By Gerry Prewett
Darrell Clarke faces one of his toughest challenges as a Manager this weekend as his Bristol Rovers team take the journey north to Derbyshire to face a low lying Chesterfield team.
As Rovers were going down to a shock 5-1 home thrashing by Charlton, the Spireites ended an eight-game league losing streak as Danny Wilson got the better of one of his former clubs at stadium:mk.
The home team dominated possession and chances from the first whistle only to fall behind after goalkeeper David Martin tripped the away team’s Reece Mitchell. Former Don, Jay O'Shea confidently slotted home the 32nd minute penalty, his second in two games.
Daniel Powell on 67 minutes and substitute Ryan Colclough six minutes later turned the game on it’s head as they gave the Dons the lead.
The game turned again as Chesterfield substitutes Kristian Dennis lifted a shot high into the net on 77 minutes and Dan Gardner tapped in an 80th minute winner to defeat their managerless opposition and lift Chesterfield off the bottom of the League One table with their first away win of the campaign.
Wilson commented after the game, "Obviously it's a bit of a relief, I think it's a relief because the players have earned more than they've got in recent weeks but not come away with things. We did well at Fleetwood on Saturday and numerous times we've felt unlucky; we haven't got goals or taken the chances when they've come along.”
"Today we've created loads of chances again, they've had blocks on the line, we've hit the post and coming away from home and creating chances like we did we came with a very offensive game plan. We knew we'd have to defend as well and in the latter stages of the game, particularly after going 2-1 down, I think we showed great courage to get back into the game and then take the lead again.”
Wilson singled out the determined run of winger Gboly Ariyibi to set up the winner as symptomatic of his side's approach, "You saw what the lads did. They gathered themselves and got themselves back together. Then Gboly did what Gboly's good at, he ran at players, he came down the line and nobody was going to touch him. He had great momentum, got into the box, squared the ball off and there you go.”
"Overall, they've deserved it and over the last few weeks I think we've really deserved it and come away with nothing. We've shown a great resilience to come here and get what they've got."
“Our recent form is well documented so I’m really pleased with the fight the boys showed,” revealed Wilson, who was at the helm when the Dons were relegated to League Two a decade ago, “We showed real guts to win that game.
We kept our heads after going behind and the players showed their ability to come back from that and showed what they can do. Hopefully that can be a stepping-stone for us now because I don’t feel like we’ve been turned over in games this season. Football’s about fine margins and hopefully we can get a bit of that [luck] now.”
Considering that both teams have been the lower reaches of the League for most of their relative existences there has not been that many meetings, 36 in total. The first League meeting was on 3 October 1970, when Rovers beat the newly promoted Chesterfield 3-2 at Eastville, with goals by Wayne Jones, Ray Graydon and an own goal from Albert Phelan for the home team and Martin Wright and Kevin Randall for the visitors.
The very first meeting, however dates right back to 1 February 1907 when Southern League Rovers beat Chesterfield 2-0 in the FA Cup at Eastville. Remarkably it wasn’t for another 57 years before they crossed paths again and this time the Derbyshire team gained their only ever victory in the west country A First Round League Cup tie saw Fourth Division Chesterfield, inspired by a fine goalkeeping performance by West Brom bound John Osborne, record a 2-0 victory over Third Division, Rovers.
Chesterfield hold a special place in Bristol Rovers club history as an unremarkable 1-1 draw at Eastville on 26 April 1986 was the last ever first team fixture played at Eastville Stadium with Trevor Morgan scoring Rovers last ever goal at Eastville and a Brian Scrimegour penalty being the last away goal at the venue.
Since meetings commenced there have been 19 Rovers victories and 9 draws and 8 losses. In 2012/13 season in the game at the Mem Rovers opening goal was put in his own net by Sam Togwell. Neil Etheridge, in Rovers goal on loan from Fulham, returned the compliment as he carried Mark Randall’s free-kick into the back of his own net.
Rovers restored the lead through Joe Anyinsah on 59 minutes, before substitute Brennan Dickenson again levelled the scores just five minutes later. Ten minutes from time Tom Eaves, who was responsible for setting up both of Rovers’ previous goals then got his own name on the score sheet to top off a great performance.
The last times the teams crossed paths was on 1 February 2014 at the Proact Stadium. Rovers made the worst possible start as the home team started at a high tempo and scored after only four minutes. Eoin Doyle got down the left and found Sam Morsy in space just inside the area. He had time and space to beat goalkeeper Steve Mildenhall comfortably.
Rovers were growing into the game at that point and equalised with 36 minutes on the clock. A cross from the right was cleared as far as Lee Brown who had made a run down the left and the defender controlled the ball before curling a shot into the top corner of the net with his right foot to register his first goal of the season.
Rovers paid the penalty for more poor marking with a minute of the half remaining.
Gary Roberts got the better of Smith down the left and drove a low cross to the back post where the unmarked Banks was able to score from close range.
Any hopes of a second-half revival evaporated within two minutes of the restart. Parkes was caught in possession by Roberts who fed Doyle and he hit a ferocious drive past Mildenhall.
Kristian Dennis’s scorer of the second goal on Tuesday spoke afterwards of the good spirit behind the scenes, “All the lads get on with each other, there’s no bad eggs in the camp. Everyone sticks together, everyone works hard for each other and we showed it tonight.”
“I don’t think anyone ever lost confidence. It was just a bad run of form, every team in England goes through it but let’s hope this is the turning point, it’s a start so we’ll hopefully kick on against Bristol Rovers.
“Everyone will be buzzing come Thursday in training. Everyone will be laughing, joking so hopefully, we can take that into Saturday and get another win.”