By Gerry Prewett.
Bristol Rovers entertain Peterborough United this weekend after a rich vein of results has elevated them to 4th place in the Division One table. Posh sit one place and one point above them, having played one game more. Both teams have had impressive seasons up until now.
The furore surrounding Graham Coughlan’s sudden departure did not seem to have any effect on the Rovers team as they put in a solid performance at Plymouth to win their FA Cup replay in midweek. Whilst Rovers were defeating the Tractor Boys on Saturday, Posh took full advantage with a hard-fought 1-0 win over bottom of the table Bolton.
Ivan Toney's 14th league goal of the season came in the 23rd minute when he headed in Louis Reed's superb first-time cross into the far post from eight yards out.
The striker then blocked a clearance from Bolton goalkeeper Remi Matthews, but Mo Eisa twice had shots blocked while Toney also missed a free header in the attack.
Eisa later had a shot blocked on the line before hitting the underside of the bar from two yards out after Mark Beevers had chested a Dan Butler cross in his direction.
In the second half Toney had a shot blocked on the line by Josh Earl before the visitors finally threatened, but Luke Murphy headed their best chance wide.
The Posh Boss Darren Ferguson said after the game, “Getting a second goal is always crucial and we didn’t manage it today even though we created lots of chances.
“By not scoring again it gave Bolton confidence and it made sure their fans got involved in the game, which they did.”
“But we saw it out fairly comfortably apart from one free header and I am delighted with that. The approach of the players was first class. I was very, very pleased with them.”
“December and March are the two most crucial months in the season for me and we have taken seven points from the first three games of this month. We played very well for the most part today. If we had got the second goal I’m sure it would have been a more comfortable win.”
“Teams always have a spell in a match and Bolton had theirs in the second-half. It was important we kept our concentration and we did. Christy Pym just had a couple of routine saves to make and it’s another clean sheet. I keep saying it, but if we keep clean sheets we will win because we have goals in us.”
“We only scored one today, but it was a very good one. That was a tough header Ivan took on. Bolton are a better side than people might realise. They are not bottom because of their current squad. They have some good players so I am delighted we beat them quite comfortably in the end.”
The teams’ first ever meeting was on 26th November 1938, when Rovers won an FA Cup tie at Eastville 4-1. Donal Tolland (2), Frank Curren and Dick Spivey scoring for Rovers and Fielding scoring for the away team.
The first League meeting with Peterborough was on 4th September 1962 when goals by Keith Williams, Ian Hamilton and Bobby Jones secured a 3-1 win for the Pirates in front of an 11,860 Eastville crowd. Just 6 days later the Posh gained their revenge with a 1-0 victory at London Road.
On 15th September 1964 Rovers gained their biggest win over Peterborough when an Alfie Biggs’ hat trick and a goal by Bobby Jones gave the Pirates a 4-0 win. Rovers’ first goal was a penalty when the Referee Setchell ruled that Ian Hamilton's goal bound header was deliberately handled by Graham Birks. The 17,415 crowd were denied a sight of crowd entertainer and Irish international Derek Dougan who was out injured.
The following season Rovers keeper Bernard Hall had a good reason to remember the game. Diving at the feet of Peterborough's dangerous winger Tom Watson, Hall caught a kick to the head and the tip of his left ear was removed. It was never found!
On the opening day of the 2006/07 promotion season, United dealt out Rovers a 4-1 thrashing equalling the result on 2nd September 1967. Like most teams, Rovers started the season full of expectation. What they didn’t expect was to find a ‘borough team on fire. Jamie Day, Richard Butler and Simon Yeo all scored in half an hour of devastation to give the Posh and unassailable half-time lead. Despite a reply from Sammy Igoe, a Lloyd Opera finish saw an emphatic win for the home team
On 25 February 2006 Rovers recorded their last victory at London Road 2-1, after Junior Agogo had scored Rovers first goal he was sent off shortly after Richard Walker’s goal gave the Gas a 2-0 lead. Dean Holden pulled one back for the Posh but it was not enough.
Rovers last victory over Posh was on 3 February 2007 at the Mem, Rickie Lambert gave Rovers a 14th-minute lead. Richard Walker doubled the lead on 52 minutes. The game changed in 9 minutes as Danny Crow (65 minutes) and Aaron McLean (74 minutes) levelled the scores. Stuart Campbell won the game for Rovers with a last minute goal.
In total there have been 42 meetings between the teams. Rovers have won 14, there have been 13 draws and Peterborough have come out on top 15 times. In the last ten meetings, Rovers have picked up just three points.
The East Midland’s team have not had a full squad to select from recently with eight players; Frazer Blake-Tracy, George Boyd, Siriki Dembele, Idris Kanu (who could miss the rest of the season with a serious eye injury), Josh Knight, Marcus Maddison, Ivan Toney and Joe Ward, absent recently because of injury, suspension or illness.
The return of Maddison, Toney and Ward has now been partly offset by the departure of experienced full-back Nathan Thompson for up to six weeks after he picked up a thigh injury in the early moments of the win over Bolton.
Posh have overcome regular disruption to pick up seven points from their last three matches and thus consolidate their third-place position in League One.
“A lot has been thrown at us in December,” Boss Darren Ferguson said, “But so far the players have coped superbly. I’m not that surprised because I knew we had built a good squad here, but full credit to the players who have stepped in and played so well.”
“The attitude of all of them has been first-class. We’ve had some big players missing and still picked up positive results. It’s another huge test for us on Saturday as Rovers are one of the form teams in the country as they showed by winning at Ipswich last weekend.”