By Gerry Prewett.
Rovers entertain Coventry City this weekend hoping they can record their first home League victory of the season.
After their Play-Off victory last season the Midland team have had a patchy start to their season, losing at home to Scunthorpe and drawing at Wimbledon before putting Plymouth to the sword in their second home game. They picked up just one point from three games before recording back to back victories when they overcame League leaders Barnsley last Saturday.
Conor Chaplin should have given the Skyblues a sixth-minute breakthrough when he somehow side-footed wide from six yards. Jacob Brown then missed two clear-cut chances for Barnsley, firstly when he intercepted Junior Brown's backpass only to see goalkeeper Lee Burge touch his low shot onto a post before firing wide when well-placed from Mamadou Thiam's low cross.
Burge tipped Thiam's 20-yard curler over the bar five minutes into the second half, but at the other end, City were denied when Chaplin's fierce finish from a Jonson Clarke-Harris knockdown was disallowed for offside in the build-up.
An end-to-end affair saw scrambles in both boxes but City snatched the winner on 80 minutes when Michael Doyle's free-kick was headed back inside by Dominic Hyam and Willis hurled himself forward to head home from close range.
Boss Mark Robins was very pleased with his team’s performance, “I thought we deserved the win, Barnsley are a good side, just come down from the Championship and I thought we were the better team.”
“They gave us a really tough afternoon but I think we gave them a tough afternoon as well. We had four or five decent chances that you’d expect the players who had the chances, and the way they fell, to score.”
“Conor had a good early chance and it should have been 1-0. It’s one of those where you’d put your house on him scoring and it’s just not falling. But it will. I think we are rushing and just so eager to score but you can forgive them for the execution which wasn’t as good as it could be.”
“But the work-rate, endeavour and desire is there and that’s all you can ask for at this stage, knowing that the quality is there to make that a different story.”
Speaking about the disallowed goal, Robins said: “It came back onto his right foot but you know when you’re off-side. I haven’t seen it back but the lads are adamant that it wasn’t. And then obviously the linesman pulls up lame and comes off, so whether he was up with play or not I don’t know.
“So that was disappointing but even then we were pushing a good team back and they were on their heels. They made changes so it was a pleasing result. It’s a great performance, a really hard working performance with some quality in it but obviously we can take a lot from it and move forward from Monday.”
It’s an indication of the respective recent histories of the two clubs that there had been a hiatus of 52 years since they clashed in a competitive match, between 1964 and 2016 and if statistics that old mean anything at all, the teams are well matched, in 39 games, there have been 16 victories to each team and 9 draws.
The very first game took pace at Eastville on 10 October 1908 and Coventry went away with a 3-1 Southern League win, the return game on 13 February 1909 ended up 2-2. Most of the Southern League fixtures were close results with the exception of a 4-0 home win for the Midlanders on 4 March 1911.
The first League meeting took place on 18 December 1926 as Rovers went down 2-1 at Eastville, Bill Culley scoring for Rovers and a Jimmy Heathcote double for the away team. The return fixture ended up 2-2, Fred Herbert hitting the net twice for the home team and Tom Williams and Earnie Whatmore scoring for Rovers.
Prior to the 2016-17 meetings last time the club’s clashed was back in the 1963-64 season as the Sky Blues embarked on their run under Jimmy Hill to the First Division. That season Hill’s team did the League double over Rovers but in the only ever Cup tie between the teams Rovers ran out 2-1 winners at Highfield Road.
The last meeting in Bristol was Boxing Day 2016. The Gas took an 18th-minute lead when Billy Bodin's free-kick from the right was met by Peter Hartley, who sent a glancing header past Lee Burge from 12 yards. Bodin grabbed the second in the 54th minute, making space to drive a fierce left-footed shot into the centre of the goal from Rory Gaffney's pass.
Three minutes later the Sky Blues replied when centre-back Jordan Willis took advantage of poor defending to volley home Gael Bigirimana's left-wing corner from close range. Bodin clinched the points in the 74th minute with another sweetly struck left-footed shot, this time from 25 yards.
The midfielder completed his treble from the penalty spot nine minutes later after being tripped by Turnbull. Andy Rose headed against the crossbar for Coventry late on but they were well beaten.
Injury news from Coventry reveals that the ever popular Jack Grimmer is set to be out for up to six weeks. The 24-year-old full-back was forced off at half-time in the 2-1 win at Oxford United with a calf injury which has since been confirmed as a tear.
The right-back is now facing a spell on the sidelines, handing Dujon Sterling the opportunity to firmly establish himself in Mark Robins’ side.
Meanwhile Robins has revealed that striker Max Biamou has come through surgery with flying colours. The popular French front man has had his operation to repair a ruptured cruciate knee ligament that will keep him out for the rest of the season. But Biamou is back on his feet and was at the Ricoh Arena on Saturday to watch the 1-0 win over Barnsley.
Lee Burge believes Saturday’s hugely encouraging victory proves what a good side Coventry City are in League One. But the Sky Blues goalkeeper - named in this week's EFL Team of the Week - insists the players can’t afford to get carried away, with the likes of promotion favourites Sunderland and table topping Portsmouth next up at the Ricoh Arena.