By Gerry Prewett.
This weekend Bristol Rovers travel up to East Staffordshire to face Burton Albion following a mid-week victory over Yeovil Town.
Following their relegation from the Championship last season the over-achieving Brewers have not found life back in Division One quite as easy as the other two teams that came down with them, Barnsley and Sunderland. The club was only formed in 1950 and gained League status as recently as 2009. Their rise up the ranks to the Championship by 2016 was not only remarkable for its speed but also for the limited financial resources of a club with a capacity of fewer than 7,000.
Albion have won just 3 of their 11 league games so far this season but oddly the last league victory was the 2-1 defeat of Sunderland on 15th September. In their latest league game they went down 2-1 to Wycombe Wanderers at Adams Park.
After a quiet opening period, Craig Mackail-Smith was clumsily barged over in the box by Kyle McFadzean after 30 minutes and former Gas player Joe Jacobson stepped up to open the scoring on his 200th game for the Chairboys. Randell Williams then escaped his man and his cross from the left was met by Adebayo Akinfenwa, whose powerful header was his 200th goal in English football.
Early in the second half, the Brewer’s Liam Boyce's inch-perfect ball left Marvin Sordell one-on-one with Ryan Allsop and he rounded the goalkeeper with ease to reduce the deficit. Burton had further opportunities with Sordell spooning over from close range but Wycombe saw out the rest of the game.
Nigel Clough expressed his frustration with his team after the game, "We started well and apart from the period around their goals we controlled the game. Kyle McFadzean gave a ridiculous penalty away and the game changed from there for the rest of the first half. After that we got a goal back and had numerous opportunities to get an equaliser.”
"When you are playing a team on October 6 that hasn't won at home and you give them two goals it gives them a massive lift. You saw a wave of relief go all round their ground and then they defended like their lives depended on it in the second half.”
"But over the course of the game to dominate for so long and create so many chances we should be winning these games. We have had 50 chances over the last week and have two goals and thereby lies the problem.”
"There are so many good things in the overall performances but until they cut out those silly little things there is no point in doing the good things."
With Albion being such recent members of the League, the clubs have only crossed paths 6 times, all in League Two. Rovers have won all 3 games at the Mem (including a Memorable 7-1 thrashing on 14 April 2012 when the half-time score was 1-0!) but have picked up only one point from 3 games at the Pirelli Stadium.
Rovers’ first visit to Burton was on 22 October 2011. After Matt Harrold gave the Gas a 14th minute lead, Cleveland Taylor and Billy Kee gave the home team a 2-1 half-time lead which they maintained.
Just under a year later and Rovers once again took the lead, David Clarkson on 30 minutes and once again that man Billy Kee pierced the Rovers backline, this time on 50 minutes to bring the scores level.
On 23 November 2013 Rovers, on a 5 game unbeaten run, were reduced to 10 men when Chris Beardsley was shown a straight red card on 37 minutes. Albion could have been ahead straight from kick-off but Steve Mildenhall brilliantly kept out Chris Hussey's searing low drive.
The visitors had a chance of their own in the ninth minute when Ollie Clarke was denied by Burton skipper Ian Sharps on the goal-line. Mildenhall did well to adjust his feet and deal with a deflected shot as Hussey threatened again.
They held out until 59th minute when Robbie Weir hit a superb 25 yard blast into the bottom corner of the net. The game exploded right at the end, the hosts were reduced to 10 men themselves when winger Jimmy Phillips picked up a second yellow card in added time, and Rovers then had John-Joe O'Toole sent off for a clash inside the Burton penalty area.
Team news from the Burton camp reveals that David Templeton is a doubt for Saturday’s game. The former Rangers winger sustained a shoulder injury in the 2-1 defeat against Southend United on October 2, which ruled him out of the loss at Wycombe. Nigel Clough is keen to get Templeton involved for his creativity on the left flank, but he believes they may have to wait until the day of the game to assess whether he can play.
Clough is more hopeful on the availability of Stephen Quinn (knee) for Saturday, though, after the ex-Republic of Ireland international sat out Tuesday's Checkatrade Trophy game at Port Vale.
"We are hopeful with Stephen Quinn," he said, "It's just the ongoing maintenance with his knee and just looking after him, as it is with John Brayford. They are similar situations; it's difficult when we've got so many games in October.”
"They're not going to play in them all, so it's picking and choosing which ones for those. David Templeton's shoulder is still sore, so that will certainly go until Friday and maybe even until Saturday, because we'd love him involved here at home. We hope that Bradley Collins' back will keep improving and he might be involved as well, so there are a couple we're waiting on."
Jake Buxton has not featured for the Brewers since August due to a back injury. He was back in the squad against Wycombe on Saturday and was then due to be involved against Port Vale, only for illness to rule him out.
"He's working his way back into things, but when you have a back problem, it's very much day-to-day," added Clough, "Sometimes you'll wake up and it feels fine and he'll train, the next day it stiffens up again. But he trained well on Monday and was going to be involved at Port Vale, but illness robbed him of that chance. Hopefully he'll be okay for the bench on Saturday."