By Gerry PrewettOn Wednesday Bristol Rovers take on a trip eastwards to visit Southend United at Roots Hall for a JPT tie stung by a terrible result in their home defeat by Chesham, their very first home defeat by a non-league team in Cup Football.
Southend sit in a similar position to Rovers in Division One having secured 23 points from 16 games. They have won 4 drawn 1 and lost 3 of their 8 home games. Like Rovers they too went out of the FA Cup over the weekend by a single goal. The Shrimpers faced a trip up to Lincolnshire to face Scunthorpe and the Iron took the lead just after the quarter hour when Paddy Madden converted a Luke Williams corner.
With half and hour gone Ryan Leonard’s 18 yard shot for the away team put things level and that was the way it stayed until 12 minutes from the end when the Blues succumbed to a second goal from a corner, this time Madden squeezed the ball in from close range.
One player hoping to force his way back into the Shrimper’s team this evening is Adam Thompson the 23-year-old has not played since dislocating his shoulder against Mansfield Town back in April, “It’s been so long since I’ve been out at Roots Hall in front of the fans that I’ve almost forgotten what it’s like to be honest,” said Thompson.
“It would be great to play tomorrow. I’m fit and ready to play and have been for a while now. But whatever happens, happens. The team have been doing well so it’s been hard to get back in but that’s fair enough and I’m pleased for the lads. I can have no complaints about it but whenever the gaffer needs me I’ll be there to try and do a job for him.”
The teams have previously met 109 times and it is the Essex team with the distinct advantage, having won 45 of those games to Rovers’ 38 victories. Latterly games between the teams have tended to be close and low scoring. The last three games having all been drawn with an aggregate score of 1-1! Having said that, back in 2008 and 2010 Rovers secured 4-3 and 4-2 home victories (the latter a 4 goal Rickie Lambert performance), the previous 16 games had seen neither team score more than twice in a game.
The very first game between the clubs was a Wartime FA Cup tie on 16 January 1915, which ended 0-0 at Eastville, the replay on 20 January was won 3-0 by the Essex team.
Back in 1964-65 season Rovers were looking a strong prospect for promotion. During that spell they had a visit to Southend on 24th October. Rovers Manager Bert Tann described the match as a nightmare.
Ian Hamilton gave Rovers a 3rd minute lead but then it was all downhill for the Gas, McKinven (2), Smillie and Smith all scored before half-time to give the Blues a 4-1 lead. Hamilton scored two more in the second half, but McKinven and Smith also scored to give a 6-3 final result. Rovers recovered from that to win 3 and draw 2 of their next 5 games.
By the end of April Rovers had dropped away from the leading pack. The day after a dull 1-1 home draw with Exeter they needed to beat Southend in their final home game of the season to give themselves a realistic chance of going up. It was that man McKinven who gave Southend the lead early in the second half, but then in the last 10 minutes the game exploded into life, Harold Jarman and Alfie Biggs gave Rovers a 2-1 lead with just 2 minutes left, but Watson equalised a minute later.
It was the following season when Southend suffered their first ever relegation and Rovers gained their revenge on 5th March 1966 for a 2-0 defeat inflicted at Roots Hall less than a month before. Harold Jarman, Dave Stone and Johnny Brown hit the net for Rovers with John McKinven once again proving the scourge of the Rovers defence. The score would have been closer had Slack not missed a penalty in the 88th minute.
Perhaps the most memorable game between the two clubs as far as Rovers fans are concerned was on 19th April 1974, a 0-0 draw at Roots Hall. Whilst the match itself was not especially exciting the one point was enough to secure promotion to Division 2. Rovers last win at Roots Hall was on New Years Day 2008 when they recorded a 1-0 victory.
One player really relishing the tie is former Gas hero Adam Barrett returned to the Southend squad for the loss to Scunthorpe, “Every time you have a bad result you always have the next game to look forward to and hopefully we can get back to winning ways against Bristol Rovers.”
“You want to win every game. Winning breeds confidence and I was fortune to get to the Final here before at Cardiff and the club got to Wembley a couple of years ago. It's a winnable game for us and hopefully we can pick up some silverware. We have a tough game on Wednesday and we need to make sure we stay focused.”
Barrett's first spell with Southend came when he signed for the club back in 2004, he arrived having enjoyed a two-year spell at the Gas where he had also been captain, “I spent two years as captain at Bristol and thoroughly enjoyed it. It's a good football club with good people and I am pleased to see them back in the Football League following their promotion last season.”