By Gerry PrewettIn an early season reverse fixture Bristol Rovers visit Shropshire to play AFC Telford in a Vanarama Conference game on Saturday.
At the end of August Rovers recorded their first victory of the season when they saw off Telford 1-0 at the Mem.
Adam Cunnington made his debut in this game, but it was. Neal Trotman who came nearest to breaking the deadlock after 20 minutes as his header hit the crossbar. A deep free kick from Tom Lockyer was floated into the box and the unmarked Trotman connected but his header crashed against the woodwork.
Ollie Clarke broke the deadlock when his curling shot from outside the box passed Hedge in the Bucks goal. Rovers pressed hard to double their lead and with 20 minutes remaining Adam Cunnington was denied a debut goal as his header was saved superbly by Hedge.
Although Rovers had never played AFC before they did once meet Telford United, the team that collapsed under mounting debt before remerging in the current form. That previous meeting took place on 20th November 1971 in a First Round FA Cup tie at Eastville when goals by Bruce Bannister (2) and Brian Godfrey secured a 3-0 victory for the Gas.
The Rovers line-up was Rick Sheppard, Phil Roberts, Lindsay Parsons, Brian Godfrey, Stuart Taylor, Frankie Prince, Kenny Stephens, Wayne Jones, Bobby Jones, Bruce Bannister and Harold Jarman with Robin Stubbs on the bench.
Telford’s line-up was Bob Irvine, Allan Harris, Geoff Croft, Ray John, Paul Cotton, Graham Carr (yes Alan Carr’s Dad!), Mike Fudge, Jeremy Own, Tony Bentley, Brian Hart and George Jagger.
Watson was appointed as Telford manager for the start of the 2013–14 season. After a difficult start to the season, the Bucks form picked up, including seven consecutive victories in March, to clinch the Conference North title on the final day of the season, with a 3–0 victory against Gainsborough Trinity. Their final record read 25 wins, 10 draws and 7 defeats.
In mid-week the Shropshire team made up for a narrow escape from humiliation, beating Spennymoor 3-0 after securing a late late 2-2 draw in the 4th Qualifying Round of the FA Cup on Saturday. Two goals by Mike Grogan and one by Adam Farrell at New Bucks Head saw them through to the First Round proper.
Grogan opened the scoring nodded home from Hancock's excellent right wing cross on 56 minutes. Grogan grabbed a deserved second of the evening from Clancy's 81st minute corner-kick and then Farrell beat the offside trap to slot home a third two minutes later to complete a satisfying 3-0 home win.
Bucks Boss Liam Watson said after the game, "We weren't ruthless enough in the first half, we had some great chances. But it was good to keep our first clean sheet of this season. You could see the difference Andy Parry made in our defence.
"It was always going to be tricky against a side that is actually good. You have to give them credit - Jason Ainsley has done a great job at Spennymoor. But they probably missed their opportunity on Saturday. We should now go into the Rovers game with a lot of confidence."
Although his team are seven points adrift in the relegation places, having won just twice in 17 matches. But coming on top of their 3-1 away league win at Woking a fortnight ago, the two games with Spennymoor, both following the sale of top scorer Mike Phenix to Barnsley , means that they are now unbeaten in three matches.
This game seems almost certain to bring some goals, Telford have not been involved in a no-score-draw in 20 games and Rovers in sixteen games.
Ryan Higgins, who wasn’t at Telford when the two sides faced poff in August, will surely be fired up for this one – with a point to prove. The wing back spent a large part of pre-season with The Gas, before opting against signing a deal and opting for Telford instead.