By Gerry Prewett.
After last weekend’s heartbreaking defeat to AFC Wimbledon, Rovers will have bad memories about a similar outcome at Scunthorpe earlier this season. As on Saturday, just as the Gas thought they had secured a point they conceded a late goal and came back empty-handed. At Glanford Park it was Neal Bishop who did the damage in the 4th minute of added time.
Having finished strongly last season in third spot the Iron had the disappointment of going out of the Play Offs at home to Millwall 3-2 having secured a battling 0-0 draw at the New Den. They are currently in 5th spot in the table having recently hit a spot of poor form.
They have won just 2 of their 9 games this year and seem to have adopted the habit of letting in at least two goals each game, they have done this in their last five matches. Last weekend whilst Rovers were going down 1-0 in West London the Iron entertained Northampton Town. In the 13th minute, the first real chance of the game brought a goal for the Cobblers. A cross was whipped into the box as Lee Novak’s headed clearance went across the face of the goal to the back post where Chris Long was waiting to head home from close range.
The home side were finally beginning to look dangerous going forward and on the 31 minutes, they were level. Ryan Yates won the ball back well in midfield and passed to Funso Ojo. The Belgian carried the ball 40 yards and found the bottom corner from 20 yards out.
The Cobblers retook the lead in the 59th minute. Matt Grimes corner reached John-Joe O’Toole who headed it into the top corner. It took another 20 minutes before the Iron was able to peg back level again, Duane Holmes was brought down on the right side, midway through the Northampton half. Josh Morris’ deflected free-kick found its way to Murray Wallace to head home. It left the score at 2-2.
Speaking after the game Scunny Boss Graham Alexander said, "I am worried certainly about the amount we are conceding and the manner of them is not good enough.
I wouldn’t say they were fantastic goals or out of this world. Marcus Maddison’s for Peterborough was difficult to defend but we could have done better for the other one against Peterborough and especially the two on Saturday.”
"That is something we need to address as a team and work extremely hard in training. We need to make sure we stop giving cheap goals away. We can’t keep need to score three goals to win games.
"We are scoring enough goals to win games but we are conceding some really poor ones. We know we still a good team but we know where we have to improve. It is quite stark and black and white."
Looking back at the past games between the two clubs have been few and far between as United didn’t gain League status until 1951 and played in the Third Division North until 1958 when the sides first met and it was Rovers who ran out 4-0 winners on 30th August 1958 with George Petherbridge, Geoff Bradford, Dai Ward and Peter Hooper (penalty) all on target. The following season the Iron gained a point from a 1-1 draw.
It took 15 visits before Scunny came away from Bristol with maximum points and that was on 20 November 2004. Paul Hayes gave Scunny the lead on 18 minutes and the lead was doubled just two minutes later by Steve Torpey. Hayes made the game safe for the away team just 8 minutes into the second half with his second goal of the game.
Rovers have lost 2 and drawn 2 of the last four games played at the Mem against the Lincolnshire team, the last victory being a 1-0 win on 10 January 2004 when a Wayne Carlisle scored from the spot on 45 minutes.
Speaking ahead of this weekend’s fixture Alexander spoke of his team’s preparation,
“It has been good. We had a reserve game on Tuesday for the players that haven’t been playing much, which has done them the world of good. You can lose a bit of match fitness when you haven’t been playing as much as you would like. It was a real positive for us all.”
“Everyone has played a game this week, which is important going into the weekend and everyone is fit and available. We can select from a good group of players.”
Looking at Rovers he noted, “It is always a tough place to go. I think they have got a very good home record and it will be a tough venue to go to. We are looking to win the game for our purpose, motivation, and to get three points and stay in touch with everything that is going on at the top end of the table.”
“We want to get back to winning ways after a difficult period of probably drawing too many games. That is something we want to address and put right. Saturday is the first opportunity to do that and we are going to give it our best shot.”
“It is an environment players relish playing in. Any team playing at home is expected to play in an attacking sense and commit bodies forward. That is something we can try and take advantage of. The supporters really get behind their team, but we have got a really good away record and we are second highest scorers away from home.”
“We always look to win a game so I don’t see why we should change our outlook and philosophy on how we approach games. We know we have to beat many good teams to be where we want to be. Saturday is another tough challenge but we are always confident on what we can contribute to a game of football.”