By Gerry PrewettBristol Rovers opening day fixture for their first game in League One since their relegation in the 20010/11 season, sees them travel north to Lincolnshire to face a Scunthorpe United team for the first time since 25 February 2014.
The dramatic finale to last season saw unprecedented scenes at the Mem as Lee Brown’s injury-time winner against already relegated Dagenham & Redbridge gave Rovers the three points that Accrington failed to secure.
The tension and passion that exploded on the day and grew in the weeks afterwards has given the club enormous hope that something dramatic is about to happen for the club.
After missing out on the Play-Offs on goal difference, after a poor start to the season, Saturday’s opposition Scunthorpe United are determined to make a more consistent challenge for promotion this season.
United Captain Stephen Dawson told the media earlier this week, “Anything less than the play-offs is a failure. That has got to be the minimum target every year. Every team will be saying that but we are paid to go out and win football matches. If you just set your targets on a mid-table finish you shouldn't really be here.”
“It is a big year for us this year especially after last season when we under performed, and we did under perform. To not make the play-offs was not good enough for all of us including myself.
"Hopefully we can put it right this year, but it will be a lot tougher. There are bigger teams spending a lot more money than normal. It will be interesting but we need to hit the ground running. This team, the manager, the players, the Chairman want to be in the Championship."
Games between the two clubs have been few and far between as United didn’t gain League status until 1951 and played in the Third Division North until 1958. In their second ever visit to The Old Show Ground; Rovers recorded a stunning 4-3 win with Alfie Biggs, Ray Mabbutt and Ian Hamilton (2) all on the score sheet with Welsh international wing wizard Barrie Thomas (2) and Peter Donnelly replying for the home team.
It was another 13 years and 2 points from a possible 12 (just 2 for a win in those days!) before Rovers recorded their next win in the steel town. A Smash and Grab double (yes Warboys and Bannister as always) kept a 1,784 crowd silent!
During that lean spell Rovers visited the Old Show Ground on 7th November 1964. Rovers had got off to an excellent free scoring start to the season, hitting 4 past Mansfield, Peterborough, Bournemouth, and 5 past Grimsby and Carlisle in consecutive games.
Against Reading on 17th October Alfie Biggs suffered a serious cartilage injury which kept him out for the rest of the season. Rovers came off two wins before their trip to Lincolnshire and an Ian Hamilton goal for Rovers and a Barry Lindsay goal for the home side, gave the teams a share of the points in a hard fought game.
Nearly a year later and it was a different story. Having lost 3-0 at Swansea and 4-3 at Swindon the defence needed to tighten up but it wasn't to be. Without ever looking a good side Scunthorpe won with absurd ease as Rovers defensive marking was virtually non-existent. The attack wasn't much better and when Ian Hamilton put the ball in the net Referee Egan ruled that Dick Plumb had fouled Geoff Sidebottom in the Scunthorpe goal.
Freddie Goodwin gave Scunthorpe a 25th minute lead with an unchallenged header and then five minutes into the second half Brian Bedford was given equal largesse. Frank Barton sealed the game with a hooked shot just seven minutes later to complete a 3-0 victory.
In 2004-05 season, the Iron ran out winners at a canter, 3-0 in Bristol and 4-0 in Lincolnshire. In their final home game of the season Scunthorpe needed a win to keep their hopes of automatic promotion alive.
It was a whitewash for the hosts, who then went on to gain the point they needed at Gay Meadow, Shrewsbury the following week. Steve Torpey grabbed a brace within the first 14 minutes to get the ball rolling, producing two pin-pointed back headers which bounced into the net in front of a very strong crowd behind the goal.
That was the end of the goals for the first half, but it took just 46 seconds of the second half to add to the scoring. After a long Paul Musselwhite goal kick, Hayes found himself in the clear, with the Iron striker sending a side-footed lob over Ryan Clarke in Rovers goal.
A dampener hit the game seven minutes later though, as Richard Kell was stretchered off with a broken leg, which saw the Pirates’ Craig Disley dismissed for a second bookable offence by referee Scott Mathieson.
The win was completed in the 69th minute though; Rovers cleared a corner to the edge of the area, but it was sent back in with vengeance, Cleveland Taylor heading home from 20 yards as the ball looped into the goal to the delight of the fans to secure a 4-0 home win.
In the 2013/14 season, the last times the teams met, both games were drawn, 0-0 in Bristol and 1-1 at Glanford Park.
Iron keeper Luke Daniels believes his team are well prepared for the opening game after their final pre-season 1-0 victory at Hartlepool, “Obviously it’s pleasing to finish off with a win, and also a clean sheet too, which is great. It’s given us a lot to work on.
"We know where we struggled and it wasn’t as comfortable as it perhaps should have been. It’s given us a good run out, and it was a definite physical test, so it’s not a bad one to go into the season with. They’re a decent side, and I think they’ll do well this year, but it’s about what we do.”
Talking about Rovers, he said, “They had a little bit of a dip and went down into the Conference, and dropped out the league. So it’s good for them that they’ve managed to get back up and they’re a big club, so it’s going to be a good test for us.
"It’s the same as Burton (on the opening day of last season) they were on a roll. I believe it’s going to be a physical test, and it’s going to be another mental test as well. However, it’s about what we do. We’re more than capable enough to do well in this league and it’s up to us to show that.”