By Gerry PrewettAfter another single goal home defeat, Bristol Rovers face the long road trip north to Hartlepool United on Tuesday night.
Whilst Rovers performance was much better than the last home defeat to Accrington the result was the same, a single goal home loss. Tuesday’s opposition have faced a similar problem already themselves this season.
A four match lasing streak was ended with a draw at Cambridge followed by an away win at Yeovil on Saturday. Manager Ronnie Moore believes his side have learned from last season, and with positive performances and results already this campaign, the manager feels his team are stronger to cope under pressure this time around.
“Last year we lost games and we don’t want to see the club in a position like that, we’ve got better players in from that situation now. But we all think first few games, we are all off and running, fantastic. Then we can’t win and we lose games, but take the cup games out of it, we aren’t expected to beat Bournemouth and we drew with Sheffield United on 90 minutes.”
“We know how close we have been in the games we lost. We were 2-1 up to Carlisle and lost it, we were 0-0 at Exeter, missed a penalty and conceded late. Even at Stevenage we were always in it, conceded right on half time and then conceded chasing the game late on.”
“There’s nine points we got away, we could have had seven of them even. No panic here, express yourselves and go out and play. We proved last week on a physical side we can go out and match teams, we did it with Cambridge last week and I don’t think there’s going to be many teams as tall and physical as they were last week.’’
Moore’s point was proven at Huish Park over the weekend. Following an uneventful start, the game came to life on the half-hour mark. On 32 minutes Yeovil defender Jakub Sokolik clashed with Pool’s striker Billy Paynter. Poools took the lead from the resulting set-piece when Jake Carroll's cross was diverted into the back of the net by Scott Fenwick.
Yeovil equalised five minutes later when Nathan Smith slid in Jack Howells on the left, who in turn crossed for Ryan Bird to score at the back post.
In the second half, Matt Dolan tested visiting goalkeeper Adam Bartlett with a well-struck free-kick but Pools scored the decisive goal on 83 minutes. Kudus Oyenuga's mis-hit shot fell nicely for substitute Brad Walker to tap in at the back post to secure all three points.
Fenwick has competition for the honour of scoring the first goal. As he ran away celebrating, so too did defender Andrew Boyce, while the Pools players congratulated Carroll, believing his set-piece curled directly into the net. Referee Fred Graham put Carroll down as the scorer, but match reports and results list Fenwick as putting Pools ahead.
"They are all claiming it,’’ laughed Pools’ boss Ronnie Moore. "I went to speak to the referee and he said as far as he was concerned he was giving it to the taker. He's given it to Jake. Scotty's not happy and Boycey's saying he hit it as well. One of the photographers behind the goal has said Scotty got his head to it but the ref says he's given it to Jake and that's how it's going to stand.”
"We had all three of our lads claiming it!”
The win ended Pools’ run of seven in all competitions without victory and Moore added: "It certainly wasn't a classic. We've had some decent games and not taken the points I think we deserved. But here we've not played particularly well and taken all three - we're not grumbling.”
"It was a poor game, I think the teams cancelled each other out, and we never really got out of first gear. We didn't create many chances, but sometimes when it's hot, and I'm not making excuses, but we didn't move the ball quickly enough. I thought we were lucky to be one up, because that was against the run of play to be fair.’’
Looking at Tuesday evening’s fixture the first meeting between Rovers and Pools, surprisingly for club’s that have been in existence for so long, didn’t take place until the 1961/62 season, a League Cup game which Rovers won 2-1.
Matches between the teams were generally low scoring. However there have been two 2-2 draws, on 23 October 2010 at the Victoria Ground. Joe Gamble on 29 minutes and Tony Sweeny scored for the Monkey Hangers with 11 minutes of the game left. Jo Kuffour pulled back the first on 85 minutes and Byron Anthony scored for Rovers right on 90 minutes. Andy Monkhouse was in the Pools team for that game.
On 21 September 2013 Matt Harrold gave Rovers a 35th minute lead but immediately Luke James hit back for the North Eastern team and to compound the pain, gave the away team the lead on the stroke of half-time. It took the whole of the second half for John-Joe O’Toole to find the equaliser.
The last time the teams met, the home side took the lead following their first corner of the game after only two minutes. A corner swung in from the right was glanced on by Luke James to Marlon Harewood at the far post and he had the simple task of heading past Mildenhall from close range. While the marking of James was questionable, the marking of Harewood was non-existent and the home side couldn’t have wished for a better gift from their benevolent visitors.
With 16 minutes on the clock Brad Walker created space for himself before lashing a 20-yard shot past Mildenhall. The game was virtually over when Rovers conceded a 56th minute penalty. Mark McChrystal fouled Harewood and Simon Walton sent Mildenhall the wrong way with his spot kick.
The home side scored a fourth goal in stoppage time when a poor back pass by Tom Parkes was intercepted by Luke James and he fired in a shot that rebounded back into play and into the path of Franks, who lashed the ball high into the roof of the net.
Walker who scored that second gaol in that last game between the clubs has often proved a source of frustration for Ronnie Moore. Even before he took control last December, Moore has been working out how to get the best out of the midfielder.
Moore has heard about how impressive Walker was in his breakthrough season, but that was two years ago and he’s stalled since then. Walker scored two goals in as many home games last season in the four-game winning run which ultimately kept Pools in the Football League.
On Saturday he netted the goal to secure a first win since mid-August in a poor quality game. The 20-year-old had only been on the pitch for minutes when he made a charge forward into the area and turn in a wayward Kudos Oyenuga shot.
Walker was called up to train with England Under-18s as he found a spot in Pools’ first-team under Colin Cooper two years ago. Moore said, "He's got quality, there is no doubt about it, he's just lacking match time. We've had a chat, he knows what we're looking for, it was nice to see him on the scoresheet.”
"If you are playing three in midfield you are looking for a holding midfielder I don't see Brad as that. He's in competition with the other two, but Woods getting suspended has opened the door for Brad. There are two very big, important games coming up.”
"It is up to Brad to play well and stop Woodsy from getting back. If he plays well, he stays in.
He can be infuriating because people told me how well he'd played before I came here. I've not seen that from him yet, that was the chat we had, he's got it.”
"Basically, he's got to learn the game, learn the way I want him to play if he's going to play in midfield. He'd been tremendous here before, he took a penalty in a big game last season which showed he's brave. He's still a young kid, you sometimes forget how young he is. He is going to get an opportunity and we'll have to wait and see what happens.’’