By Gerry Prewett.
Bristol Rovers face a 120-mile trip south-west for a West Country derby game at Plymouth this weekend. The game has taken on massive significance given the respective positions and current form of both teams. When Rovers beat Argyle back in September the Pilgrims were languishing in bottom spot with just 5 points from 11 games.
Since then Argyle have picked up a further 49 points from 25 games, a remarkable turnaround and undoubtedly promotion form. The Pilgrims must be rueing that slow start they made. Having just won 6 games in a row, Argyle were held to a 1-1 draw last week at Fleetwood.
Argyle got off to a good start but just after the quarter hour, when Fleetwood thought they had weathered the storm, they found themselves going behind. After stopping an initial Argyle attack, the home side casually gave the ball away, to Ryan Taylor. Taylor fed Ruben Lameiras, who turned quickly to find the driving run of Moses Makasi.
Makasi showed exceptional composure to take the ball in, then open his body up to curl, left-footed, past Alex Cairns. It was a slick, well-taken goal that epitomised Argyle performance to that point, and was fully deserved.
That was the way the score stayed until ten minutes into the second-half, Ashley Hunter cut in on his right foot down the left flank, and crossed to the far post. It looked as though Yann Songo'o would have the cross covered, but he seemed to react to a shout behind him, and leaving the ball for Paddy Madden to slot home unmarked.
Speaking after the game Argyle manager Derek Adams claimed that Fleetwood Town were fortunate not to have Lewie Coyle sent-off. The right-back was booked in the 24th minute of the League One encounter after clattering into Ruben Lameiras. “You can’t tackle that way. He won the ball but went through the man and over the top. He was completely out of control and it should have been a red card.”
Speaking about Fleetwood’s calls for penalties he commented, “When you are down the bottom of the league you always claim for everything don’t you? That was the nature of the calls today. There was nothing in them. Blasting the ball at somebody from two yards, if that’s what you want to try to get a penalty kick then you should really have a think about what you are trying to do in the game. If that’s the best way that you want to get a goal maybe go back to the training field and look at a better way.”
“We are delighted to come away from home undefeated and get another point. We started very well and got ahead in the game after a great through ball from Ruben Lameiras to Moses. It was nothing more than we deserved at that moment in time. We were pushing forward. The full-backs on both sides (Oscar Threlkeld and captain Gary Sawyer) were causing Fleetwood problems. Their wingers didn’t want to track back and it allowed us the overload on the outsides.”
Like Rovers, Argyle were founder members of the Third Division in 1920-21 season. They finished one spot below Rovers at the end of that season in 11th place. The first ever League meeting between the clubs took place on 23rd April 1921 when goals by Ellis Crompton and Billy Palmer secured a 2-0 victory in front of a 14,000 Eastville crowd. The return match saw Plymouth win 2-1 a week later, Crompton scoring for Rovers again and Jimmy Logan notching two for Argyle.
Looking back over the history of games there have been some real high scoring encounters. The Boxing Day fixture of 1973 kept a 22,353 crowd on their toes as goals by Stuart Taylor, Alan Warboys (2) and Bruce Bannister swept a rampant Rovers to a 4-2 win.
Going back even further to 14th October 1961 a Bobby Jones double, Geoff Bradford and Peter Hooper goals made the score 4-3 to Rovers. This provided some sort of revenge for Argyle’s 5-2 win just 11 months prior.
It’s also worth remembering that “Goodnight Irene” was first heard on 4 November 1950 in a game between Rovers and Argyle. Rovers came back from being 1-0 down at half time to score 3 goals. The Rovers fans changed the words of the current hit by the Weavers to ‘Goodnight Argyle”
Meanwhile in Plymouth, Rovers have not won since their 2-1 victory there in the Worthington Cup on 23 August 2000. The last League win was on 10 January 1998 in Division 2 when goals by Jamie Cureton and Barry Hayles (later to pull on the Argyle shirt) for Rovers and one for Carlo Corazzin for Argyle saw a 2-1 result. Back on 5 February 1994 there was a memorable 3-3 draw, when Justin Skinner, Lee Archer and Worrell Sterling replied to goals by Dwight Marshall, Paul Dalton and Mike Evans to keep a 13,318 crowd entertained.
Going back to 1982 Rovers visited Home Park twice, on 2 January they went down to a 4-0 defeat with Jeff Cook and John Sims grabbing a brace each, but on 28 September, goals by Paul Randall (2), Errington Kelly and David Williams ensured the result was reversed, to give Rovers their best ever result on the ground. Argyle certainly found the Rovers defence to their liking in the 1959/60 and 1960/61 seasons, beating Rovers 5-3 and 5-0 (Rovers worst result in Plymouth)
Rovers last visit to Home Park ended in a 1-1 draw. After going behind to a late Jake Jervis strike, Ellis Harrison stunned the home crowd with a 90th minute penalty.
Looking ahead to this weekend’s game Argyle Boss Adams said, “It will be probably 12,000 at the game so the atmosphere will be good. It’s the nearest club for us this season. They are always good matches against Bristol Rovers.”
“When Bristol Rovers come they always take a big support with them. That generates an even better atmosphere.”
“We are more than delighted with 10 games to go to say we are pushing for a play-off position. I think everybody would have snatched your hand off for that at the start of the season.”