By Gerry Prewett.
Bristol Rovers face National League Barnet in an FA Cup Round One replay with the opportunity to take on another non-League team, Stockport County, at home in the next Round.
Having gone behind in the original contest, it took a Chris Lines penalty to bring the Gas back to parity and the woodwork to prevent further Rovers goals.
As Rovers were contriving to lose at home to Scunthorpe on Saturday the Bees came back from Hartlepool with all three points. Things did not look good for the North London team when on 10 minutes Peter Kioso gave Pools the lead after Bees keeper Mark Cousins failed to punch a cross clear.
The game changed completely with goals in the 24th and 25th minutes. Manny Duku powerfully headed in to equalise and then he dispossessed Kioso straight from the kick-off to chip home and complete the turnaround.
Hartlepool goalkeeper Scott Loach parried Elliott Johnson's corner off the line and Byron Harrison sent a dinked effort narrowly wide as the north Londoners came close to extending their lead early in the second half.
Jack Taylor cleared off his own line and Liam Noble had a shot blocked behind by Callum Reynolds as Hartlepool attempted to find an equaliser. Josh Walker capitalised on a slip by Myles Anderson to race clear and make the points safe in injury time.
After the game John Still recognised, “A Really good team performance. What we are producing at the moment is very good and I’m very happy.”
Overall there have been 19 games between the clubs with 10 Rovers’ victories, 5 draws and 4 wins to Barnet. The clubs first met fittingly in the FA Cup in 1983/84 season with a 0-0 draw at Underhill and Rovers winning the replay 3-1, with goals by Neil Slatter, Ian Holloway and Micky Barrett for the Gas and Nick Evans scoring for Barnet.
The first League clash took place on 2nd October 1993 in Division 2. Rovers had been relegated the previous season and the Bees promoted. Marcus Browning and John Taylor scored the goals that gave Rovers a 2-1 victory at Underhill, with Kelly Haag being on the scoresheet for the Bees.
In the return fixture having lost their previous five games Rovers were in dire need of a victory and a Justin Channing hat-trick lead the way to a 5-2 win. An own goal by Alan Walker and a contribution by Marcus Stewart completed the scoring for Rovers, whilst Russell Edwards and Paul Wilson scored for the Hertfordshire team.
In 2006/07 in Rovers’ dramatic run to a Play-Off spot they clinched a 1-1 draw at Underhill on 14 April. Until 2011/12 the Bees had never beaten the Gas, but that changed with a vengeance, the Londoners winning both games 2-0.
Rovers’ first home victory of the 2015/16 season was the 3-1 defeat of the Bees in September. Lee Brown opened the scoring with just two minutes gone. Chris Lines picked out Lee Brown on the edge of the area and he took a calm touch before firing past Graham Stack from range to put the home side a goal to the good.
On 77 minutes Rovers doubled their advantage as Matty Taylor's shot in the box was blocked by Sam Muggleton before falling perfectly for Jermaine Easter to open his account for the season.
Barnet pulled a goal back with just under five minutes to go as skipper Curtis Weston put the ball in the back of the net to a stunned silence at the Mem but it was less than a minute later when the party atmosphere was restored as Chris Lines powered through the middle and found Matty Taylor in the penalty area. Taylor took a touch in the area and calmly slotted the ball past Stack to restore Rovers two goal lead.
The last meeting between the teams was later on that season, on 9 January 2016, with the Bees winning 1-0.
John Still speaking ahead of the game noted that, “We did our homework on Rovers and had them watched and they set up differently from what was expected. From the initial game, all my players are looking forward to the replay.”