By Gerry Prewett.
After a goalless draw on Saturday, Bristol Rovers take on near-neighbours Cheltenham Town in the Carabao Cup. Rovers will certainly look on this as an opportunity to start a decent Cup run. The Robins have an awful away record, having won 1 draw 1 and lost 9 of their last 11 League games, including an opening day 1-0 loss at newly promoted Leyton Orient.
On Saturday as Rovers were struggling to breakdown a stubborn Wycombe Wanderers, the Spa town team had a fine 4-1 win over recently relegated Scunthorpe United. After a goalless first half, the visitors took the lead when a misplaced pass from Charlie Raglan was cut out by Matthew Lund, who set up Lee Novak to put the Iron ahead in the 55th minute.
The game then changed as the home team fired three goals in five minutes, Jake Eastwood in the Iron’s goal could do nothing to keep out former Gas player Ryan Broom's well-placed shot in the 68th minute after Max Sheaf's pass.
Raglan then made up for his error by heading in Chris Clements' cross in the 72nd minute and substitute Alex Addai raced through to add the third a minute later.
Conor Thomas rounded off the scoring from the penalty spot in the fourth minute of added time after Jordan Clarke tripped Addai in the box.
Robins boss Michael Duff praised speedy winger Addai after the game, “He’s a strong boy and I’m delighted for Alex. I said to him before the game that I thought he’d score his first league goal today and he’s been unbelievable in training this week.”
“Everything he’s hit’s gone in and he could have had a couple more and he’s deserved that because he’s come a long way in 12 months. It’s always important to win your home games. Hopefully, people will see that we are trying to do the things we were last year and it’s nice to score four goals, win the game and get rid of last week’s sour taste.”
Rovers’ home record against the Robins is poor, having won 4, drawn 1 and lost 4 of the games played at the Mem. Rovers lost the first game played at the Mem on 5 March 2002, 2-1, Sergio Ommel scoring for Rovers and Richard Walker and Julian Alsop scoring for the Gloucestershire team.
On 27 January 2009 goals by Ricky Lambert (2) and sub-Darryl Duffy provided Rovers with an exciting 3-2 victory, with the away teams goals scored by Ashley Vincent and Lloyd Owusu.
On 1 October 2011 Mark Yates' side went on to produce one of their finest displays of the season to win 3-1. Goals from Kaid Mohamed, Luke Summerfield and Jimmy Spencer stunned Rovers as the Robins stormed into form after a mixed start to the campaign.
A year later the Robins took all three points again when former Gas player Chris Zebroski made the most of an error from Garry Kenneth who failed to see the high ball into the box. Keeper Etheridge was on hand to block the first shot, but Zebroski rifled home from close range.
The last time the team crossed paths was on 11 February 2014, in the opening 15 minutes, Jamie Cureton, playing against the Gas, forced Steve Mildenhall into action from close range, while Alan Gow's looping strike went just wide.
John-Joe O'Toole then pounced on Steve Elliott's slip-up and hit powerfully into the net to give Rovers the lead. Cheltenham went looking for an equaliser in the second-half but Mark Yates' side lacked the finishing touch. Jombati scuffed his shot after Mildenhall had parried into his path and Sam Deering's long-range strike soared wide.
Michael Duff sees the Cup tie as an opportunity for his team to improve their away form against a side in the division above. The Robins have only lost once on home soil in competitive action in 90 minutes since last October but have struggled to match their results at the Jonny-Rocks Stadium on the road, heading down the M5 with just one victory on their travels since New Year's Day.
"We need to focus on what we're doing," he said. "They're a league above us and we're away from home so there's two factors that are already difficult but we do need to improve our away form whether that be in a cup game or in the league.”
"We need to deliver better performances away from home, so we're focused on ourselves more than them."