28 games so far it is a big ask, but Yates has refused to give up on making it a play-off hat-trick.
He has demanded a strong finish to the season, something which has eluded him almost exclusively throughout his managerial career, "The Chairman has been complimentary about me and I think we've done a decent job over the last four years, but we want to do even better next year.
"It's all about trying to make the club better in every way and we still want to turn this one into a positive season because nothing is finished. One club always seems to come out of the pack so we have to keep believing that can be us.”
"We've set a target of 12 wins from 18 and the bottom line is that we have to start winning games now if we want to turn an ordinary season into a decent one – that's the challenge we have set ourselves."
Written by Gerry Prewett