By Gerry Prewett.
There will be a clash of two teams who were not predicted to be challenging for Play Off spots at the start of the season this weekend. Bristol Rovers and Wycombe Wanderers were the two teams who had the pundits scratching their heads. Since early December there has been something of a reversion to the mean. On the ‘Relative Form Guide”, Wycombe are showing -.84 and Rovers -.98 over the last 8 games compared with the season’s record.
Nonetheless, both teams will be looking to secure maximum points at Adams Park on Saturday as they seek to regain their early season form. As Rovers were showing signs of the performance Ben Garner is looking for, before succumbing to an impressive Coventry City team, Wycombe were going down 2-0 at MK Dons for their 6th defeat in 9 games.
After a cautious opening to the game, the Chairboys threatened after 38 minutes when Nick Freeman's shot from inside the MK box was deflected into the path of frontman Alex Samuel, before his first-time effort forced Dons keeper Lee Nicholls to tip the ball over the crossbar for a corner.
MK took the lead after 67 minutes when Jordan Houghton's inviting cross from the left was flicked on by Carlton Morris, before Rhys Healey raced in at the back post to tap home his eighth goal of the season.
The visitors almost levelled through second-half substitute Josh Parker when the attacking midfielder's flick-on skipped inches wide of the MK Dons goalpost. Ben Gladwin rounded things off late on with a sweet left-footed strike, as Wycombe suffered their fifth consecutive away league defeat.
Speaking after the game, Wycombe Boss Gareth Ainsworth said, “I thought we were in control during the first-half and we knew that this was going to be a tough place to come to, as MK Dons like to keep the ball and breaking them down was like cat and mouse today. We didn’t hit the target on enough occasions today even though we had chances, and I didn’t see them breaking us down much from open play, they only did that through set plays.”
“But today was a game against a team who are scrapping for their lives and have had an upturn in form. They certainly weren’t the same team that we played against at the start of the season.
So, it is important that we react the right way as I know some of the lads dropped their heads during the match and we’re not about that now.”
“We’re about having emotional control and making sure we’re back on it next week against Bristol Rovers. We were also leggy during the second-half and I could only put three subs on but I’m proud of the boys.”
Looking at the history of games between Rovers and Wycombe the ledger is even with 19 Rovers wins, 5 draws and 16 wins to the Chairboys.
Before their first League clash the teams crossed paths twice in the FA Cup. On 20 November 1982 Rovers won 1-0 at home and on 14 November 1993 they lost 2-1 also at home.
The very first League meeting between the clubs was unique, until the game earlier this season, as it had been the only 0-0 draw in the fixture, the game took place on 27 August 1994 at Adams Park. In the return match on 11 March 1995 Gareth Taylor scored the only goal at Twerton to give Rovers all 3 points.
On 9 November 2010 Jo Kuffour, had a game to remember at Adams Park in another JPT tie. His two first half goals set Rovers up for what looked like a good away win, but on 58 minutes, Scott Rendell pulled one back for the Bucks team. Within a minute Kuffour had hit back to restore Rovers two-goal lead and to complete his hat-trick.
Chris Lines added goal number four with a surging run into the area which took him past three home defenders and he comfortably beat Bull from eight yards. Rovers fifth goal came from the penalty spot after Alan Bennett brought down Kuffour and Jeff Hughes sent Bull the wrong way with his spot kick.
A foul on Rendell by Lines enabled the home striker to add his second goal of the evening from the penalty spot on 83 minutes. Five minutes later Rendell completed his hat trick when he headed home a cross from Matt Bloomfield.
That wasn't the end of the scoring as Ben Swallow got in on the act, cutting in from the right and unleashing an unstoppable shot that flew past Bull and into the roof of the net and secure a 6-3 away win.
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 lightning strike on the away stand) and 1-0 in Bristol.
Rovers visit to Adams Park on 26 April 2014 was something of a false dawn as they secured just their second away win of the 2013/14 season and as they mistakenly thought their League existence.
With just 10 minutes of the game gone, David Clarkson tried to push the ball past Matt Bloomfield but the Wycombe player stopped it with his hand and from the resulting free kick Lee Brown curled a delightful free kick into the top corner of the net.
On 20 minutes, though, the home side scored an unexpected equaliser when Sam Wood floated a free kick into the box and somehow Matt McClure got a touch on the ball even though it was behind him, and directed it past Steve Mildenhall and into the net.
The all-important goal arrived on 75 minutes after Clucas floated a ball into the Wycombe area. A poor defensive header dropped at the feet of Clarkson, who was lurking in the six-yard box and he volleyed past Ingham from close range. A much celebrated but ultimately fruitless victory.
Rovers last two visits to Buckinghamshire have proved fruitful with a 5-1 win (after going 1-0 down!) on 29 August 2017 in a Football League Trophy game and a 2-1 win on 18 August 2018. In that game, Rovers were ahead just four minutes in as Clarke fired home from close range after Liam Sercombe's corner bounced into his path off a defender. Stefan Payne headed over when trying to make it two before the lead was doubled 20 minutes in.
The Chairboys were undone by another corner as Tony Craig rose highest to head Sam Matthews' inswinging past the diving Ryan Allsop.
After the break Adebayo Akinfenwa came close for the hosts, looping a header onto the roof of the net. Allsop pulled off a couple of fine saves in the hosts' goal to deny Sercombe and then Payne from adding a third for the Gas.
With eight minutes left Scott Kashket provided a late scare for Rovers after rounding Adam Smith to score the Chairboys' first league goal of the season.