By Gerry Prewett.
Rovers head into the final two games looking to cement their status in Sky Bet League, with the first of these games taking place this weekend at Fleetwood.
On Monday, as Rovers were failing to take any points from Rochdale Fleetwood took the short trip to Blackpool. The visitors started the better with Wes Burns and Evans going close inside the first five minutes. But they fell behind when Jay Spearing scored from a penalty awarded after Nya Kirby was tripped by James Husband.
Ced Evans headed home at the back post to level before Christoffer Mafoumbi pulled off a superb save to keep out Fleetwood's Paddy Madden on 51 minutes.
Chris Long had a goal ruled out for offside before Nathan Sherron saw red for going over the ball on 72 minutes, with Fleetwood unable to cling on as Nathan Delfouneso fired home four minutes into added time.
Speaking after the game Cod Army Boss Joey Barton was as forthright as always, "It is disappointing due to the manner of it. We've scored a number of late equalisers certainly over recent weeks.”
"We know the jubilation of a last minute goal especially in a derby when it is a winner. We just cannot make these mistakes. We have given a stupid penalty away again just dangling a foot, I do think the lad has dived, he has thrown himself to the ground and obviously, he has given the referee a decision to make. He finds in Blackpool's favour on that.”
"On the red card I will have to watch it back but from my view it looked like a good firm challenge. Nowadays you cannot make those tackles anymore. Those days are gone. Again we give the referee a decision to make and he decides to send him from the pitch.”
"Before that I thought we were miles the better side. The only side trying to play football. Fair play to Blackpool I don't think that is a footballing pitch. It is a back to front pitch really, we have dealt with that all afternoon it was about going long and picking up the seconds.
"We knew that coming into the game. Obviously the disappointing thing is that we have not managed to get any points albeit being the better side until the sending off."
Rovers have had four wins, a draw and four losses in their only nine games against the seaside club. In 2012/13, the first season that the teams met, the game at the Mem saw a steely 0-0 draw and Rovers came out on top in Lancashire as they returned victorious from Highbury Stadium with a 3-0 win, with goals by Danny Woodards, Eliot Richards and John-Joe O’Toole.
In the game on 25 March 2015, Fleetwood took a 21st minute lead when Rovers’ Skipper Tom Parkes tried to cut out a through ball some 30 yards from goal, but failed to control it and it fell to Sarcevic whose shot beat Steve Mildenhall with the aid of an apparent deflection off of Mark McChrystal.
With five minutes of the half remaining. Michael Smith blocked a shot from David Ball at the expense of a corner and when Morris swung the ball in from the left, the home skipper rose unchallenged to direct a header past Mildenhall.
Within six minutes of the second half the game was over as a contest, a cross from the left found Ball in space and his header beat Mildenhall who got a hand to the ball but couldn’t prevent it crossing the line. Ellis Harrison pulled a goal back in the 79th minute from Lee Brown’s corner as he headed in his first goal of the season from close range.
On 14 January 2017 at Highbury the home team took the lead on 13 minutes when David Ball found room down the right to feed Ash Hunter, who shot low into the far corner from six yards out for his 10th goal of the campaign.
Rovers looked to hit straight back, Billy Bodin stinging the palms of Alex Cairns with a long-range effort before a mix up at the back for the Gas then gifted Amarii Bell a rare sight of goal.
The wing-back was unable to get a clean shot away and the ball diverted behind. But, from the resulting corner, Fleetwood doubled their advantage, Cian Bolger stealing in at the back post to apply a firm foot to George Glendon's delivery.
Darrell Clarke made a double switch within minutes of the restart, the change quickly paying off as Conor McLaughlin and Nathan Pond collided, allowing Bodin to pick up the loose ball and smash home from close range.
In the 82nd minute a piece of sublime skill put the game beyond doubt when Ball picked the ball up on the edge of the box and waltzed through the Rovers defence before placing his shot into the far corner.
In last season’s 2 April encounter in an even first-half, both sides had limited chances on goal. Ollie Clarke tested Alex Cairns from range, as Ashley Hunter forced Sam Slocombe into action to tip wide a powerfully struck free-kick.
Early in the second half Rovers were reduced to ten men, as Chris Lines was shown two yellow cards in the space of two minutes, as the midfielder was twice cautioned for dissent, leaving Rovers to face the final thirty minutes of the contest with a numerical disadvantage.
With 12 minutes of the game left Fleetwood marked the opening goal of the contest, as the ball broke to Ashley Hunter in an advanced position on the left-wing. He cut inside and placed a shot across the face of goal that curled out of reach of Sam Slocombe, as Fleetwood edged ahead.
As stoppage time approached, Jordy Hiwula extended Fleetwood's lead, as the substitute slotted home past Sam Slocombe after being played in by Bobby Grant.
Joey Barton spoke ahead of this weekend’s game, “They are a good physical side. When we went down there earlier in the season, it was a good contest for the lads. It was a good, honest, physical contest and I expect it will be the same again on Saturday. They have had a great run of form since the new manager has come in, they have managed to get themselves away from the drop zone and put themselves into relatively safe position with a couple of games to go.
“During the second half of the season I think they were averaging two points per game at one point, so it is an enormous credit to Graham and the coaching staff down there because they took over a club that was in a tight bind and managed to get a really good tune out of some of the boys there.
“It is a huge credit to them for doing that and, as I say, we know how difficult the game will be for us on Saturday.”
“I was disappointed with the manner of the defeat at Blackpool. There is nothing worse than conceding a stoppage time goal, especially when it is a losing goal and it is against your local rivals.
“Apart from that I am quite pragmatic and for me it is about getting to the game on Saturday and giving ourselves the best opportunity to win. I do not want to go into the off-season without some real positivity around the building and, as I say, that starts with a difficult fixture against Bristol Rovers on Saturday.”