A look at tomorrow's opponents
Bristol Rovers' most important game for more years than many Gasheads can remember takes place this weekend.
Having put their destiny in their own hands after defeating and leapfrogging Wycombe Wanderers last Saturday, a draw will be sufficient to ensure that League football continues for Bristol’s oldest professional football club.
The importance of David Clarkson’s late winner will only be felt if the team avoid defeat in the game against mid-table Mansfield Town. Whilst Rovers were securing their victory the Stags were going down 3-1 to cellar dweller Torquay United, who despite the victory are destined to play Conference League football next season.
Mansfield began the game positively and should have taken the lead through Ollie Palmer but his header from six yards went just wide. The Gulls responded well and opened the scoring on 13 minutes as Baily Cargill's clearance was diverted into his own net by John Dempster to give the away team the lead.
Matt Rhead and Dempster both missed the target with headers for Mansfield but just after the half hour the Gulls swooped again.
Courtney Cameron's cross was headed goalwards by Ashley Yeoman and after it was saved he lunged in to fire the loose ball into the back of the net. Before the half was over the Stags Matt Rhead was red carded for a poor challenge on Dale Tonge
A James Jennings' header at the start of the second half encouraged the home team. The visitors piled on the pressure but missed a host of chances to increase their lead until Shaquile Coulthirst was on the end of substitute Jordan Chappell's cross in the 78th minute to complete a deserved victory.
Mansfield Town manager Paul Cox was unimpressed by his team’s display, "That stunk of an end of season performance. Some of the lads looked like they are already on their holidays, and I've just told some of them that they won't be coming back from their holidays.
"Since I've been at this club we have always worked hard and that's not been the case today. I think too many think they have arrived because they are Football League players. That's not me. We have to continue to work hard."
This will be the first time Rovers have entertained the Nottinghamshire team since 4 November 2006 when a Craig Disley goal secured a 1-0 victory. The record against the Stags is a good one with 14 victories, 7 draws and just 2 defeats.
The first ever League meeting between the clubs took place on 19 September 1931 and ended in a 1-1 draw at Eastville. The return match at Field Mill saw Rovers run out 3-0 winners, ironically their best ever result at Mansfield!
Whilst Rovers had some very impressive home wins over the years, their record at Field Mill has been poor to say the least.
Looking back at some of the home games, on 4th January 1958 the clubs met in the F.A. Cup and Peter Hooper (2), Alfie Biggs, Dai Ward and George Petherbridge thrilled a 20,446 Eastville crowd as Rovers ran out 5-0 victors.
The opening day of the 1964/65 season saw Rovers win 4-1. Robin Perry in his Evening Post match report described the performance as “Efficient and often exciting….in the style that has become traditional under the Tann management”.
Harold Jarman opened the scoring after just four minutes and Johnny Brown scored a second goal very shortly afterwards. Alfie Biggs netted the third and Jarman created the fourth for Ian Hamilton. Peter Morris the Stags left half netted a consolation goal eight minutes from time.
The following season Rovers were in a shocking slump and had their longest spell ever without a win. Then they suddenly saw off Grimsby with two goals in four minutes and beat Brentford away 5-0.
Their next home game was against the Stags. Alfie Biggs headed Rovers into a second minute lead, scored another 22 minutes later, which was quickly followed by a Johnny Brown goal. Bobby Jones and Roger Frude added quick second half goals before Johnny Petts sealed a 6-0 victory with just four minutes left.
The following season the game on 15th October 1966 saw one of the most memorable Eastville games, as the teams tied in the first of two 4-4 draws against the Stags.
At half-time the teams were tied 0-0, Harold Jarman (2), Kenny Ronaldson and Alfie Biggs scored for Rovers and John Rowland (2), Tommy Mitchinson and Stuart Brace for the away team. Since then Rovers have recorded 6-2 and 4-1 wins.
The game on 19 March 2005 was a real thriller. The Stags took an early lead but Rovers scored twice before half-time to go in 2-1 up at the break.
Two goals in three minutes, just after play resumed gave the advantage to the Nottinghamshire team and a Callum Lloyd goal on 68 minutes seemed to have ensured that all three points were going back to the Midlands.
Rovers’ determination was not to be underestimated and two goals in the last 10 minutes ensured a remarkable 4-4 draw.
Speaking ahead of the game at the Mem, Paul Cox warned his players, “I will pick a side that has a desire to finish off the season well, individually and collectively. The last two performances will not be tolerated at this football club.
“I am not bothered when people tell me we have had a good season for our first season back in the League and where we will finish has been a decent achievement. I am looking for a massive response on Saturday. The close season is a long, long time when you’ve lost your last game, never mind your last three.
“It is really important we finish the season well. I have spoken to a number of supporters and they are travelling in their numbers in fancy dress and there should be a great atmosphere. We owe it to them and to the rest of the League to put in a very good performance as, obviously, there is still a battle on against relegation.
“For me it’s about personal pride. It is a competitive game and I want to win in – simple as.”
Stags will welcome back Darryl Westlake from a hamstring injury for Saturday, but Ryan Tafazolli will again miss out with the hip injury sustained in a training ground challenge with Matt Rhead, who is suspended after last Saturday’s red card.
Written by Gerry Prewett.