As the 2014-15 draws to a close Bristol Rovers head to the South East to face Dover Athletic in their final away game of what they are hoping will culminate in promotion.
With Barnet one point ahead of the Gas, Rovers know that to give themselves a realistic chance of sealing the championship they will need to take maximum points.
Dover’s own chances of securing a run at the play-off spots were reduced to zero last weekend when their 3-1 defeat at Chester left them 9 points behind 5th placed Forest Green.
The Whites season got off to a dreadful start with just one point from their first three games. After winning their fourth game at the Crabble against Eastleigh they picked up just one win and six defeats in the following seven games. Just two defeats and fourteen victories in the next 20 games (including a 1-1 draw at the Mem) saw the Whites climb the table.
The defeat at Chester came after Stefan Payne opened the scoring in the 36th minute after firing home Tom Murphy's header from Ricky Modeste's cross. The south coast team took the lead into the half-time break but within a minute Chester were back level.
The equaliser came in the worst of circumstances for Dover goalkeeper Mitch Walker as Oliver McBurnie's weak close range shot slipped through his fingers following an impressive run by winger Matty Hughes.
In the 59th minute the home team went ahead after Craig Hobson headed home John Rooney's corner at the near post. Fifteeen minutes later midfielder Rooney curled a 25-yarder past Walker to secure all three points.
After the game keeper Walker explained that whilst he was wearing new white gloves he would not be wearing them again, however he admitted, “It wasn’t them that allowed them to score, it was the man wearing them. And to be honest, I don’t really know how I did let it go in – it wasn’t exactly smashed at me, he scuffed it. That caused the ball to spin a bit but that’s no excuse for it going in”.
“There was nothing wrong with my technique either, I did nothing I would do any differently to in any given game. It was my error and seeing the ball roll into the net, in what was like watching it in slow motion, was terrible. I haven’t made an error like that for, I can’t remember to honest but that doesn’t make it any easier. Any mistake you make as a goalkeeper gets highlighted and unfortunately that’s the case for me now.”
“But there is no point beating myself up over it. I’ve got to let it go, move on and focus on the next game. What’s happened, happened and there’s no changing that no matter how much I would love to.”
Earlier this season Rovers entertained the Whites at the Mem on 4th October. The Gas went in front on 35 minutes, Lee Brown took his throw in quickly and found Dave Martin on the touchline, Martin’s cross into the box was cleared but only to Stuart Sinclair on the edge of the area. Sinclair lashed a shot towards goal that was going wide before Cunnington diverted it past Andrew Rafferty to open the scoring.
Just when Rovers thought they had secured their sixth home win in a row the away team found the equaliser they were looking for in when Tom Murphy superbly dispatched the ball past Puddy and underneath the roof of the net from a corner.
Dover boss Chris Kinnear believes his team will still play a huge part in deciding who does goes up, and who will do it as Vanarama Conference champions.
After facing the Gas they then travel to fifth-placed Forest Green Rovers a week later. Talking about the Gas Kinnear said, “They are a massive, massive club and they have a following to go with it. They will bring over 2,000 fans with them.
"It’s going to be like playing a cup tie and I am sure that the atmosphere will be electric because they are so close to possibly winning the league. Yes, it will feel strange with the visiting fans outnumbering ours, it will be like an away game but we’ve proved we can handle playing big away games this season.
“We drew 1-1 with Rovers back in October and the lads loved playing in front of that big crowd. It’s all part of our learning curve because it wasn’t all that long ago we were playing in front of 400-strong crowds.”
“They are flying and they are banging in goals while doing it. We know it’s going to be tough but that’s what playing in this league is all about. Playing against big teams like Bristol Rovers. Saying that, they know we’ll make it tough for them. Take it from me, we’ll be just as hungry as them to win.”