A look at tonight's opponents
After battling through the first two rounds of the FA Cup Bristol Rovers take a trip up the M5 to meet an improving Birmingham City side.
The last time the teams met they were both managed by Francis, Rovers’ Gerry and Birmingham’s Trevor. The Brummies ran out comfortable 3-0 winners that night in a Worthington Cup tie at the Mem.
On Saturday against Exeter City, Rovers repeated almost exactly the scenario from their previous game, the Cup victory at Crawley. A John Joe O’Toole winner in time added on after Rovers came back from being a goal down to secure the victory.
At the same time Birmingham City lost their first league game in 11 outings. After a quiet first half at Brighton, the home team put the Blues under severe pressure for the first 20 minutes of the second half. On 58 minutes David Lopez fired in a volley with the outside of his right foot, from a tight angle.
The Blues were often chasing the game and towards the end took up a 4-4-2 formation to put the home team on the back foot. Despite that there was just not quite that final touch to equalise.
Blues’ game-plan was to try to make sure Brighton played in front of them, that they couldn’t pass through the units from back to front as they like to do. It meant a lot of hard work for the midfield.
Rovers' record against Birmingham overall is Played 16, Won 2, Drawn 8, Lost 6. Rovers have never won at St. Andrews with 3 draws and 4 defeats from the 7 games. A pretty poor record as far as Rovers are concerned.
However when you consider that Birmingham have traditionally been somewhere between the top two Divisions for most of their existence it isn’t so awful. Those two solitary wins were about ten years apart, even though they were consecutive home games!
The first was a 3-0 win on 27 October 1970, when goals by Roger Hynd (in his own net), Carl Gilbert and Robin Stubbs ensured Rovers passage into the Quarter Finals of the League Cup in front of a 21,426 crowd at Eastville.
Rovers played really well that night and looked more the higher placed team. The next game was on 12 January 1980 when Shaun Penny scored the only goal in a Second Division game.
The first game between the teams took place in the 1953/54 season when newly promoted Rovers entertained the Midland team on 17 October 1953. The game finished 1-1, which was exactly the same result when Rovers visited St Andrews on 6 March 1954.
Speaking after the defeat at Brighton, the Blues Boss Lee Clark described his team’s performance as, "Exceptional under the circumstances, the scenario we've got, we're a depleted squad. From the team I fielded on Boxing Day at Wigan we have lost five players who were in the starting eleven, through going back to their parent clubs on loan, or one or two injuries.
"You saw the youngsters on the bench. And I had every single player with me, in terms of who is fit. The 'over' player we had was Charlee Adams, who is 18. We had two 17-year-olds on the bench, one of them who came on who I thought was absolutely brilliant. I thought the lads defended well, they worked extremely hard.
"The only area where I felt we were a bit short was in the final third. We had some great situations in behind the full-backs and our final ball wasn't of the required or normal standard.
"And when we did have the odd occasion where it was a bit better, the cross or the final pass, we didn't have enough players in the danger zone to finish it off.
"I am frustrated for the players because I felt they gave me everything once again. The level of performance and the effort and application was there once again. I am delighted with that side of it, against a good Brighton team."
Clark selected Paul Robinson and Hayden Mullins as his centre-half pairing, both veterans acquitted themselves very well, "I thought they were brilliant," said Clark. "Hayden was very accomplished. He looked the player he is, with a lot of knowledge and good game management.
"He is very experienced and I thought the two of them were terrific as a partnership. Listen, I can't complain about what any player gave me out there. All I can say is that we will be looking to improve on our attacking part of the game in the final third on Tuesday in the FA Cup when we play Bristol Rovers."
Written by Gerry Prewett.