By Gerry PrewettTonight Bristol Rovers face a team with whom they have ‘history’, Wycombe Wanderers. This Johnstone Paint Trophy game will be Rovers first since regaining their League position as they were given a bye in the First Round.
Wycombe head down the M4 sitting in second spot in the Division after a flying start to their campaign. With 21 points form their 11 League games the Chairboys are riding high. They are unbeaten away this season having won three and drawn two of their five away games. It’s not difficult to see where the Buckinghamshire team’s strength lies with figures of six goals scored and one conceded in those five games.
On Saturday first place Wanderers were stunned at home by Northampton Town. The Chairboys got off to a dream start with Luke O’Nien on target after just two minutes. With 10 minutes of the half remaining a brilliant curling Marc Richards freekick levelled the scores.
With John-Joe O’Toole pulling the strings it took only two minutes of the second-half for Lawson D'Ath to head in a floated cross from Nicky Adams to put the visitors in front. Four minutes later another header this time by Shaun Brisley off the post, opened a two goal lead.
Danny Rowe scored on 82 minutes and with six minutes of added time Wanderers had the time to equalize but it was not to be.
Talking afterwards with his tongue firmly in his cheek Wanderers Boss Gareth Ainsworth noted, “First five minutes we were brilliant, but we needed to build on that. We had the chances to build on that but we never got the second goal. They had three chances in the second half and they scored two of them, and that's not good enough.”
"Second in the table so it's not all doom and gloom. We don't give up and we never will do. Just the sloppiness of the goals and a few players were unrecognisable today and I think that's down to tiredness. Two wins and a defeat, it's not so much of a bad return in a week."
Looking at the history of games between Rovers and Wycombe the ledger is even with 14 Rovers wins, 4 draws and 14 wins to the Chairboys, 40 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.
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.
The Chairboys Manager is the 10th longest serving in England's top four divisions. Last season he took his team to the League Two play-off final at Wembley, where they lost out to Southend on penalties.
Reflecting on his team’s start to their campaign, before the Northampton defeat, he said, "It's great to be sat there, it's a good start to the season but we look at our squad sometimes and we know we're punching above our weight. It's great to know what the boys will give week in, week out."
"Injuries and suspensions will kill us; we've picked one up tonight with Michael Harriman who may have tweaked his groin which will put us down again. This group of lads keep achieving, the new boys that have come in look like they gelled really well with the rest of the groups."
Rovers will have to be wary. Their record on Bristol speaks for itself with 8 wins from 15 games. Rovers cannot afford to put in anything less than 100% if they are to overcome the Chairboys.