By Gerry PrewettHaving finally looked to have put their ‘home hoodoo’ to bed with a convincing 3-0 victory over Wycombe Wanderers, Bristol Rovers had a free Saturday before their next challenge another home game, against York City. If ever there was a potential banana skin this is it.
The Minstermen are without a victory in their last 14 games and in their last two outings have gone down 6-0 at Portsmouth and then 5-1 at home to Accrington. Prior to the Accrington game York Boss Jackie McNamara signed up four players on loan, Bolton midfielder Jordan Lussey, Arsenal defender Stefan O'Connor and Middlesbrough's Bradley Fewster and Mark Kitching.
In their latest defeat It took 15 minutes for Matty Pearson to open the scoring for Stanley with a 25-yard deflected strike. Billy Kee doubled the away team’s lead with a tap in shortly before the break. Just after the hour mark it was game over when Josh Windass added a third from the penalty spot after Stefan O'Connor tripped Tom Davies. Ten minutes later Kee made it 4-0 after Sean McConville's shot was saved.
With 15 minutes left Bradley Fewster finally gave the home fans something to cheer about when his shot found the bottom corner. But Shay McCartan’s shot from just outside the area wrapped things up in the 88th minute for a convincing 5-1 away win.
Speaking after the game McNamara said, "I am disappointed with a lot of things defensively. I think offensively we started the game well and we looked a threat. But I thought they looked like a team that had met each other just yesterday. That was the case with the back four. We did think it would be a big ask for them to click so early but the signs are there we'll be a good threat going forward if we can sort the defence out."
The last time Rovers and York clashed was back in 2013/14 and they played one another four times as they drew one another in the FA Cup. The first game was a 3-2 home League win for Rovers on 24th August. David Clarkson scored twice to give Rovers a two goal lead, before York pulled it back to two apiece with goals by Ryan Jarvis either side of the break.
John-Joe O’Toole then scored the winning goal just after York had equalized to give Rovers their first three-point haul of the season. City were reduced to ten men during the first half, after substitute Ryan Bowman was given a straight red for lashing out at captain Tom Parkes.
The teams met for the second time in an FA Cup tie at the Mem, the game sprung to life after 30 minutes, and three goals in six minutes saw York go in at the break 2-1. Ryan Jarvis gave York the lead on 35 minutes. Two minutes later Eliot Richards made it all square only for Josh Carson to put the Yorkshire team back in front on 42 minutes.
John Ward then made a game changing substitution bringing on Matt Harrold early in the second half, and the striker leveled the score with his first touch of the ball on 59 minutes.
Rovers then went ahead for the first time, with Chris Beardsley scoring on his home debut with 15 minutes left on the clock, but with five minutes to go Wes Fletcher equalised to take the game to replay.
In the game at Bootham Crescent goals from John-Joe O’Toole(16 minutes), Ollie Norburn (45 minutes) and Chris Beardsley (50 minutes) gave Rovers a commanding lead. But it was that man
Wes Fletcher who once again proved to be a thorn in Rovers’ side with goals in the 70th and 71st minute to give his team a glimmer of hope, but Rovers held out for a 3-2 win.
The final game between the teams that season and the last time the teams met was just two months after that epic Cup clash and was something of an anti-climax as both teams cancelled one another out on a 0-0 draw, where Steve Mildenhall excelled himself between the sticks.
The history of games between Rovers and York the record is remarkably even, with plenty of away wins; so home advantage is not all it usually is. Meetings didn’t start until 1965-66 season, as York were either in Division 3 North or the 4th Division up until then apart from 1959-60 season when they had one year in Division 3 (and Rovers were still in Division 2).
That first meeting between the clubs was worth the wait; it was a real stunner. After 15 minutes of the Bootham Crescent game on 10th September 1965 York keeper Tommy Forgan suffered a broken finger and had to leave the field. Right back Alan Baker took over goal keeping duties and he performed brilliantly at times.
Once Alfie Biggs had opened his season’s account in the 35th minute there was only going to be one winner. Terry Oldfield and Harold Jarman added goals that would have beaten any keeper. York fought hard and in-form centre forward Paul Aimson pulled one back but two goals in two minutes by Alex Munro and Harold Jarman gave Rovers a 5-1 victory.
The return game at Eastville on 26th February was tremendously disappointing for Rovers. In a real mud bath Tommy Forgan stopped good efforts by Alfie Biggs and John Brown. Andy Provan for York could have secured a hat trick with better finishing, but the game ended 0-0. York went straight down that season finishing bottom by five points and conceding 106 goals.
It wasn’t until 1971-72 that the teams met again. After a dull 0-0 result at York, the Eastville game on 16th October was a nail biter. A Harold Jarman hat trick and a Kenny Stephens double saw Rovers come in with a 5-4 win. Paul Aimson, Kevin McMahon and two John Mackin penalties were the York scorers. That result is by far the highest score in these matches.
On 12 March 1986, goals by Tony Canham (2), Keith Walwyn and Marco Gabbiadini ensured that Rovers went down to a 4-0 defeat at Bootham Crescent. Just over two years later on 15 April 1988 Rovers turned the tables as a David Mehew hat-trick and a strike by Devon White secured a 4-0 victory for the Gas.
After their disastrous run this season new Manager McNamara has been ringing the changes and they recently released defender Keith Lowe, the 30-year-old joined from Cheltenham in January 2014 after a loan spell. He won the club's player of the year award last season but found himself out of favour after McNamara took over from Russ Wilcox last month.
Someone coming back to the team is captain Russell Penn who has declared himself ready for a return to action this weekend. Since he suffered an ankle injury during the early stages of October’s 3-1 defeat at Barnet, the team has lost nine and drawn one of their last ten matches, including that game at the Hive.
The former England C international said: “I’ve had ten days of training and it’s been very intense so, although I won’t quite be match fit, I can deal with that and I think I’m ready to play, 100 per cent. It’s all about whether I’m selected now.”
Penn has played 44 or more games during his last nine seasons as a professional and admitted this injury, which has seen him sidelined for two months, has been the worst of his career. Speaking about his injury Penn commented, “I did a bit of everything. I over-stretched my tendons and ligaments. There was a bit of bone bruising as well and some loose stuff floating around that needed flushing out.
“But it just needs to be played on now by getting games under my belt. It’s been my first real injury that’s kept me out for more than two weeks and I haven’t enjoyed it, especially with the way the results have been going. It’s been so frustrating. I’ve missed ten games and we’ve not won any. I’m not saying I would have made a difference, but I’d like to think I can have an impact during the coming weeks.”
Commenting on the new Boss’ selection policy Penn said, “I’ve played for some managers that have brought in experience and others who have brought in kids. There are pros and cons with both but, the manager has got our full support and that’s the way it has to be because he makes the decisions. It’s been tough for him with the same players still here but he’s been trying to do a lot of different things. I’ve only had a week with him and have been taking a back seat during match days and training but everything is fresh and he’s still getting to know the lads, as we are him.”
One of the young recruits to have impressed Penn is Middlesbrough striker Bradley Fewster marked his debut with the Minstermen’s consolation against Accrington after coming off the bench and the City captain admitted: “Fewster has definitely caught my eye. I can’t see it being long before he starts games because he looks like a goal machine in training and I’m looking forward to playing with him.”
Despite the club having dropped into the relegation zone following the last round of league fixtures, Penn went on to stress that he is optimistic that his return and that of fellow midfielder Luke Summerfield, who should be back in action within the next month, will precipitate a change in fortunes.
“There’s a lot to be encouraged about,” Penn insisted. “I’m coming back and Luke will be back soon which will be a major plus in a few games’ time. We need everybody fit because injuries haven’t helped this season and I think the spine of any side is very important, especially in the situation we are in. I think the gaffer wants a few experienced bodies in there, so we have a mixture with the younger lads as well.
“We’ve got a big month coming up and, hopefully, we can get some results.” commenting specifically on this weekend’s game he noted “It will be a very tough game. They are in form and their striker Taylor got a hat-trick in their last game, but we can win any game in this division. You can say that even if we were playing the team top of the league and I’ve always enjoyed going to Bristol. I’ve had some good results down there over the years.”