By Gerry Prewett.
On the last match before Christmas, Bristol Rovers entertain one of the other two Rovers in the Division, Doncaster. The Yorkshire team have had a torrid season and much like the Gas have found it very difficult to put any consistency to their performances. They have failed to put two wins in a row together and have won just 6 of their 23 games.
Donny had a promising opening to the season winning at Blackburn (in their first away game) and drawing two other games. After the Blackburn win they went through a six game spell where they picked up just 2 points. Their last victory was a 2-1 defeat of MK Dons on 25 November.
On Saturday they entertained the ever improving Oldham. The first-half of the game was something of a slug-fest before the Latics’ Gevaro Nepomuceno had his shot cleared off the line by Andy Butler. Donny’s Alfie May was then thwarted by Johnny Placide in the Oldham goal after Alfie Beestin had put him through on goal.
The home team took the lead on 59 minutes with a Butler header cannoning down from the bar after the delivery from a Tommy Rowe free-kick. Just as Darren Ferguson’s team thought they had secured their first win in December an Adam Holloway ball to Eoin Doyle allowed him to find the net and share the spoils in the 88th minute.
Speaking after the game Ferguson said, “It’s a disappointing result. Again we’ve thrown away two points right at the death. At the moment we’re just not getting the rub of the green. What can you do when your centre half is going to head it away, he slips and Doyle scores? There’s not a great deal I can do to prevent that incident but certainly in the last 15 minutes we didn’t keep the ball well enough.”
There have been a total of 37 games between the two teams with Bristol Rovers winning 16 and Doncaster 15. There has only ever once been a 0-0 draw in these matches and that was at Eastville on 9 January 1960 in an FA Cup tie, the Gas won the replay 3 days later in Yorkshire.
The highest score between the teams was on 22 December 1956 when the home team won 6-1 at Eastville. Barrie Meyer (2), Dai Ward (3) and Geoff Bradford scoring for the home team and Geoff Walker for the visitors.
When the Gas visited South Yorkshire in 2003-04 season the home team ran out emphatic 5-1 winners. Frank Tierney, Chris Brown and a Michael McIndoe hat-trick for Donny and Lewis Haldane for Rovers.
The 2007 JP Trophy Final, won 3-2 by Donny, has been described as probably the most exciting of the Finals ever played. There can be little doubt that the pain of that victory spurred the Gas to their heroic finish to that season culminating in the last minute Sammy Igoe goal that secured the 3-1 victory and promotion.
The last time the two Rovers crossed paths was back in the 2007/08 season and it was the Yorkshire team who took all the points on offer. When the Gas visited the Keepmoat Stadium on 9th February 2008 they were defending an impressive unbeaten record against the team in second spot. After conceding two penalties they came back empty handed, Brian Stock on 65 minutes and Paul Heffernan on 90 minutes, scoring.
Within a month Donny had returned from the Mem with all 3 points again and it was Heffernan who was on the scoresheet once more, this time after just 3 minutes. The Gas have lost all 5 of the last five meetings!
Looking at team news, James Coppinger and Craig Alcock are both back to full fitness after injury and will boost Ferguson`s injury ravaged squad. Matty Blair is rated as 50/50 to return and will be assessed ahead of the game. Ross Etheridge, Luke McCullough, Danny Andrew, Alex Kiwomya and Andy Williams all remain on the sidelines whilst Harry Toffolo has been forced to return to his parent club Norwich City after suffering a broken foot.
Speaking ahead of this weekend's game Ferguson commented, “They’re a physical team, they play forward quick, they’re a threat from set pieces and they have a long throw in the locker, and Billy Bodin in particular is a threat so we will consider that but we’ll compete as are expected to do,” he said.
“We will take it a game at a time, they took a heavy defeat last week but they’ve had some good home results and it’s always a very difficult place to go.”