By Gerry PrewettThis evening Bristol Rovers face one of the three teams they have beaten at home, albeit in the JPT trophy, Wycombe Wanderers. Wanderers are three places and three points above Rovers with a game in hand.
On Saturday Wanderers raced into a two-goal lead against highflying Portsmouth. The first goal came on 28 minutes when Michael Harriman lifted the ball into an empty net from 40 yards following Pompey keeper Brian Murphy's poor clearance.
Just two minutes later Garry Thompson’s 100th goal of his league career gave the Chairboys a 2-0 lead. The Hampshire team’s Caolan Lavery tapped in Marc McNulty's pass after the forward had broken through just before half-time to reduce the deficit.
Just eleven minutes after the re-start Adam Webster climbed highest to head in Ben Davies' corner, to draw the scores level.
The away team almost stole all three points but Matt Ingram parried away Davies' late free-kick.
Wycombe manager Gareth Ainsworth told the Press afterwards, "I don't want anybody feeling like that was two points dropped. That was a strong side, one of the biggest clubs in League Two. It's a good result.”
"We had chances to make it 3-0. On chances we edged it. We had shots at goal but they had the majority of the possession. We knew they were going to do that. It was a real ding-dong game.”
"We destroy, we press and then we counter. It's no secret that's the way we play. It's about finding different ways of doing that to keep the opposition on their toes."
Looking at the history of games between Rovers and Wycombe the ledger is pretty even with 15 Rovers wins, 4 draws and 14 wins to the Chairboys, 42 goals to Rovers and 39 to the Chairboys.
It was a Wycombe away win that was one of the most significant results in the history of Bristol Rovers. On 2 May 2001 a spectacular Dannie Bulman strike sent Rovers to the basement Division for the first time ever.
In 2012-13 the home teams won both games, 2-0 at Wycombe (after the first game was abandoned with Rovers 3-1 up after the infamous threated lightening strike on the away stand) and 1-0 in Bristol.
The very first League meeting between the clubs was unique, so far, as it is the only 0-0 draw in the fixture; the game took place on 27 August 1994. In the return match on 11 March 1995 Gareth Taylor scored the only goal at Twerton to give Rovers all 3 points.
On 9 November 2010 Jo Kuffour, had a game to remember at Adams Park in another JPT tie. His two first half goals set Rovers up for what looked like a good away win, but on 58 minutes, Scott Rendell pulled one back for the Bucks team. Within a minute Kuffour had hit back to restore Rovers two goal lead and to complete his hat-trick.
Chris Lines added goal number four with a surging run into the area which took him past three home defenders and he comfortably beat Bull from eight yards. Rovers fifth goal came from the penalty spot after Alan Bennett brought down Kuffour and Jeff Hughes sent Bull the wrong way with his spot kick.
A foul on Rendell by Lines enabled the home striker to add his second goal of the evening from the penalty spot on 83 minutes. Five minutes later Rendell completed his hat trick when he headed home a cross from Matt Bloomfield.
That wasn't the end of the scoring as Ben Swallow got in on the act, cutting in from the right and unleashing an unstoppable shot that flew past Bull and into the roof of the net and secure a 6-3 away win.
Prior to the JPT game in October the last time the Bucks team visited Bristol, Rovers were forced to spend most of the game on the back foot after David Clarkson was shown a straight red card on 25 minutes for catching Josh Scowen with his arm.
The Gas defended well, but Wycombe eventually made their man advantage count on 82 minutes, when substitute Max Kretzschmar slotted home the only goal of the game.
Talking about his wonder strike on Saturday 23-year-old Harriman says it owes as much to the Wanderers fans as his own ability.
With the keeper out of his goal Harriman turned after collecting Luke O’Nien’s miscued shot and swept home without even looking up. A decision he says was influenced by the roar of the crowd, “To be fair I didn’t know that the keeper was that far off his line and all I could hear was the crowd shouting at me to shoot.”
“I was just trying to get half a yard and have a good swing at it and luckily the keeper couldn’t get back, I owe the crowd for letting me know that I should take the shot.”
“I don’t score many easy goals. Today’s is right up there and I cherish every goal I score because I am not really a goal scorer. I have been quite lucky this year to have got four so far, and I just try to enjoy the moment and hopefully I can get some more.”
The impact Harriman has had during his short time with the Chairboys has delighted manager Gareth Ainsworth especially considering he is on loan from QPR.
He also provided the second goal on Saturday with an excellent cross and Ainsworth was full of praise for the impact of the creative wide man.
“I don’t know if it was a shot or a pass from Luke [O’Nien] but Michael’s first touch set it up and his finish shows he is a real special player. I thought he was outstanding today and his energy levels and commitment for somebody who is on loan is just ridiculous. He is a real asset to us and is showing that week in week out.”
Ainsworth believes his team will learn from their defensive errors that allowed Pompey back into the game, “The first goal for me is the sloppiest after a clearance where we haven’t come out together. You have got to get your units close together before you push out and we were too far apart,” he said.
“I’m not too concerned on the set piece because there was a reason for it and we have spoken about it after the game. We will obviously be talking about it and learning from the video.”
“The best players in the world concentrate for 90 minutes and I mean really concentrate, that is not just a throw away comment. You should be mentally shattered by the end of the game and we will be teaching the players that.”
The Chairboys new signings James Ferry and Jermaine Udumaga could make their debuts at the Memorial Stadium. The pair joined Wanderers from Brentford last week but did not feature in the Pompey game. Former Gas player Joe Jacobson (back) and midfielder Marcus Bean (ankle) are both missing from the squad.
Ainsworth will have to make at least one change, as influential defender Aaron Pierre will serve a one-match ban after collecting his fifth booking of the season against Pompey. Saturday's man-of-the-match Harriman will be assessed after limping off, while midfielder Stephen McGinn remains doubtful after missing the last three games.
Rovers will have to be wary. Wycombe’s record on Bristol speaks for itself with 8 wins from 16 games. Rovers cannot afford to put in anything less than 100% if they are to overcome the Chairboys.