By Gerry PrewettBristol Rovers travel north to visit Morecambe’s Globe Area this weekend one point and two places behind their Lancashire rivals. The 3-0 mid-week drubbung of Hartlepool was just what the Doctor ordered for a Rovers team on a poor run of form after a bright start to the season.
One major consideration is that in those first 10 games Rovers have, on average, faced teams who are currently in the top 40% of the Division. They have played five of the top six teams and table toppers Wycombe are next up. Meanwhile, the Gas will be looking to build on their impressive win at the Victoria Stadium by following in the steps of Luton Town who won the Eric Morcame Trophy on Saturday.
The Trophy, designed by Graham Ibbeson, who is also responsible for the life-sized statue of Eric on the promenade not too far from Morecambe`s ground, was won by the hosts and then retained in Bedfordshire later last season when Jim Bentley`s side won both contests between the two teams. Eric Morcame was formerly a much loved Director at Luton and took his name from the seaside town.
The Hatters took the lead after thirteen minutes with Luke Wilkinson heading in Paddy McCourt`s corner. Twelve minutes later it was back to parity Aaron Wildig passed to Tom Barkhuizen in the six-yard box for a neat finish.
The lead only lasted one minute, Cameron McGeehan’s right footed shot beat Barry Roche in the Morcambe gaol. The home team huffed and puffed throughout the second half and were given a warning of what was to come when Jonathan Smith had an effort saved in the 87th minute. Before they could respond Smith finished pecisely to give the away team a 3-1 victory.
Looking at previous meetings between the Gas and the Shrimps it was four seasons ago that the Gas made their first visit to the Globe Arena and secured a 3-2 victory. Cain Bolger gave Rovers the lead on 27 minutes. Then 12 minutes into the second half the home team hit two quick goals from Jason Price and Kevin Ellison. Scott McGleish almost immediately pulled the scores level before Joe Anyinsah won the game for the Gas on 72 minutes.
The following season the points were shared. Rovers were rocked by a goal from the home side with little over a minute on the clock. When Tom Parkes lost possession the loose ball fell kindly to Jack Redshaw, who hit a superb shot past Steve Mildenhall from just outside the area.
The start of the second half was equally dramatic as within three minutes Lee Brown swung in a cross from the left and Eliot Richards rose to glance the ball into the net from six yards. That was how the game stayed.
Rovers last visit was two years ago, in their relegation season and this game was almost a cameo of the entire campaign. On 29 minutes Rovers opened the scoring as Lee Brown did well to keep possession, under pressure from two defenders, before he slipped the ball inside to Eliot Richards. His cross was met by Matt Harrold who got a shot away even though he lost his footing. Roche could only push it out as far as John-Joe O’Toole who gratefully scored from close range.
Steve Mildenhall saved well at his back post following a corner from the left, but he was beaten on 56 minutes when Stewart Drummond’s glancing header found Amond at the near post and he steered the ball into the net from close range. Rovers continued to be wasteful in front of goal and they were made to pay dearly With just five minutes left on the clock Jack Redshaw, pounced on the loose ball and fired into the net for an unlikely winner for the home side.
The Shrimps boss Jim Bentley is looking forward to the challenge Rovers post his team, “It’s another difficult game but one we’re looking to bounce back in. It’s a challenge, we’re in a bit of a sticky spell.”
“We’ve had a good start and now we don’t want to be in danger of all our good work going to waste. We’ve got to stay in the there and we’ll give it our best go.”
Reflecting on the loss to Luton he said, “I had one of those days on Wednesday where I couldn’t really shake it out of my system. I’m not one of those people who looks back. I’m always positive and try to look forward but that hurt me on Tuesday.”
“Luton are one of the bigger sides in the division and those types of game are a chance to prove yourself against the best but I was frustrated with how we conceded the goals. They were avoidable and at the moment it’s too easy to score against us.
“But I’m the type to look to the next challenge and you can’t dwell on things and it’s another big game against Bristol Rovers on Saturday, one where we desperately want to get back to winning ways.”
Bentley is likely to be forced into changes “It’s the third game in a week. We’ve got a couple of injuries so there may be one or two changes again. We’ve just come off the back of two difficult games too. We’ve got to use the squad. There’s players chomping at the bit for a start and there’s some who might need resting.”
Laurence Wilson and Preston loanee Jack Ryan are both struggling with hamstring problems ahead of Saturday’s game. Back-up goalkeeper Tony Thompson is set to return to the squad with Kieran O’Hara having returned to Manchester United after his month at the Globe Arena.
Bentley said: “He was a good lad, a good professional and a good goalkeeper. He fitted in no problem with the group and he was a good laugh. Tony’s back now and we can’t carry three ‘keepers, so Kieran’s gone back.”