A look at tomorrow's opposition
Coming off the back of their stunning 2-1 win at Crawley on Wednesday evening, Bristol Rovers will be buzzing when they entertain Exeter City on Saturday.
The Grecian’s recent form would encourage Rovers, having picked up only nine points from the last 36 available. Despite that they are only six points adrift of the play-offs.
Former Gas player Matt Gill, who is now back plying his trade in Devon, this time with Exeter, emphasised how important picking up three points at the Mem would be to his new club,
“I wouldn’t mind a horrific 1-0 win, it would be nice because if you can get an ugly win, that normally sets you off. I imagine it will be a competitive game on Saturday, but it’s a chance to go there and grind out a win.
“To think of the bad spell we have had and yet we are only six points adrift of the play-offs is crazy. It is all to play for. When you look at Scunthorpe, they have stuck a run together and they are top of the table now, so it just goes to show you what you can do if you can stick a run together in this league.
“There are loads of points to play for, but we need to start building some momentum now. It’s the second half of the season, but it is not all lost because there are still so many points to play for and we have an opportunity to achieve something this second half of the season. We are all singing from the same page, that’s for sure.”
Gill picked up a hamstring injury in the 3-1 Devon derby win at Torquay United, which forced him to miss the 1-0 defeat to Mansfield Town last weekend. In that game Lee Stevenson struck the only goal on the stroke of halftime. The crucial goal came when the hosts' defence failed to deal with a long ball leaving Stevenson to find the corner.
Exeter dominated the second half but Tom Nichols, Liam Sercombe and Jimmy Keohane were all denied by Stags keeper Alan Marriott.
Talking about his injury Gill said, “It has been tough not being on the grass properly for a few days, but I went out on the training ground and did some stuff, so that was good.
"When I came off at Torquay, I thought it would probably be six to eight weeks, but it wasn’t that bad. It was mainly a fatigue-type injury, I had quite a lot of fatigue in the hamstring, which isn’t good for my old body over Christmas!
“I hadn’t really played for ten to 11 months and then churned out a few 90s on the spin and the body felt really good. It came as a bit of a shock to then do my hamstring. I think I have made 12, 13 appearances since I have been back, six or seven 90s, so I have been really pleased with how the body is feeling, especially the knee.”
“I am desperate to play, especially as it is at the Mem. These things tend to happen when you leave somewhere and they come round pretty quickly, so I am really looking forward to the game.
"Obviously the away form is decent and we are looking to go there and get the win. The lads have beaten Torquay, Plymouth and Rovers already this year. I am sure we will have a big following there and we will try and do as well as we can for them as well as ourselves.”
In last season’s game Oli Norburn opened the scoring just after 20 minutes, the midfielder picked up the ball from O’Toole and shot on sight from 30 yards. The ball slipped under the body of Exeter keeper Artur Krysiak and into the back of the net.
A Lee Brown strike on 81 minutes secured a 2-0 victory. The ball was held up by Brunt to allow Brown to cut inside and smash the ball with his left foot from a tight angle 25 yards out.
Looking at the history of games between the Grecians and the Gas, the first ever meeting took place in Exeter on the opening day of the 1908-09 Southern League fixtures on 5th September.
An 8,000 crowd saw an entertaining 3-3 draw with goals by Roberts (2) and Peplow for Rovers. In the return game on 2nd January, Rovers ran out 5-1 winners, with goals by Corbett (3), McGubbin and Roberts sending a 10,000 Eastville crowd home happy.
The first Football League fixture wasn’t until the closing weeks of the 1920-21 season. Interestingly the fixtures were played in ‘pairs’ at that time (this lasted for about four seasons).
In the first game on 2nd May at Eastville, Rovers ran out 5-0 winners with goals by Syd Leigh (4) and Ellis Crompton (who was later to captain the Devon team). Leigh became the first player to score four goals in a League game for Rovers. Five days later Exeter gained their revenge at St James Park with a closing day 1-0 win.
Gerry Francis had a brief spell as manager at Exeter during the 1983-84 season and it was a real eye opener to him. Whilst they played very open and attractive football their defence leaked goals alarmingly and they were relegated. Rovers won both their games against their Devon rivals that year.
In the previous season there was a remarkable Eastville game in which Exeter threw everything into attack and were very unlucky to be held to a 4-4 draw.
Paul Randall scored two goals that evening, one of them a trademark run from near the halfway line. It was obvious to all in the North Stand that Randall was well offside when he started his run. But as we all know the Referee is always right, even when he’s wrong!
In recent seasons goals aren’t generally a feature of games between the two teams, although Rovers did secure a 5-0 FA Cup replay victory on 15 December 1998 after a 2-2 draw at St James’ Park.
In Bristol and Bath there have been 42 League and Cup games since 1920 and of those Rovers have won 18, there have been 17 draws and just 7 Exeter victories.
Exeter striker Tom Nichols is looking forward to making amends for last week’s defeat, “We lost last time out against Mansfield, we need to get back to winning games but we're not playing badly at all. It'll turn around and we'll start winning again.
“I'm delighted to be back involved, it's been brilliant. I feel like I'm ready now too. Looking back now to when I first played, I wonder whether I was mentally mature enough, I don't think I was. I feel like I'm a completely different player now, both mentally and physically.”
Written by Gerry Prewett