By Gerry Prewett.
Bristol Rovers entertain Wycombe Wanderers on Saturday in what is becoming a congested tussle at the foot of Sky Bet League One. There are just 7 points separating Rovers (currently in 20th spot) and Fleetwood in 10th place.
With the exception of Scunthorpe, none of those teams are in a rich vein of form. Indeed Wycombe, who until the last gasp win over Doncaster, had lost four in a row.
In that game the Chairboys looked dead and buried at Adams Park when John Marquis and Tommy Rowe put the high-flying visitors 2-0 up in the second half.
On the hour Marquis opened the scoring with a well-taken first-time finish and he then turned provider as substitute Rowe hit the second, 10 minutes later, with an easy tap-in just three minutes after coming off the bench. It would have been easy to think it was game over, as Donny displayed when they put on a display at the Meme recently in their 4-0 win.
But a Paris Cowan-Hall double, the second in added time, either side of Curtis Thompson's equaliser, handed Rovers just their second defeat in 13 games in all competitions. With 13 minutes left Cowan-Hall sparked a late revival with an unstoppable strike into the far corner.
Curtis equalised with a 25-yard effort in the 90th minute and it looked as though both teams were content to settle for a point each before Cowan-Hall's looping header deep in stoppage time stole the spoils.
Wanderers manager Gareth Ainsworth was not surprised to see his team make a dramatic recovery,"I hoped the belief was still there with me and the way I am as well as the boys. It was a fantastic comeback.”
"There were fundamental mistakes, especially in the second half, but for long periods I thought we were the better side. We frustrated Doncaster and our plans worked a treat. However, goals change games and we gave two sloppy goals away and scored from their strengths.”
"The character everyone has shown was amazing. Doncaster are up there for a reason and at the end the Wycombe fans blew my mind and I hope we can use this a springboard now to get the points we need to survive in this league."
Once his team had gone 2-0 down, Ainsworth rolled the dice with Adebayo Akinfenwa and Scott Kashket coming on as substitutes.
Akinfenwa, especially, had a huge impact on the game, giving the Donny centre backs a very uncomfortable last 25 minutes and the Chairboys boss admitted the substitutions made a difference.
"We have two different ways of playing. Once we have the pace in the team, people are worried about the space in behind but when the big man comes on, it is a totally different story.”
"They have to get round him and compete with his physicality and he played a huge part here. He is a special guy and our relationship goes so much deeper than football and he is there for everyone and he was outstanding when he came on, as well as Scotty when he came on.”
"I had to pick the right decision and have clarity of thought and I thought the changes were right. There is no one who can't play in the first team and we are a threat going forward and I just want to cut out these goals against."
Looking at the history of games between Rovers and Wycombe the ledger is pretty even with 19 Rovers wins, 4 draws and 15 wins to the Chairboys.
It was a Wycombe away win, one of 8 that was one of the most significant results in the history of Bristol Rovers. On 2 May 2001 a spectacular Dannie Bulman strike sent Rovers to the basement Division for the first time ever.
In 2012-13 the home teams won both games, 2-0 at Wycombe (after the first game was abandoned with Rovers 3-1 up after the infamous threated lightening strike on the away stand) and 1-0 in Bristol.
The very first League meeting between the clubs was unique, so far, as it is the only 0-0 draw in the fixture; the game took place on 27 August 1994. In the return match on 11 March 1995 Gareth Taylor scored the only goal at Twerton to give Rovers all 3 points. The other 3 draws, all at Adams Park, have been 1-1.
The last victory for Wanderers in Bristol was on 13th October 2013, Rovers were forced to spend most of the game on the back foot after David Clarkson was shown a straight red card on 25 minutes for catching Josh Scowen with his arm.
The Gas defended well, but Wycombe eventually made their man advantage count on 82 minutes, when substitute Max Kretzschmar slotted home the only goal of the game.
Rovers will have to be wary. Wycombe’s record on Bristol speaks for itself with 8 wins from 18 games.
Former Gas Full Back, Joe Jacobson was pleased with the determination shown by Wanderers on Saturday, “We showed great character. After the run we’d been on, losing four in a row and going two goals down, I think you have to credit the boys for still believing and going on to get a great result.
“We had a game plan and we started off solid, but a few long balls caused us problems that we didn’t with too well. Today masks a lot, we got the victory, but made a few mistakes and need to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
“It’s always the case when a team gets promoted that it’s a step up and you’re playing against better teams and players with better quality, so if you make mistakes, they will hurt you. It’s up to us to learn about this and limit their opportunities.
“We’re in a decent position in the league and we’d have taken it at the start of the season. There are positives to take; we’ve scored three goals at home and won the game, and now we hope to kick on again.
“Our home form has kept us where we are in the table, and if we keep picking up points at home then we’ll be fine. The fans get right behind us and we’re pleased to give them something to cheer about, so hopefully they’ll keep coming back and we’ll keep giving them performances and results like that.”