By Gerry Prewett.
For the third game in a row Bristol Rovers are looking to win a Cup tie, with losses against West Ham and Notts County they will be hoping to overcome Swindon Town and progress in the Checkatrade Trophy. Having won the first tie 5-1 at Wycombe, the lost the next game to West Ham last week 3-1, everything now rests on overcoming West Country rivals Swindon.
Having suffered relegation last season the Robins are sitting comfortably a Play Off position in League 2. On the weekend the travelled to Dartford and comfortably saw off their National League South opposition with a 5-1 victory.
The Robins opened the scoring after just 12 minutes, Aminie Linganzi’s ball into the box was met by Paul Mullin whose effort was saved by keeper Deren Ibrahim, but the ball broke to Timi Elsnik.
Mullin then curled an effort over the bar before Donal McDermott stung the palms of Ibrahim with a rasping drive from distance.
With the home team thinking they had weathered the storm they were rudely shocked by a fabulous volley from Harry Smith and backpost header by Elsnik for his second goal.
Within five minutes of the second half Town were 50 ahead. Linganzi hitting a dipping shot into the net from the penalty spot. Just a few minutes later Ben Purkiss’ cross was converted by Mullin.
The home side were grabbed a late consolation with seven minutes to play when substitute Tom Murphy’s shot came back off the post following a corner and Sho-Silva reacted quickest to drill the loose ball into the net.
The teams have crossed paths 96 times over the years, with 37 Rovers victories, 16 draws and 43 defeats. Home teams don't dominate in these games and perhaps that should give Rovers a warning. The first game took place on 15 January 1921 and the home team won 2-1 at the County Ground, Rovers gained their revenge just one week after as they won 3-1 at Eastville.
The last team the Robins defeated the Gas was on 11 October 2010 with a 2-1 victory at the County Ground, since then there have been 3 Rovers wins and two draws.
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 on 6 March 2010 Rovers gained a 4-0 victory. 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 after Saturday’s game on-loan midfielder Timi Elsnik said, "I'm very delighted and it is an amazing feeling to get my first two goals in professional football. Hopefully there is plenty more to come. It is always special when you do it in-front of the fans because they just scream and jump up and lift you even more. It was a special feeling.”
"It was good play from the team for my second, the ball went wide to Matty Taylor and I just ran into the box, I know he's got a decent cross and it came in perfect and I was able to just head it in. The Gaffer told us that an early goal would kill them and then we were able to score the second and third quite quickly and that won us the game.
"We just had to be smart and professional about it and the early goal helped us a lot. We were brilliant for the first half-hour and then I had to come off, but the lads showed great character to keep going and score two more goals in the second-half.”
"When you play smaller teams it is about how you are going to match their work-rate, so there is no excuse not to be ready for it. Training all week was brilliant and the Gaffer always says that we need to prepare like we are playing Manchester City every week. It doesn't matter who we play against, we have to be at the top of our game so that is what we did and they just couldn't cope with us."