By Gerry Prewett
For dreamers Bristol Rovers head up to the East Midlands with the opportunity to take 3 points from Peterborough United and keep alive their hopes of a stunning late run into a Play-Off spot. For everyone else, Rovers will be hoping to finish off a splendid campaign with a performance to please what will inevitably be a large away following.
Whilst Rovers have been there or thereabouts for most of the season, the Posh have struggled to put any decent sort of run together. Their best run of victories is two, which they have achieved three times this season. Given that, it is amazing to discover that they actually defeated Millwall 5- 1 back at the start of the season.
As Rovers eventually overcame Oldham last week, the Posh were in West London where they visited AFC Wimbledon. The game had the feel of a pre-season game as they played out a dour 0-0 draw. In keeping with that both sides gave opportunities to youngsters, Full-back Toby Sibbick making his first appearance for the Dons and left-back Lewis Freestone played in his second successive game for the visitors.
Early on Posh’s Marcus Maddison tested Wimbledon goalkeeper Joe McDonnell who did well to hold his strong effort. On 36 minutes AFC’s Lyle Taylor crossed for George Francomb, but Luke McGee kept the winger's header out.
In the second half, Wimbledon had a couple of chances as Taylor and Tyrone Barnett came close. With six minutes left, Don’s Paul Robinson had a glorious chance to win it, but his header flew just over the crossbar.
In the 37 previous meetings between the teams, Rovers have won 14, there have been 11 draws and Peterborough have come out on top 12 times. In East Anglia Rovers have won 5, drawn 6 and lost 7 times.
Rovers have not beaten the Posh since 3 February 2007 when goals by Rickie Lambert, Richard Walker and Stuart Campbell for Rovers and Dan Crow and Aaron McLean for the away team gave Rovers a 3-2 victory at the Mem.
On the opening day of the 2006/07 promotion season, United dealt out Rovers a 4-1 thrashing on 2nd September 1967. Like most teams, Rovers started the season full of expectation. What they didn’t expect was to find a ‘borough team on fire. Jamie Day, Richard Butler and Simon Yeo all scored in half an hour of devastation to give Posh and unassailable half-time lead. Despite a reply from Sammy Igoe, a Lloyd Opera finish saw an emphatic win for the home team
On 25 February 2006 Rovers recorded their last victory at London Road 2-1, after Junior Agogo had scored Rovers first goal he was sent off shortly after Richard Walker’s goal gave the Gas a 2-0 lead. Dean Holden pulled one back for the Posh but it was not enough.
On 3 February 2007 at the Mem, Posh scored two early goals by Adam Newton and Dave Farrell had Dean Holden sent off, Rovers pulled back the two goals, by Richard Walker and Steve Elliott and then conspired to allow Richard Logan to score a 73rd-minute winner. It was a dour performance by a Rovers team sadly lacking in confidence.
Rovers first League meeting with Peterborough was on 4th September 1962 when goals by Keith Williams, Ian Hamilton and Bobby Jones secured a 3-1 win for the Pirates in front of an 11,860 Eastville crowd. Just 6 days later the Posh gained their revenge with a 1-0 victory at London Road.
On 15th September 1964 Rovers gained their biggest win over Peterborough when an Alfie Biggs’ hat trick and a goal by Bobby Jones gave the Pirates a 4-0 win. Rovers’ first goal was a penalty when the Referee Setchell ruled that Ian Hamilton's goal-bound header was deliberately handled by Graham Birks. The 17,415 crowd were denied a sight of crowd entertainer and Irish international Derek Dougan who was out injured.
The following season Rovers keeper Bernard Hall had a good reason to remember the game. Diving at the feet of Peterborough's dangerous winger Tom Watson, Hall caught a kick to the head and the tip of his left ear was removed. It was never found! The game ended up 1-1.
On 6 September 2008 there was a remarkable televised game at London Road. Craig Mackail-Smith scored a hat-trick for the Posh as his team three times held a two-goal lead. Aaron McLean and Scott Rendell also notched for the home team whilst Steve Elliott, Jeff Hughes, Rickie Lambert and an own goal Shane Blackett provided a none goal feast and a 5-4 home win.
20-year-old Callum Chettle will be looking for more game time after the Nuneaton summer signing made his debut over Easter, “For now I just want to play in these last two matches to get more confidence about my ability to play at this level. The more games I get under my belt the better.”
“I know this club’s reputation for developing young players, but I don’t see the club as a stepping stone at all. I want to help the club back into the Championship where it belongs and where the manager and chairman are determined to take it. Not that I’ve had many appearances, but the one at Wimbledon was my best for the club. We had to stand up to them and play like men, and we did.”
Meanwhile, United chairman Darragh MacAnthony is disappointed with the flak manager Grant McCann has received from some fans this season, “We have a rookie manager who some fans want me to fire. I find this disappointing. If people want to hate or criticise, then they should aim their fire at me, not a 36 year-old just starting out as a manager.”
“Believe me Grant has serious talent, serious potential. He’s dealt with massive problems, not from me, this season, the sort that Darren Ferguson never experienced. And he’s handled everything with more class and composure than I expected. There was a time when I thought he might go into meltdown and give it all up, but he’s a strong and determined man. He has the minerals for this job. He is up for the challenge and I believe he will succeed.”
“You don’t hire a rookie and fire him before the end of his first season. You support him and then you support him again. If we win our final games and get into the top eight I’d give him a 7/10 for his first season.”
Posh hope to have centre-back Jack Baldwin back in action against Rovers. He missed the Easter games because of illness. Centre-back Ryan Tafazolli is not expected to play again this season because of a groin problem, while midfielder Martin Samuelsen is understood to have returned to parent club West Ham United. Teenagers Lewis Freestone and Andrea Borg should be in the squad.