By Gerry Prewett.
After going over 10 months without a draw Bristol Rovers have secured points from each of their last two away games at Walsall and Oldham. On New Years Day they entertain a Portsmouth team who have won 6 of their last seven games and currently sit on 6th place on 41 points.
They won both their Christmas games beating Wimbledon 2-1 on Boxing Day and Northampton 3-1 on Saturday. In that latest game they could have taken the lead after just six minutes when Oliver Hawkins was played in by Brett Pitman but visiting goalkeeper Matt Ingram was quick off his line to make the save.
Northampton then surprised the hosts when they went ahead in the 36th minute through Chris Long, who calmly slotted the ball past Luke McGee. Within 5 minutes the Hampshire team had restored parity when Matty Kennedy cut in from the left wing to hit a right-footed shot into the bottom corner.
Portsmouth then took the lead just before half-time when Hawkins headed Christian Burgess' cross over Ingram's head. Within 3 minutes of the restart Hawkins got his second of the match to seal the points, heading in a Kennedy cross.
Speaking after the game, Pompey assistant Manager Joe Gallen said, “It’s another three points for us and I’m very pleased and it helps us along with our tally. In particular, I’m very pleased with a very good attacking performance. Some of the games at home we haven’t created as many chances as we would have liked but I couldn’t say that today. ‘We created numerous chances, especially in the second half, and maybe three hasn’t done us justice. But even if it was a narrow 1-0 victory we would still be very pleased.”
Looking at the history of all games between the clubs, in total there have been 40, with Pompey dominating, with 22 victories to Rovers 10. Only 4 of those wins have come away from Fratton however.
The very first clash between the team was an FA Cup tie at Eastville on 13 January 1912. John Jones and Lional Louch goals for Portsmouth and a Hughes goal for Rovers sent the South coast team through to the second round.
The first League game was on 12 February 1921 when Portsmouth won their home game 1-0 with Frank Stringfellow scoring for Pompey, one week later the teams fought out a 2-2 draw at Eastville. Stringfellow and David Watson scoring for the away team and Sid Leigh and Wally Bird scoring for the Pirates.
Rovers first victory at Fratton was a remarkable game which took place on 6 February 1960 in a Second Division game. Two goals by Ron Saunders and others by Harry Harris and Reg Cutler gave the home team 4 goals. However doubles by Peter Hooper and Dai Ward along with an own goal by Ron Howells led to a 5-4 away win.
Rovers have lost the last 5 games between the clubs and their last victory was on 21 December 2013 when Ollie Clarke (40 mins) and David Clarkson (77 mins) saw Rovers secure a 2-0 win
In the game at Fratton earlier this season, the first-half was nip and tuck until just before half-time. Dion Donohue’s cross was headed in to goal by Oliver Hawkins at the back post. Chris Lines made an attempt to hack the ball from the line, although only succeeded in sending it into the roof of the net.
But celebrations were cut short by a linesman’s flag, only to start back up again when referee John Busby conferred with his colleague
and awarded the goal.
Brett Pitman doubled the lead when he converted Matty Kennedy’s cross with a header that Sam Slocombe could not keep out. Pitman put the icing on the cake when he shrugged off the challenge of Lockyer with ease before slamming home Pompey’s third goal to complete a successful night.
Speaking ahead of the New Years Day game hot-shot Oliver Hawkins said, “It’s a very good way to end the year and I’m buzzing at the moment. I was back in the starting line-up, playing up front and I got two goals to help us win the game, I couldn’t really ask for more.
Reflecting on his first goal he said, "I’ve scored similar goals like that in my career previously and thought I’d try it luckily the ball flew in. There was a lot of pace on the ball in from Burge and there wasn’t really anyone around me, so the only thing I could really do was go for it. I’ve scored similar goals like that in my career previously and thought I’d try it – luckily the ball flew in. I was happy with it.”
“For the second one I was expecting a higher cross, but I read the ball a bit quicker than the defender and was able to nip in ahead of him. I managed to get a good contact on the ball, although I wasn’t sure that it had gone in until I heard the cheering.”
“After my little injury I didn’t know when or where I was going to come back into the team, but the manager had faith in me and I’m happy to score goals.”
“It’s been a good year for me after a positive end to last season with Dagenham and then moving to Pompey. I’ve hopefully proved that I can be a League One player and it’s pleasing to contribute both with goals and clean sheets.”