By Gerry PrewettAfter the storm of biblical proportions forced the abandonment of the original fixture at the County Ground, with the scores tied at 0-0, Bristol Rovers make a very quick return.
There is a great deal of bad feeling after the Swindon Chairman not only announced that returning fans would have to pay full price but also that the away end of the stadium would be closed and therefore the cheapest entry would be higher than the original fixture.
Understandably feelings are running high amongst Gasheads and a boycott seems likely.
Sitting one point and three positions above Rovers, Swindon have drawn one and lost two of their last two League games.
On Saturday they went down 2-1 at home to Bury. With just 12 minutes on the clock, the Shakers took the lead. Zeli Ismail crossed to the far post, Tom Pope’s header was kept out by teenage keeper Will Henry. Unfortunately for Town, his strike partner Hallam Hope followed up to sweep the ball into an unguarded net.
The Robins thought they had equalised on 20 minutes when Sean Murray tried his hand from just outside the area and Jonathan Obika diverted it past the keeper. Referee Charles Breakspear consulted his linesman who was waving his flag and the ‘goal’ was negated.
A minute before the break Murray lost possession and striker Hope bundled his way past Nathan Thompson before maintaining his composure and confidently tucking away his and Bury’s second of the afternoon.
Fifteen minutes into the second half the home team got back in to the game when Murray crossed into the area and Obika delivered a first-time finish, which drifted past BenWilliams at the near post to half the deficit. That was to be the end of the scoring.
With both the West Country clubs being regular members of the League’s lower Divisions it is no surprise that they have met a total of 94 times in the League and the record is pretty even. Town have won 43, Rovers 35 and there have been 16 draws.
They clashed for the very first time in 1891 when the Robins ran out 5-2 winners in Swindon, just 2 months later the two teams met again and fought out a 2-2 draw.
The first League meetings took place in 1920-21 season with both home teams’ winning. The biggest winning margin for Rovers was 5-0 way back in 1938-39. Rovers did have a 5-1 League Cup victory in Swindon on 27 August 1984.
Certainly the home teams don't dominate in these games and perhaps that should give Rovers hope. It's maybe a reflection of Swindon's topsy turvey existence that sees such a record. Of the first 6 games played at Eastville after the War, Rovers won 5 and the other was a draw, Swindon's second victory at Eastville came on 7th September 1965 in front of a 15,855 crowd in a very entertaining game. A flashing 25 yard drive by Don Rogers just 6 minutes from the end of the game gave the points to the team from Wiltshire.
Less than a month after that 1-0 Swindon victory at Eastville in 1965 Rovers travelled up to Wiltshire but came away empty handed once more. This time the score line was 4-3. Bobby Jones and Harold Jarman gave Rovers an early lead, but Eric Weaver and Roger Smart equalised before halftime. Harold Jarman restored Rovers lead on 49 minutes Then Denis Brown and Roger Smart struck within a two-minute spell to put Swindon in front for the first time. Rovers pushed up desperately looking for an equaliser but Swindon defended well and took both points (only 2 for a win then!).
Rovers gained their revenge just over a year later with a decisive 3-0 victory with goals by Doug Hillard, Harold Jarman and Ian Hamilton. In more recent times the Robins have found the back of the Rovers net rather an inviting target. They have scored 4 goals four times in the last 12 visits with two 4-1 wins and two 4-3 victories.
A League Cup tie on 27th August 1984 saw Brian Williams, Paul Randall (2) and David Williams (2) give Rovers their best ever win in Swindon with a 5-1 score-line. It was some sort of revenge for a 5-2 thrashing two seasons before in a League game!
At the County Ground Rovers last victory was a 4-0 victory on 6 March 2010 Jo Kuffour Paul Heffernnan, Chris Lines and Jeff Hughes were all on the scoresheet for the Gas. On 13 October 1990 goals by Tony Pounder and Ian Holloway gave the newly promoted Gas a 2-0 win.
Talking about recent Refereeing decisions the Robin’s Boss Luke Williams said, “The referee explained to us that the linesman believes that Sean Murray’s shot went directly in and therefore, there was no need to flag for offside. The referee decided that Jon Obika was in an offside position when he touched the ball and of course, he was not. He was very comfortably onside.”
“The decision’s very difficult for the referee. I always say this. I respect them and the job they do. We conceded a free-kick that was converted into a penalty last week. It’s difficult to accept but it happens. This week, Jon Obika scores from comfortably an onside position and the goal is disallowed sometime after the event when we celebrated and got back to restart the game.”
“It’s extremely difficult to accept because goals do change games and for sure, maybe it’s the wake-up call for us that we needed and we can go on to compete and try and win the game, not just salvage something. Of course, it’s difficult. I know that. They have to make these big decisions but it’s hard when it’s affecting what you do. I have seen teams affected at every single level – in the Champions League and playing for their country and so on, so for sure, games are changed by goals and goals have a huge effect on players’ mentality.”
“It’s hard to accept but it’s part of football and we shouldn’t say too much about these bad decisions and just try to move on.”
Striker Obika commented about his team, “We all know if we haven’t done enough, so it’s up to the players to get it right and we’ll definitely do that on Tuesday. This is a game where we didn’t play well. There have been games where we’ve started fast, like Bristol Rovers, so I feel it’s just up to the players to get their mindset right and focus for the game (against Rovers).”
Giving his version of the crucial decision he commented, “I thought I was onside. I think the referee or the lino gave it and must have gone with what they felt. Sometimes you get those decisions. I think we just had to go with it and try and get back into the game.”
“At times, when you see the defenders put their hands up, you think ‘Was I offside, was I onside?’ but as a striker, you try and follow the trail of the ball and try and tuck it in. You could see with our reaction that it was quite tough to take but this is football – when things happen, we just have to move on.”
Talking about his own struggle to get back to match fitness he went on, “It’s been a tough, tough month getting back fit and getting over an injury but I feel fit now and I’m just ready to play games. As a striker, you want to open the account as quickly as possible. Thinking of the team and how we performed, I think in the first half, we definitely need to get right.”