Bristol Rovers open their 2018/19 campaign with a trip to the East Midlands to face Peterborough United.
It is not a ground from which Rovers generally have much success but the Posh have seen some major changes as Manager Steve Evans looks to replace departed stars and to stamp his own mould on the club after taking over the Manager’s chair at the end of February this year.
Evans has seen 13 players through the out door and 14 through the in door! Interestingly it appears that there may be 9 debutants in Peterborough colours on Saturday. Rovers historian has pointed out that Paul Buckle’s Rovers team that were opening day visitors at newly promoted AFC Wimbledon at the start of the 2011/12 season actually had 10 debutants.
Amongst the high profile leavers are Jack Marriott, who signed for Derby for a potential $5million fee and Gwion Edwards, who will be joining Ellis Harrison at Ipswich Town. Amongst those coming into the club is Scotland international striker Jason Cummings on a season-long loan from Championship side Nottingham Forest.
In the 40 previous meetings between the team's Rovers have won 14, there have been 12 draws and Peterborough have come out on top 14 times. In the East Midlands Rovers have won 5, drawn7 and lost 9 times.
Rovers have not beaten the Posh since 3 February 2007 when goals by Rickie Lambert, Richard Walker and Stuart Campbell for Rovers and Dan Crow and Aaron McLean for the away team gave Rovers a 3-2 victory at the Mem.
On the opening day of the 2006/07 promotion, season United dealt out Rovers a 4-1 thrashing on 2nd September 1967. Like most teams Rovers started the season full of expectation. What they didn’t expect was to find a ‘borough team on fire.
Jamie Day, Richard Butler and Simon Yeo all scored in half an hour of devastation to give Posh and unassailable half-time lead. Despite a reply from Sammy Igoe, a Lloyd Opera finish saw an emphatic win for the home team.
On 3 February 2007 at the Mem, Posh scored two early goals by Adam Newton and Dave Farrell had Dean Holden sent off, Rovers pulled back the two goals, by Richard Walker and Steve Elliott and then conspired to allow Richard Logan to score a 73rd minute winner. It was a dour performance by a Rovers team sadly lacking in confidence.
Rovers first League meeting with Peterborough was on 4th September 1962 when goals by Keith Williams, Ian Hamilton and Bobby Jones secured a 3-1 win for the Pirates in front of an 11,860 Eastville crowd. Just 6 days later the Posh gained their revenge with a 1-0 victory at London Road.
On 6 September 2008 there was a remarkable televised game at London Road. Craig Mackail-Smith scored a hat-trick for the Posh as his team three times held a two goal lead. Aaron McLean and Scott Rendell also notched for the home team whilst Steve Elliott, Jeff Hughes, Rickie Lambert and an own goal Shane Blackett provided a nine goal feast and a 5-4 home win.
Rovers last victory at London Road was on 25 February 2006 in a remarkable game. Junior Agogo gave the Gas a 36th minute lead. On 54 minutes it all kicked off, Richard Walker doubled Rovers lead, Posh’s Adam Newton was given a yellow card, quickly followed by a yellow for Phil Bolland and a minute later a straight red for Junior Agogo.
Dean Holden managed to pull one goal back but it was on 90 minutes and Rovers held on for a 2-1 win.Rovers last trip to Peterborough was in March this year and they took the lead when Tony Craig notched his first Rovers goal in the 55th minute after a Chris Lines free-kick caused panic in the Posh defence.
Within minutes the scores were level when Danny Lloyd-McGoldrick was picked out by a cross from Marcus Maddison to fire in his 13th goal of the campaign.
Posh looked the likeliest team to find a winner as top scorer Jack Marriott saw an effort deflected wide by Craig before Junior Morias headed against the outside of a post from a tight angle. Rovers also had their moments in the final quarter as Liam Sercombe lashed an opportunity wide before captain Ollie Clarke hooked another chance over.
There has been some controversy this week involving United’s attempt to sign Danny Rose from Mansfield Town. Peterborough chairman Darragh MacAnthony said Mansfield had offered Rose to them as he went public with a potential fee.
“So regards Danny Rose thing. The owner of Mansfield called Barry Fry last Thursday to say the lad was surplus to requirements and would we like to sign him. We asked manager, he said yes so we made a fair, discreet bid for the player. Next thing it’s out publicly we had £300k bid turned down.”
"We didn’t bid £300k for player, but as per usual I feel we are being used to get interest elsewhere in player. All very odd & quite frankly exhausting. Happy to do business with any club sensibly. On we go & no biggie.”
Mansfield chairman John Radford confirmed Rose wants to go, “I was both shocked and disappointed to receive this transfer request from Danny Rose, especially after we offered Danny a lucrative new two-and-a-half year contract in January, which he signed. However, no one player is bigger than Mansfield Town Football Club and there is no justification for keeping a player whose mind has been made up.”
“Until any prospective transfer is completed, Danny is contracted as a Mansfield Town player and will only be sold if our valuation of the player is met. For the avoidance of doubt, the club will pursue with the football authorities any act designed to induce a breach of contract in order to facilitate the transfer of the player.”
Posh Boss Steve Evans has announced that midfielder Alex Woodyard will be the club captain for the 2018-2019 campaign, “It was a very close run race between Alex and Jason. Alex got it because of his knowledge of English football. It is all fresh to Jason coming down from Scotland but those two are close off the pitch and they will work closely together.”
“I have had good chats with those two and Ryan Tafazolli and they will form part of a little committee that will come and see me on a weekly basis and we will chat about all the good and bad points and issues that may come up.”
“I am looking forward to working with Alex over the course of the season and the other two and they are at liberty to add another member to form a four-man panel. I will leave it in their hands to add the fourth member rather than me,”
Woodyard admitted he was ‘honoured’ to be given the captaincy and is excited about the prospect of leading the side out, if selected, against the Gas on Saturday. “It is a real honour and I am delighted to be given the opportunity. I have been captain at previous clubs, but to come into a new club and be given the responsibility is great and one I am thankful for.
“I think in the modern game, you may have one player wearing the armband, but everyone needs to be vocal on the pitch and talk off it and I think we have a really good group here. We have a lot of players with different attributes that can really help us move forward. It will be a really good feeling leading the team out on Saturday at the ABAX. I know I did it in a pre-season game against Bolton, but this is a competitive fixture and three points are at stake.
“The lads have really settled in quickly, we have a real togetherness and we are looking forward to the season starting now. We will work hard in training this week in preparation for the game and hopefully send the Posh fans home happy.”