A look at tomorrow's opponents
Bristol Rovers entertain a high flying Oxford United team this weekend, the Yellows arrive in Bristol with the only undefeated away record in the entire League.
With 7 wins and 6 draws from the 13 away games, they have amassed an impressive 27 points on the road. Their defense is miserly and has conceded just 8 goals in those 13 games.
The club was thrown into turmoil recently when Chris Wilder resigned the Manager’s spot leaving Mickey Lewis in temporary charge. Lewis has established his credentials firmly with a 3 match unbeaten run.
On Tuesday night they secured a 1-1 draw at Gigg Lane against Bury. They fell behind on 56 minutes. A deep cross from the left found Ryan Clarke under pressure and as he fumbled the ball Craig Jones had the simple task of planting the ball home to make it 1-0.
A corner from Rose to the near post saw Josh Ruffles ghost in at the back to power a downwards header over the line, despite Brian Jensen’s best efforts. Seven minutes of stoppage time was added at the end of the game after Jensen and U's striker David Connolly received treatment after clashing heads.
Ruffels expressed his pleasure after the game, “I’m delighted, it was a great feeling. It’s got to be my best moment in football, I didn’t know what to do when it went in. I could see Mulls (Johnny Mullins) running towards me and I was just jumping around. I think it’s a really good point away to a good Bury side.”
Ruffels was one of three development squad players in the starting lineup, Matt Bevans continued his run in the side at right back, while Callum O’Dowda, was handed a first league start.
Boss Mickey Lewis, commenting on his young charges after the game, said: “They were great, not just their work rate, but they are also not scared to play. This is a tough place to come on a Tuesday night, in difficult conditions where the pitch isn’t the best.”
Looking at the history of games between the teams, there have been 47 meetings since Oxford first entered the League back in the mid 1960’s, replacing Accrington Stanley.
In terms of results the games between the teams have been remarkably even over the years with Rovers winning 18, United 17 and 12 draws. In all respects it’s the home teams who dominate in these fixtures with 5 United away wins and 7 Rovers away wins.
The first game between the two teams was played on 18th September 1965 at Eastville. There were four goals scored, all by men called Jones; one by Oxford’s Tony, but the star of the day was Rovers’ Bobby who bagged a hat-trick.
However my vivid memory of that day was the Oxford custodian, Harry Fearnley who was smoking during the game! He used to rush into the back of his net whilst play was at the other end and have a quick puff.
Also in the Oxford team was "Big Fat" Ron Atkinson, who the Evening Post noted failed to keep a tight grip on Bobby Jones.
The most goals scored in a Rovers’ home game was a stunning 6-2 win at the end of the 2000-01 relegation season, which ended up being meaningless as Rovers’ season fell apart at the death.
That 2 goal haul was only the second time the U’s have managed two goals on Rovers territory. However the next time they registered that number at the Mem was in 2002-03 season when they secured a 2-0 win.
Rovers have not beaten the U’s at home since 2 October 2004, when they won 2-0, with a Junior Agogo double. Since then there have been two draws and last season’s opening day defeat.
United opened the scoring on 21 minutes, Adam Chapman fed the ball into Jake Forster-Caskey, who turned and shot on the edge of the area.
Alfie Potter doubled Oxford’s lead just after the half hour mark, after a slip from Michael Smith near the half way line. The Oxford winger made a great solo run, and slotted the ball home past Walker in the Rovers goal.
On loan striker David Connolly believes his new club are geared up for promotion to League One. The 36-year-old arrived at Oxford from Portsmouth on deadline day and has scored once in two appearances as the U's bid to reach the third tier, something Connolly hopes he can help play a part in.
"Everything is geared up to promotion and the key thing here is the people in charge. The chairman is in and about the place, Mickey (caretaker boss Lewis) and Andy (Melville) are very positive and trust the lads. It will be hard because nothing comes easy in life.
"You need lots of things to make a successful team. You can't just have youth and legs, you need that real mix. You need pace, know-how and quality and in this team we seem to have that mix.
"The club have got a great set of lads here. They are very bubbly, really good atmosphere, a lot of men who are treated like adults who are trusted to go and perform on the pitch."
Written by Gerry Prewett.