In the second part of our look at the makeup of next Season's League One, we take in the four clubs coming up from League Two, Accrington Stanley, Luton Town, Wycombe Wanderers and Coventry City.
Few Rovers fans would begrudge Accrington their promotion to the third tier for the first time, as it was us who denied them automatic promotion just two years ago on a dramatic final day of the season.
The League Two Champions (they finished five points ahead of runners up Luton Town) and Rovers first met in the league as recently as the 2006/07 season, the first ever meeting taking place at The Mem on 23rd December 2006, though there had been two pre-War meetings in the FA Cup.
Rovers comfortably eased past Stanley in that first league encounter, running out 4-0 winners thanks to goals from Richard Walker (2), Steve Elliott and Stuart Nicholson in front of a ‘Black Saturday’ crowd of only 5,205.
One member of the Accrington side, Joe Jacobson, moved to Rovers on loan the following February though he didn’t play in the return fixture between the clubs that season.
Rovers have never won at the Crown/Wham Stadium and after five visits will be hoping to change that next season! Of the ten league encounters between the sides, Accrington have won seven, Rovers two and there has been only one draw.
It’s another long trip for Gasheads, the distance from The Mem to The Wham being 198 miles.
Runners up Luton Town and Rovers are no strangers, having met in the league on no fewer than 80 times, The Hatters having 31 wins to their name, Rovers 27 and 22 games have been drawn.
We did the double over Luton in 2015/16, winning 1-0 at Kenilworth Road thanks to a last gasp Stuart Sinclair goal, on 18th August 2015, and 2-0 at The Mem in the return fixture on 2nd January 2016 when two Rory Gaffney goals secured victory in front of a crowd of 9,131.
Prior to 2015/16 the last meetings between the sides had come in 2007/08 and many supporters will recall the Boxing Day 2007 game between the sides here at The Mem when Luton had three players, Chris Coyne, Steve Robinson and Anthony Grant sent off yet still left BS7 with a point from a 1-1 draw.
Whilst it might seem relatively short journey for Gasheads wishing to travel to Kenilworth Road, it’s further than you think as it’s 132 miles from The Mem.
A shorter journey is the one to Adams Park, Wycombe (102 miles) where we will renew our rivalry with Wycombe Wanderers, who filled the final League Two automatic promotion spot last season.
Since our first ever league meeting with The Chairboys, in 1994/95, we have played each other on 28 occasions, and have 11 wins to our name. Wycombe, though, have won 13 of those games and there have been four draws.
We seem to be drawn against Wycombe in the Football League Trophy, in its many guises, quite frequently (five occasions at the last count) and there have also been two FA Cup meetings and one in the League Cup.
Two games against Wycombe in recent times stand out, though, for very different reasons. One has been expunged from the records as the game at Adams Park on 25th August 2012 was abandoned with Rovers leading 3-1. There was a great deal of controversy surrounding the decision to call the game off (waterlogged pitch/ hunderstorm/spectator safety; take your pick!) which continued for quite a while and it wasn’t helped when Rovers lost the rearranged game!
The game at the same venue, on 26th April 2014 saw Rovers win 2-1 thanks to goals from Lee Brown and David Clarkson, whose last gasp winner left us needing a point from our final league game, against Mansfield, to avoid relegation to The Conference.
Wycombe were one of three clubs below us on that final day and stayed up because of our inability to take anything from our game against The Stags, so we accompanied Torquay United down to the fifth tier of English football.
That brings us on to the fourth promoted club, Coventry City, who came up by virtue of their play off final victory against Exeter City.
The first league meetings between the clubs took place as long ago as the 1926/27 season and it’s surprising that there have only been 28 head to head encounters in the ensuing 92 years.
In fact, we did not play each other, in league or cup, between 1963/64 and 2016/17 and those two most recent games saw us meet with contrasting fortunes.
On Boxing Day 2016, with a crowd of 11,200 inside The Mem, Peter Hartley’s goal after 18 minutes was followed by a Billy Bodin hat trick as Darrell Clarke’s side registered a comfortable 4-1 victory.
The return fixture saw Rovers make their first ever trip to The Ricoh Arena, on 25th March 2017 when there was a rare start for defender Jonny Burn. The only goal of the game was scored by Coventry’s George Thomas in the 80th minute.
It was a huge disappointment to the travelling 4,069 Gasheads in the crowd of 11,946.
It’s 107 miles from The Mem to The Ricoh; let’s hope for a better result this time around!