By Gerry Prewett.
On Saturday Bristol Rovers face the long trip up the M5/M6 to face Accrington Stanley in Graham Coughlan’s first League match as a fully fledged first team Manager. Under Coughlan, Rovers have staged a remarkable upturn in fortune, which has been very timely, as both Bradford and Scunthorpe, of the teams around us have also seen an improvement in their results.
On the 11th August,t two goals from Sean McConville earned Stanley a remarkable 7th victory in a row against the Gas. The left-sided midfielder opened the scoring after six minutes, capitalising on a good run from Jordan Clark to cut in onto his right foot and score with a deflected shot from 12 yards.
Stefan Payne marked his Rovers debut by heading a close-range equaliser from James Clarke's right-wing cross in the 83rd minute. But McConville had the final say six minutes later with a fine first-time finish with his right foot from the left corner of the box that sent the ball skidding past Rovers goalkeeper Sam Slocombe.
On Saturday, Stanley dominated the first half with Ipswich managing just two shots to Accrington's nine. The Tractor Boys keeper Bartosz Bialkowski denied Sam Finley early on and also dived low to keep out a strike from winger Jordan Clark. The Polish stopper did well to prevent a Clark effort from going into the bottom of the net after 39 minutes before Ipswich had their first real shot - a Freddie Sears effort which was collected by on loan keeper Connor Ripley.
Accrington should have taken the lead on the stroke of half-time but Clark's free header was inches wide of the post. After the restart, Stanley almost gifted Town a goal with keeper Ripley scrambling back to stop a header from his own defender Richards-Everton crossing the line.
In a game of limited clear-cut chances, Ripley produced a superb save to keep out a powerfully hit strike from Jon Nolan after 70 minutes. Stanley finally broke the deadlock, with Kee celebrating his ninth of the campaign as he headed home the winner in the 76th minute after Sean McConville's free-kick was headed back across goal by Ben Richards-Everton.
Speaking after the game Stanley Boss John Coleman said, “I thought we were excellent, first half especially. We took the game to them, were very much on the front foot. Made chances but didn’t take them but defended manfully.”
“We didn’t play as well in the second half but thankfully took our goal. We played a different type of game in the second half because we had to because they came on to us. But you have to be able to adapt the way you are playing and the way the game is going but I don’t think anyone could begrudge us the win.”
“I think we were the better team over the 90 minutes. The one thing I knew today that they would play good football and we would play good football so it was a good advert for football and thankfully we came out at the right end of it.”
With a number of loan players unavailable, Coleman had to shuffle his pack with Andy Mangan getting a rare start, “He ran himself in to the ground, he ran his heart out and you know what you are going to get out of Mangy,” said Coleman. “I thought Billy was absolutely terrific. I know Ross (Sykes) got man of the match, and rightly so, but Billy wasn’t far behind him. He was a constant thorn for them.”
Rovers and Stanley have played one another 13 times before. The very first time was a FA Cup tie on 14 December 1929 at Eastville, the home team running out 4-1 winners. Four years later at the same stage Rovers visited Peel Park and came back out of the Cup, losing 1-0.
Fast forward over 70 years before the rejuvenated Stanley were back into the League after their 1961 demise and visited Bristol once again. The very first league meeting again took place in December 23 2006. Once again Rovers hit 4 goals but this time Stanley were scoreless. The return game in Lancashire on 6 March ended in a 1-1 tie.
When Rovers visited the Crown Stadium on 5 November 2011 little did Paul Buckle realise that it was to be the start of fireworks for him. A defeat that day was the beginning of a run of 8 games during which Rovers were to pick up just 2 points and culminated in his sacking.
Rovers finished their 2011-12 home programme with a flourish as they disposed of Stanley with a 5-1 victory, the last time they have beaten them! The following season Rovers lost both games 1-0 and again 2-1 at the Crown Stadium in October.
Looking at the whole run of results between the clubs Rovers 3 wins have been 4-1, 4-0 and 5-1. Every Stanley victory, all 8 of them, has been by a single goal!
Following the Cup tie on Saturday, Connor Ripley’s loan ended and he was immediately transferred to Preston. In other transfer activity, the Reds signed young striker Luke Armstrong on loan and defender Liam Gibson this week ahead of Saturday's encounter.