Bristol Rovers open their home League campaign with a week two fixture against Peterborough United.
One player who will be extra keen to be in the home team line-up and to open his account is ex-Posh striker Tom Nichols. Nichols found the back of the net 13 times last season for the East Midlands team before signing for Rovers in June.
As Rovers were going down to a very disappointing 1-0 defeat at the Valley last Saturday, the Posh were seeing off promoted Plymouth 2-1.
The game was only four minutes old before the Pilgrims defender Gary Sawyer deflected a Leo Da Silva Lopes cross past his own keeper Luke McCormick. So it stayed until two minutes into the second half when Jack Marriott stole the ball from Sonny Bradley and presented Junior Morias with an unmissable chance.
McCormick was in action to deny Michael Doughty and Marriott. As the game was looking to go into the last fifteen minutes Argyle Sub Gregg Wylde struck the ball past Jonathan Bond in the Posh goal.
Speaking after the game United Boss Grant McCann said, “We deserved to win after standing strong against a very good team who are used to winning.
"We made it hard for ourselves by not scoring a third goal when we were well on top. Marcus Maddison, Michael Doughty and Jack Marriott should all have scored to make the game dead and buried, but I was always confident the character and spirit in my side would make sure Plymouth couldn’t score a second goal.”
“We were worth the three points. We played some good stuff at times. Marriott and Maddison made runs off the back of midfielders they couldn’t cope with. Plymouth had chances and my goalkeeper has played very well, but their goalkeeper also made some great saves in the second-half. We weathered a bit of a storm, but I felt we were the better team.”
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. In the last six meeting Rovers have picked up just one point.
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.
The teams’ first ever meeting was on 26 November 1938, when Rovers won an FA Cup tie at Eastville 4-1. Donal Tolland (2), Frank Curren and Dick Spivey scoring for Rovers and Fielding scoring for the away team.
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!
In total there have been 38 meetings between the teams. Rovers have won 14, there have been 11 draws and Peterborough have come out on top 13 times. In the West of England, the games have yielded 3 United victories, 8 to Rovers and 5 draws.
After the opening day win, Posh went down 3-1 to League Two side Barnet their Carabao Cup tie on Tuesday. McCann was not happy with his team’s performance, “We started the game sloppily, we took too many risks. We told the players to get the Barnet defence turning in the first 10 minutes just to get a foothold in the game.”
“But we didn’t do it. Our attitude and application were all wrong. Barnet picked up all the second balls and we paid the penalty by falling behind.
In fact, we were lucky to only be 2-1 down at half-time. It could easily have been 5-1. We were lacklustre from the start. I could see that after a minute and after 15 minutes I nearly changed things. I wish I had.”
“It’s amazing how taking two experienced players out of the starting line-up can cause so much disruption. Steven was fit, but we have to manage him. I think that was his first 90-minute match on Saturday for over a year. We were better in the second-half and created a few chances, but whereas on Saturday I never felt Plymouth would score again, I always felt Barnet would.”
“The players perhaps expected the game to be easier than it was. I had told them Barnet had some good players. Alex Penny was picked to balance the defence. He had a tough debut, but he wasn’t the only one. He will be a top player for us in the future.”
“Tuesday night has been dealt with. It’s gone now and we move forward. Bristol Rovers away is a tough game, but we will be ready.”
Having made changes in mid-week it is expected McCann will return to his winning lineup for this weekend’s game. Midfielder Anthony Grant and right wing-back Leo Da Silva Lopes are expected to be recalled at the expense of Chris Forrester and Danny Lloyd, with centre-back Steven Taylor replacing Alex Penny.