By Gerry PrewettBristol Rovers head up to Hertfordshire tonight to face a Stevenage team who look to have secured their League future with a victory at Newport County this weekend.
Whilst Rovers have built up a head of steam as the season has progressed Stevenage have struggled to find their way in League 2.
The only previous competitive game between the clubs was earlier this season during what was a disastrous November for Rovers, when they picked up just 4 points from 6 games, including a home defeat to the Hertfordshire team.
Rovers fell behind early after Lee Brown turned Ronnie Henry's cross behind for a corner which eventually reached Steven Schumacher who drove his shot low into the bottom corner of the net past Lee Nicholls.
After that early set-back it was Rovers all the way but it was not until just past the half hour mark that they equalised. Paris Cowan-Hall picked up on the left hand side before playing an inch perfect pass into the path of Matty Taylor who sprung the offside trap and struck the ball past Chris Day.
Later in the second half, Stevenage took the lead for the second time as Steven Schumacher laid the ball off for Chris Welpdale who let fly from range with a thunderbolt of a strike that beat Lee Nicholls.
On Saturday as Rovers imposed themselves over a stubborn Yeovil Town outfit, Stevenage almost let things slip against Newport. The hosts were ahead on ten minutes, Jake Mulraney heading home from Tom Pett's cross
Former Newport favourite Aaron O'Connor scored against his old club, just after the half hour mark.
Alex Rodman fired in an 87th minute consolation for Newport.
Speaking after the game, Stevenage caretaker boss Darren Sarll said, "I've used my voice quite a lot on many individuals. The players took me in two very different directions emotionally during the game which they seem to enjoy doing at the moment.”
“The points were going to be the targets for the day, and the performance would be secondary to that. Ultimately, it was the win we wanted and the win we deserved.”
"I thought we were brilliant in the first half, but we were poor in the second. It felt two days long and we looked anxious and nervous.
"We have been in good from lately, so we will go into next week with the belief that we can see off the problems we are facing and enjoy the rest of the season."
Meanwhile Managerial advisor, Glenn Roeder reflected on “an extremely important three points” and praised the team for their first half performance in particular.
Although the opposition got back into the game in the second half, Roeder says there was only one team that deserved the win.
“Very satisfied that we got an extremely important three points. Going into the game that was our target, that we needed to get three points to go above Newport and hopefully move on from there with the 12 points that are available from the last four games.
“It was easily our best 45 minutes that I have seen us play in the three weeks that I have been at the club. The disappointment is, and it goes without saying for anyone who was there, that we weren’t quite the same side in the second half.
“Although they scored a late goal which made it a nervy six minutes of added time, there is no doubt about it we were the better team and fully deserved to win the match.”
Roeder says that tonight’s game will be a good test for the players, “So now a completely different test against Bristol Rovers who are high goal scorers and have got one of the leading goal scorers in the division.
“They are a very good team in the offensive mode of the game. It is very important that we keep their attacking qualities to a bare minimum to restrict their opportunities. We have got to do as well as we did on Saturday in the first half when we are attacking and playing our own offensive game.”
Bradley Pritchard and Chris Whelpdale are both doubts or Stevenage. Pritchard is rated 50-50 to feature after a blow to the face against Notts County saw him miss the win over Newport, when Whelpdale was again absent, having only recently returned to the squad from a groin injury.
Michael Tonge is expected to be fit despite a knock against Newport, while Charlie Lee could be a substitute once again after making a surprise return from a groin injury.
Steven Schumacher and Dave McAllister (both knee) are long-term absentees.