By Gerry Prewett.
Bristol Rovers face the long trip to South Yorkshire to face one of the other four Rovers in the League, Doncaster. The Yorkshire team have had an up and down season and much like the Gas have found it very difficult to put any consistency to their performances. They have won just 9 of their 29 games.
Donny had a promising opening to the season winning at Blackburn (in their first away game) and drawing two other games. After the Blackburn win they went through a six game spell where they picked up just 2 points. Prior to their victory at the Mem on 23 December their last victory had been the 2-1 defeat of MK Dons on 25 November. They then won the next two League games and have drawn the last four!
The latest of those games was at Glanford Park on Wednesday night when the drew 1-1 with Doncaster. Keeper Ian Lawlor had a night to forget he was at fault for the Iron's goal, scored by Tom Hopper, and was fortunate to survive a first-half penalty shout when the same player had gone to ground after rounding the keeper.
The Donny keepers failed attempt at a cross presented Hopper with the simplest of finishes in only the third minute of the fixture. Neal Bishop was off target with a header in first-half stoppage-time and Lawlor kept out a curling free-kick from Josh Morris with his standing leg as Scunthorpe dominated.
Lawlor then reacted instinctively to deny Kevin van Veen in the 66th minute. Then in injury time the keeper’s blushed were spared when Alfie Beestin headed home during eight minutes of time added on as a result of an earlier injury to Bishop.
Questioned on whether it represented the best moment of his career thus far, Beestin said, “I keep saying it! Every time I score, I say it is my best moment. But a late goal in a derby is definitely the best feeling. Scoring goals gives you a lot of confidence. But to score so late on gives me a feeling that I can score loads more goals.”
There have been a total of 38 games between the two teams with Bristol Rovers winning 16 and Doncaster 16. There has only ever once been a 0-0 draw in these matches and that was at Eastville on 9 January 1960 in an FA Cup tie, the Gas won the replay 3 days later in Yorkshire.
The highest score between the teams was on 22 December 1956 when the home team won 6-1 at Eastville. Barrie Meyer (2), Dai Ward (3) and Geoff Bradford scoring for the home team and Geoff Walker for the visitors.
When the Gas visited South Yorkshire in the 2003-04 season the home team ran out emphatic 5-1 winners. Frank Tierney, Chris Brown and a Michael McIndoe hat-trick for Donny and Lewis Haldane for Rovers.
The 2007 JP Trophy Final, won 3-2 by Donny, has been described as probably the most exciting of the Finals ever played. There can be little doubt that the pain of that victory spurred the Gas to their heroic finish to that season culminating in the last minute Sammy Igoe goal that secured the 3-1 victory and promotion.
Prior to the pre-Christmas game the last time the two Rovers crossed paths was back in the 2007/08 season and it was the Yorkshire team who took all the points on offer. When the Gas visited the Keepmoat Stadium on 9th February 2008 they were defending an impressive unbeaten record against the team in second spot. After conceding two penalties they came back empty handed, Brian Stock on 65 minutes and Paul Heffernan on 90 minutes, scoring.
Within a month Donny had returned from the Mem with all 3 points again and it was Heffernan who was on the scoresheet once more, this time after just 3 minutes. The Gas have lost all 6 of the last 6 meetings!
Despite drawing their last four league games, Doncaster are on an eight-match unbeaten run in the league and haven't tasted defeat at home since October.
Donny Boss, Darren Ferguson insists he will not panic in the loan market despite further bad injury news for his team. He confirmed Andy Butler and Issam Ben Khemis are effectively ruled out for the rest of the season with ligament damage.
Mathieu Baudry limped off just 12 minutes into the Scunthorpe game with a hamstring injury. “I’m not one for panicking,” Ferguson said. “I never have really been because I don’t think it helps, We’ve had meetings about recruitment.”
“Craig Alcock was due to go out but will stay now and if he plays like he did, there’s a good chance he’ll stay in the team. We’ve got the potential to go three at the back but clearly, we’re probably looking at getting at least one in.”
“We have got some targets but it looks like it’s going to be more than one position. “We’ll speak to David [Blunt, chairman] and Gavin [Baldwin, CEO] tomorrow and go through it. We’ve got another game Saturday and I’m more than happy to go with what I’ve got for then.”
“Clearly after that we’ve got another 16 games or so, so we need to make sure we’ve got enough numbers. We’re short on numbers, anyone can see that. We’ll be having conversations on Wednesday about what we can do.”