We take a detailed look at this weekend's opposition, Fleetwood Town.
The return of Ben Garner has given everyone a lift at the Mem this week, before their home game with Fleetwood Town. Having drawn at the Fylde coast in Garner’s second game Rovers will be looking to take maximum points from the home tie.
The January transfer window has certainly boosted the squad, with Jamal Blackman the latest acquisition on loan from Chelsea. Looking likely to line up between the sticks. Josh Ginnelly from Preston, again on loan, should provide some additional width. Josh Barrett, from Reading, will boost Rovers attacking presence in midfield.
Fleetwood have until now had a fairly quiet window having only signed Callum Connolly on loan from Everton until the end of the season. The 22-year-old spent the first half of this season on loan at Lincoln City. He has had loan spells at Barnsley, Wigan Athletic, Ipswich Town. They are also reputedly in negotiations with free agent Glenn Whelan, who has been released from his contract at Hearts.
Last weekend the Cod Army drew 2-2 at home to Shrewsbury Town. Fleetwood dominated in the early stages with Ched Evans and Wes Burns both missing excellent opportunities. Danny Andrew also fired a 20-yard free-kick just off target for the hosts.
Despite all their dominance, Fleetwood almost conceded in the 37th minute when Whalley thumped a shot against the crossbar after meeting Scott Golbourne's lay-off. Whalley made no mistake two minutes later, however, tapping home a rebound after Callum Lang's initial strike was parried into his path by Town goalkeeper Alex Cairns.
Fleetwood were back on terms within four minutes of the restart when defender Lewie Coyle buried a shot low past Max O'Leary after executing a perfect one-two with Evans.
Shrews substitute Jason Cummings made it 2-1 to the Shrews in the 81st minute courtesy of a low angled strike after he met Whalley's through-ball before Josh Morris evened it up after his 18-yard shot took a slight deflection with three minutes left.
Joey Barton was in a positive mood after the game, “Forget the goal we conceded at the end, I thought in the first half we were in complete control. We knew what we were going to face today, a team who are playing a 3-6-1 formation, so it was always going to be a tough ask.”
“Don’t forget Shrewsbury had secured themselves a nice cup tie with Liverpool during the week thanks to beating Bristol City, so we knew they’d be buoyed and full of confidence. You could see they came for a draw, though, just by looking at their game plan.”
“It was disappointing to give them the first goal, that was a real comedy of errors, but we spoke to the lads at half-time and told them that they were going to have to climb off the canvas. We scored a great goal from Lewie Coyle, and that was a real moment of quality, but then we go and give them another goal.”
“That was a great finish from Jason Cummings to be fair, but credit to our lads, we’ve scored a magnificent equaliser. I’m disappointed not to have won the game, but when you come back twice like that, you have to be delighted with a point, weirdly.”
“It’s another point on the board,” added Barton, “In this league, every point is valuable, certainly given the way the teams all play against each other. We always try to win games, of course, I’m not a huge fan of draws so let’s play attacking football is my feeling.”
“We went for the win late on, we conceded a second goal, but we decided to stick with what we had on the pitch and thankfully Josh came up with the goods. Credit to Shrewsbury. They’ve hung on and gone away with a point I’m sure they’d have been delighted with before the game.”
Rovers have had 4 wins, 3 draws and 4 losses in their 11 games against the seaside club. In 2012/13 the first season that the teams met the game at the Mem saw a steely 0-0 draw and Rovers came out on top in Lancashire as they returned victorious from Highbury Stadium with a 3-0 win, with goals by Danny Woodards, Eliot Richards and John-Joe O’Toole.
In the game in Bristol the following season it was 0-0 until the 64th minute when Jamille Matt netted from close range to give the visitors the lead. That lead was short-lived, as Rovers equalised just two minutes later. John-Joe O’Toole headed into the top of the net following a good cross whipped in from the left from Bond.
As Rovers pushed for the winner Fleetwood re-took the lead on 87 minutes, Matt scoring his second of the game from the edge of the box after good interplay with Antoni Sarcevic who opened up Rovers defence. In time added on the Cod Army got their third to seal the three points. Substitute Jon Parkin, scored an impressive volley from a tight angle.
In the 2016/17 season Rovers won the game at the Mem, 2-1. Rovers trailed to a fourth-minute strike when Ashley Hunter's angled right-foot shot found the top left corner.
Rovers dominated possession but it wasn’t until the 61st minute that Matty Taylor headed home Daniel Leadbitter's cross to level. Leadbitter was again the supply line when Cristian Montano shot home right-footed to win the game on 73 minutes.
Fleetwood's livewire strikers Hunter and Chris Long caused Rovers plenty of problems in the first half, both having efforts saved. At the other end, Taylor forced three saves from Chris Neal and had another effort deflected over.
Last season James Clarke snatched a stoppage-time winner for the Gas against 10-man opposition, who had both striker Ched Evans and manager Joey Barton sent off. Clarke fired home a left-foot shot from eight yards to reward incessant late pressure by the home side and give Graham Coughlan his first points as Rovers’ caretaker boss.
The goal provoked an ugly melee in front of the dug-outs, with players and staff of both teams involved, and Barton sent to the dressing room by referee Brett Huxtable.
The official issued 11 cards during the game including two for Evans who, already on a booking at the time, was shown a straight red card in the 55th minute for an aerial challenge on Tom Lockyer.
Fleetwood took a 28th-minute lead when the ball was played back to Ashley Hunter on the left edge of the box following a quick break and the midfielder curled a right-foot shot beyond the reach of goalkeeper Jack Bonham.
Rovers equalised eight minutes later as Gavin Reilly stooped to head home Alex Rodman's flick-on from six yards and they snatched all three points dramatically late on.
Speaking ahead of this weekend’s game Joey Barton said, “Bristol Rovers are a good side; they defend the goal fantastically well and it’s a really tough place to go. They’ve got a good crowd at Rovers so whether they’re on a good run or a bad run, it’s a tough place to go.”
“It would’ve been an even harder place to go earlier on in the season, now they sit at the bottom of the form table and we need to be at our best because that’s League One. We need to turn up and be at our best if we do deliver our best, there are not many teams in the league that can match us.”
“They’ve been successfully playing a 3-5-2, but now the new manager has come in and now they try to pass the ball a bit more. It’s a good pitch at Bristol so they’re able to play a bit more”.
Talking about the state of his squad Barton said, “We’ve got a full complement of players to pick from again, everybody is okay after the Shrewsbury game. We’ve sent Nathan (Sheron) on loan to Walsall this week. He’s been unfortunate this season, when the chances have come, he’s not been 100% match fit, so we’ve had to try to find a place for him to continue his development.”
Asked about activity in the transfer window he said, “We’re trying to get something done before the weekend, if that runs its natural course, we should have at least another player for Saturday’s game.”
“We still have a bit of room towards the end of the window and it could go down to the last 24 hours of it. You’ve got to hold your nerve, I learned from experience last year it’s a bit like black Friday, some strange things can pop up.”
“But we're not going to just get anybody in, I’d rather develop one of our players rather than one of somebody else’s youngsters, so we’ll see what quality presents itself, if it doesn’t, I’m happy with what we’ve got.”