By Gerry PrewettBristol Rovers take a trip down the M5 to West Country rivals Plymouth Argyle, who are currently sitting in second spot just one point behind leaders Leyton Orient. Argyle have won five and lost just two of their opening seven games this season and recovered from a defeat at Stevenage by bouncing back to win at Wycombe, 2-1.
Meanwhile Rovers have hit an early season mini-crisis, it is not just the three defeats in a row but the lack of goals that will be of concern to Darryl Clarke. Rovers have failed to score a single goal in any of those games and have not really posed an attacking threat.
Like Rovers, Argyle were founder members of the Third Division in 1920-21 season. They finished one spot below Rovers at the end of that season in 11th place. The first ever League meeting between the clubs took place on 23rd April 1921 when goals by Ellis Crompton and Billy Palmer secured a 2-0 victory in front of a 14,000 Eastville crowd. The return match saw Plymouth win 2-1 a week later, Crompton scoring for Rovers again and Jimmy Logan notching two for Argyle.
Looking back over the history of games there have been some real high scoring encounters. The Boxing Day fixture of 1973 kept a 22,353 crowd on their toes as goals by Stuart Taylor, Alan Warboys (2) and Bruce Bannister swept a rampant Rovers to a 4-2 win.
Going back even further to 14th October 1961 a Bobby Jones double, Geoff Bradford and Peter Hooper goals made the score 4-3 to Rovers. This provided some sort of revenge for Argyle’s 5-2 win just 11 months prior.
It’s also worth remembering that “Goodnight Irene” was first heard on 4 November 1950 in a game between Rovers and Argyle. Rovers came back from being 1-0 down at half time to score 3 goals. The Rovers fans changed the words of the current hit by the Weavers to ‘Goodnight Argyle”
Meanwhile in Plymouth Rovers have not won since their 2-1 victory there in the Worthington Cup on 23 August 2000. The last League win was on 10 January 1998 in Division 2 when goals by Jamie Cureton and Barry Hayles (later to pull on the Argyle shirt) for Rovers and one for Carlo Corazzin for Argyle saw a 2-1 result. Back on 5 February 1994 there was a memorable 3-3 draw, when Justin Skinner, Lee Archer and Worrell Sterling replied to goals by Dwight Marshall, Paul Dalton and Mike Evans to keep a 13,318 crowd entertained.
Going back to 1982 Rovers visited Home Park twice, on 2 January they went down to a 4-0 defeat with Jeff Cook and John Sims grabbing a brace each, but on 28 September, goals by Paul Randall (2), Errington Kelly and David Williams ensured the result was reversed, to give Rovers their best ever result on the ground. Argyle certainly found the Rovers defence to their liking in the 1959/60 and 1960/61 seasons, beating Rovers 5-3 and 5-0 (Rovers worst result in Plymouth)
Argyle defender Peter Hartley speaking after the 2-1 win at Wycombe expressed his delight in being able to come back from the Home Counties with all three points after their last encounter, "After the disappointment of the play-offs, there is no better feeling than to send those fans home happy tonight. It just goes to show you what a few fresh faces in the summer and a little break can do.”
"We look like a different team. We have got an edge about us, we want to win, we love defending – there is just something about us this season. We need to keep grounded, keep working hard in training and look forward to Bristol Rovers.”
Hartley admitted the loud support of the Green Army had played its part in Argyle's third successive away win against Wycombe in League Two, not including the play-offs. The centre-back said: "I didn't feel like we were away from home, to be honest.
"I felt comfortable in the game. To have phenomenal support like that behind you, it was like a 12th man to take the points back home to Plymouth."
It was a tough game and the Pilgrims had to ride their luck at times, with shots from Luke O'Nien and Garry Thompson both hitting a post. But Argyle stood up to the task as they made it an impressive three wins out of four away from Home Park in League Two this term.
Hartley commented, "We had done a lot of work on Wycombe and we knew exactly what they were going to bring to the table. In the second half, especially, you could see what we wanted to do. Carl McHugh was challenging for the first ball and Nelse (Curtis Nelson) and me were sweeping up.”
"It worked a treat and credit to the gaffer (Adams). He gave us a game plan, we stuck to it and we got a result. It's not pretty but it's effective the way they play. If that's the way their manager wants to play to try to get them out of the division then so be it.”
"Our manager has a different philosophy and that way works for us. We know what we are going to get from Wycombe and I thought we dealt with it fairly well."
Having faced away trips for three weeks in a row boss Derek Adams is looking forward to being back on home turf again. Two wins from three away trips to was a good start to September, “We’ve been away for a number of games now; we need to get back and be at home,” said Adams.
“The home support has been great, but the away support has been fantastic as well. To take nearly 1000 people to Wycombe on Saturday was great.”
“We’re delighted with the win and the performance. It’s not an easy venue to go to, and to come away with a 2-1 victory and to play as well as we did to create the chances that we had; it was a good afternoon for us.”
“Sometimes you have to grind out results, and sometimes you have to play with a bit of flair, and we’ve got a side that are capable of doing both. We’ve started very well, and the confidence in the players is high. We need to continue that on a weekly basis.”
Talking about his plans for Saturday’s fixture he commented, “I watched them last Sunday against Oxford United and they played very well. They’ve changed their formation a couple of times – they’ve gone to a 3-5-2, they’ve played a diamond formation as well, so we know what problems they can cause us.”
“We know the strengths and weaknesses of their team, but I’m sure they’ll know the problems we can cause them. We’ve got good attacking options, and have players that are scoring goals.”