By Gerry Prewett.
Having secured their first draw since last February, Bristol Rovers have proved that they can grind out away results if necessary. They travel to face Oldham Athletic this weekend with a sense of getting a monkey off their back after securing their first away point since thrashing Northampton.
Oldham meanwhile have some issues after recovering from an awful start to the season they have lost their last two games. It’s the first time Oldham have lost back to back in the league since Richie Wellens took charge earlier this season.
Having gone down 4-1 at Plymouth they also failed to pick up any points against Fleetwood on Boxing Day. After a dour first half in which neither side really threatened it was the away team who took the lead just five minutes after the restart.
Markus Schwabl crossed for Devante Cole to score from close in. The seaside team doubled their lead on 67 minutes as Cole turned provider crossing to Ashley Hunter at the far post.
On 80 minutes, Ashley Eastham brought down Aaron Holloway 25 yards from goal and Kean Bryan curled a shot into the top corner to reduce the arrears. But it stayed at 2-1 to Fleetwood.
Speaking after the game Latics’ gaffer Wellens said: “In the first half there was only one team in it, I can’t remember them having many attacks, we played well and moved the ball about really well.”
“We had the best chance of the game when Davies should have scored with his header, unfortunately he didn’t get enough contact on it. In the second half, we conceded a goal at a bad time but I wasn’t that worried because we were dominating the game, but when you concede one so quickly afterwards it’s difficult from then on.”
“We consistently attacked them through the game and I’m disappointed we lost because we didn’t deserve to lose it. We went for it and we were still trying to get back in the game, we scored the goal and then it was an onslaught in their box, and I think it was a penalty at the end.”
Over the years there have been some remarkable games between the Gas and the Latics, 58 in total with 20 Oldham victories, 24 to Rovers and 14 draws. Only 5 of those games have been 0–0 and in one remarkable instance was 4-4.
The first meeting was in the FA Cup on 14 December 1935 as the teams tied 1-1 at Boundary Park, Rovers won the replay 4-1 at Eastville with a Phil Taylor hat-trick.
The first League meeting took place on 16 April 1954 with Rovers winning 1-0 at Eastville with a George Petherbridge goal. Three days later the teams drew 0-0 at Boundary Park.
In the 1967-68 season the goals really flowed in this fixture. Rovers won the home tie in front of a 6,864 crowd on 17 February 1968, 4-3 with goals by Alfie Biggs (2) and Johnny Williams (2, 1 penalty) for the home team and Tony Towers (2) and Laurie Sheffield (who had been on Rovers books at one stage without ever getting a game, he went on to score 132 goals in a 281 game career).
Oldham had gone ahead in the game but with 11 minutes left, Rovers were 3-1 up. Towers then scored and Sheffield equalised before Biggs headed his second.
At Boundary Park in the final game of the season, there were even more goals as Bobby Jones (2), Wayne Jones, Harold Jarman and Stuart Taylor for the away team and an Ian Wood hat-trick for the home team led to a 5-3 away win.
Wayne Jones scored after 11 minutes and a quarter of an hour later Bobby Jones doubled the lead. Wood then scored in the 53rd and 58th minutes to level the scores, but Taylor quickly restored Rovers lead. In the 78th minutes Wood completed his hat-trick and once again brought the scores level. Bobby Jones responded immediately and with just 8 minutes of the season left Jarman put the icing on the cake.
That 4-4 draw was on 27 September 1997, in front of a 5,990 crowd. A rampant Oldham team raced into a 3-0 lead, within the first half hour, with goals by Barlow (8 mins and 23 mins) and McCarthy (25 mins). 15 minutes later and Rovers had pegged it back to 3-3 with Beadle (30 mins and 33 mins) and Hayles (45 mins) scoring. Oldham re-took the lead with a 59th minute goal by Garner but Rovers were not finished, Cureton slammed home a penalty in the 87th minute.
In 2008-09 Rovers completed a 2-0 double over the Latics, which bettered the previous season’s 1-0 double! Prior to that Rovers’ last victory at Boundary Park was on 26 February 2000 as Rovers raced towards what appeared to be a certain automatic promotion.
Goals by Cureton (4 mins and 6 mins, penalty) and Astafjevs (11 mins) seemed to have sown the game up for Rovers within the first 15 minutes. A further goal by Thomson (48 mins) just after half time gave the Gas an unassailable lead and Oldham’s only response was a goal by Dudley in the 67th minute.
Last season Rovers took maximum points in the fixture with a 2-0 win at Oldham and a 1-0 victory at the Mem.
Back on September 12 a dramatic final 10 minutes at the Mem saw Eoin Doyle grab an 86th minute winner and condemn the Gas to a 3-2 defeat.
The visitors appeared to be cruising at 2-0 with 10 minutes to go, thanks to goals from Jack Byrne and Craig Davies before goals from Rory Gaffney and then an own goal remarkably drew Rovers level.
But with the scores only just levelled at 2-2, Oldham flew forward and a ball whipped in from the left hand side found striker Eoin Doyle in the Rovers penalty area, and the former Preston man headed past Adam Smith to secure all three points for the away team.
Speaking ahead of this weekend’s game Wellens said, “It’s significant because if we win we overtake them. I think they’re a team that either win or lose apart from Saturday when they got their first draw of the season, we have been away at their ground at beat them.”
“Every single team in this league has a threat, every single team is good at set pieces and if we’re not on it we won’t win the game but if we are on it, I fancy us to really do well and win the game but we need to make sure we play a little bit quicker than on Saturday.”