By Gerry Prewett
On Saturday Bristol Rovers look to put two disappointing away results behind them as they entertain near neighbours Swindon Town in a West Country derby at the Mem. When the sides clashed at the rescheduled game at the County Ground in September the Robins were one point and three positions above the Gas.
In the 20 League games since Rovers 2-1 victory, the Wiltshire team has won 5, drawn 6 and lost 9 games and plummeted to 19th spot and a full 10 points behind the Gas. It is ironic that Chelsea starlet Charlie Colkett, who was so influential for the away team that night will be pulling on the red shirt of the Robins on Saturday.
Colkett said this week of the GasHeads, “They have got great fans and I am sure it will be fully packed. Hopefully, they give me a warm reception but I am sure it will be a bit intimidating because they know we are going there to win. I gave everything for Rovers when I was there and now I am at Swindon, I am going to give everything for them."
With both the West Country clubs being regular members of the League’s lower Divisions it is no surprise that they have met a total of 95 times in the League and the record is pretty even. Town have won 43, Rovers 36 and there have been 16 draws.
They clashed for the very first time in 1891 when the Robins ran out 5-2 winners in Swindon, just 2 months later the two teams met again and fought out a 2-2 draw.
The first League meetings took place in 1920-21 season with both home teams’ winning. The biggest winning margin for Rovers was 5-0 way back in 1938-39. Rovers did have a 5-1 League Cup victory in Swindon on 27 August 1984.
Certainly, the home teams don't dominate in these games and perhaps that should give Rovers hope. It's maybe a reflection of Swindon's topsy turvy existence that sees such a record. Of the first 6 games played at Eastville after the War, Rovers won 5 and the other was a draw, Swindon's second victory at Eastville came on 7th September 1965 in front of a 15,855 crowd in a very entertaining game. A flashing 25 yard drive by Don Rogers just 6 minutes from the end of the game gave the points to the team from Wiltshire.
Less than a month after that 1-0 Swindon victory at Eastville in 1965 Rovers travelled up to Wiltshire but came away empty handed once more. This time the score line was 4-3. Bobby Jones and Harold Jarman gave Rovers an early lead, but Eric Weaver and Roger Smart equalised before halftime. Harold Jarman restored Rovers lead on 49 minutes Then Denis Brown and Roger Smart struck within a two-minute spell to put Swindon in front for the first time. Rovers pushed up desperately looking for an equaliser but Swindon defended well and took both points (only 2 for a win then!).
Rovers gained their revenge just over a year later with a decisive 3-0 victory with goals by Doug Hillard, Harold Jarman and Ian Hamilton. In more recent times the Robins have found the back of the Rovers net rather an inviting target. They have scored 4 goals four times in the last 12 visits with two 4-1 wins and two 4-3 victories.
A League Cup tie on 27th August 1984 saw Brian Williams, Paul Randall (2) and David Williams (2) give Rovers their best ever win in Swindon with a 5-1 score-line. It was some sort of revenge for a 5-2 thrashing two seasons before in a League game!
At the County Ground Rovers last victory was a 4-0 victory on 6 March 2010 Jo Kuffour Paul Heffernnan, Chris Lines and Jeff Hughes were all on the scoresheet for the Gas. On 13 October 1990 goals by Tony Pounder and Ian Holloway gave the newly promoted Gas a 2-0 win.
Speaking ahead of Saturday’s game and noting the following game against Oxford United the Robins John Goddard said, “I’m very excited for Saturday and it is a good one for the boys and the club because we’ve got both derbies back-to-back. It is very important that we take them one game at a time and all of our focus is on Bristol Rovers."
“It will be a tough game, there will be a good atmosphere and I know a lot of Swindon fans will be making the journey down the M4, so I’m really looking forward to it. When you play at packed grounds, whether they are big or small, there is an extra buzz and Derby Days are a prime example of that. There is an extra five or ten percent meaning to the game so although there is only three points at stake, the boys are fully aware of the importance of the game.”
“It will be an intimidating atmosphere and I played against Rovers in the Conference a couple of years ago so I know what the ground is like and I’m sure it will be rocking. It is up to us to try and dictate the tempo of the game and we’ll be looking to silence the crowd and that is part of our game plan. The game deserves a lot of respect and the importance of all the games at the moment is clear to see, we need some points.”
“They are a very organised side and the manager there has done fantastically well to guide them to two promotions. They know exactly what they are doing and they’ve got some lively players going forward.”
“The first time we played them this season we were flying and although it was 0-0 I thought we were excellent, but the second time we played them we weren’t up to the levels we needed to be and we got beat. It is important we don’t make the same mistake again.”
“We need to be right up for the game and that’s not too hard to do when they are derby matches. Matt Taylor is a threat, we’ve seen him play and we know about him but it would be silly just to concentrate on him though because they’ve got other good players.
Town will be without striker Jon Obika who is still struggling with a knock, while Brad Barry will also miss out as he continues to nurse a swollen ankle. Town Manager Luke Williams commented, “Jon isn’t back in training yet, unfortunately, but he’s doing his rehabilitation and we’re hoping that we will see him on the training pitch at least in the very near future,”
“Bradley is a way off at the moment. We were hoping that he might have featured in the reserve team game on Tuesday but he’s not quite there yet. We’ll keep an eye on that one.”
Meanwhile Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill and Ellis Iandolo are well on the road to recovery and look set to return to full training in the not too distant future as Williams went on, “They are getting closer and they on the training pitch, albeit not able to take part in full training, but they are there and they are going through their physical work. They are much more capable than they were a week ago, so we’re looking forward to getting them back into full training.
“Brandon is working physically on the training pitch next to the full squad so we’re hoping that he’ll be in full training soon. Ellis is in a very similar situation to Brandon and they were both striking balls and working physically very, very hard – it is only the twisting and turning element and the unpredictability of going into contact that is stopping them from completing full training.”
Anton Rodgers looks likely to be in the squad on Saturday despite taking a heavy blow to the chest during an accidental collision in training earlier this week, “The only other injury concern is Anton Rodgers and he ran into somebody in training and he caught an elbow in the chest,” said Williams “It was completely accidental and just part of training. It looks as though he’s bruised his ribs but I don’t think it is anything that is going to stop him from playing his part and he’s tough enough to play through the pain barrier, but we’re concerned that it has not eased off and it has been a while now.”