A look at tonight's opponents
A rare Friday night home game sees Bristol Rovers entertain Friday night specialists Southend United. After two defeats Rovers will be looking to make up the ground they lost after their undefeated run came to an end.
Southend United are currently in a winless Division Two run of 11 games. Despite that the Shrimpers are still in a Play-Off position.
On Saturday the Essex team were involved in a dire 0-0 draw with Bury. Shrimper’s striker Barry Corr was sent off with eight minutes to go after a tussle with Frederic Veseli.
Freddy Eastwood struck over the Shakers bar from eight yards in a game short on clear chances. United defender John Egan's late header was the only effort on target all afternoon
Shrimpers Boss Phil Brown speaking after the game said, "It's horrible when these games do come around. You don't want nil-nil draws; they'll never keep the crowds here. In the first half, it was frustrating, they packed the midfield and almost played a 3-6-1, and it caused problems.
"The away teams have got no reason to play quality football; they just come here to get a point or three. We are crying out for quality, we've got it in the back four. With fourteen clean-sheets we should top of the league yet alone seventh."
United’s record in the Bristol and Bath against Rovers is nothing to scare Rovers, with 30 home wins to 12 away victories and 10 draws from the 52 games.
Last season saw one of those rare away wins, their first in a decade. Rovers took the lead in the 10th minute following a mistake by Southend goalkeeper Paul Smith. The Blues keeper failed to hold a tame effort from Broghammer and that enabled the striker to fire the resulting rebound into the top right hand corner of the net from six yards.
Rovers came close to doubling their lead when Tom Eaves saw his 25-yard shot impressively pushed around the left post by Smith.
Tomlin equalised in the 40th minute with his first league goal for Blues since signing from Dagenham and Redbridge in the summer. He raced on to a through ball from Marc Laird before firing a low left foot shot between Etheridge’s legs from six yards.
Four minutes later Hurst latched on to the ball just inside the penalty area and sent a deflected left foot shot flying into the top left hand corner of the net to give the away team a 2-1 halftime lead.
19 minutes into the second-half Cresswell rose high to head Hurst’s left wing corner into the back of the net from six yards to give the Shrimpers 3-1 lead.
In the 84th minute David Clarkson brought Rovers back into the game from the penalty spot. Referee Darren Drysdale awarded the spot kick after Sean Clohessy had brought down sub Eliot Richards inside the area and Clarkson made no mistake as he drilled his 12-yard shot into the centre of the goal with Smith diving to his right hand side.
There was more drama to follow on 87th minutes when sub Oliver Norburn was sent off for a late two-footed challenge on Leonard.
In the previous season Rovers recorded a 1-0 victory with an 88th minute Matt Harrold penalty. Prior to that game United’s previous two visits to the Mem saw them go home with 4-3 and 4-2 losses (the latter a 4 goal Rickie Lambert performance). However in the previous 8 games neither team had scored more than two goals in close and low scoring games.
Looking at some of the earlier meetings, back early in 1964-65 season Rovers were looking a strong prospect for promotion. By the end of April they had dropped away from the leading pack. The day after a dull 1-1 home draw with Exeter they needed to beat Southend in their final home game of the season to give themselves any of going up.
McKinven (who had scored a hat-trick in the previous fixture) gave Southend the lead early in the second half, but then in the last 10 minutes the game exploded into life, Harold Jarman and Alfie Biggs gave Rovers a 2-1 lead with just 2 minutes left. The drama was not over as Watson equalised a minute later.
It was the following season when Southend suffered their first ever relegation and Rovers gained their revenge on 5th March 1966 for a 2-0 defeat inflicted at Roots Hall less than a month before.
Harold Jarman, Dave Stone and Johnny Brown hit the net for Rovers with John McKinven once again proving the scourge of the Rovers defence. The score would have been closer had Slack not missed a penalty in the 88th minute.
United have decided they will not appeal against the red card striker Barry Corr was shown during the 0-0 draw with Bury. The Irishman was dismissed by referee Lee Collins after being adjudged to have aimed a head-butt towards Shakers defender Frederic Veseli in an off-the-ball incident.
“We’ve decided not to appeal against the decision because there’s insufficient evidence to be able to do that,” Phil Brown advised the Press, “We wouldn’t have been able to support an appeal case so unfortunately we’re going to be missing Barry for the next three games now.”
It leaves United with Freddy Eastwood and Lee Barnard as their only recognised senior strikers. Barnard has not scored in eight games since returning to Roots Hall from Southampton in January, while Eastwood has not netted since October.
“Barry is the only striker we can play in the number nine role, but him being out will give others a chance to step up and show what they can do now.” Said Brown, "We’re also still working hard to see who else might be available.”
Meanwhile Luke Prosser is looking to get United get back to winning ways. Prosser has been frustrated by injuries in the last month, meaning he hasn’t played since the 1-1 draw with Dagenham & Redbridge in January.
“It’s been a really frustrating time for me personally, and it’s never nice having to watch from the sidelines and not be able to do anything. But hopefully I can come back in, pick up the level I was playing at before the injury quite quickly and help the team push on for the final nine games.”
Prosser said: “We’ve gone from having one fit defender to four and Adam Thompson is also getting closer to coming back. On Saturday we weren’t at our best going forward, but defensively we looked really solid and never looked like conceding.
“The main thing is the manager has got options again, and it’d be great if I could be back involved against Bristol Rovers.”
Written by Gerry Prewett.