By Gerry Prewett.
Rovers home record against Sunderland is surprisingly good, having won 10, drawn 3 and lost 4 of the 18 games played in all competitions. Having said that 3 of the Wearsiders victories have come in the last 4 matches! Prior to Rovers win, just before the COVID-19 lockdown Rovers their last victory was on 8 October 1992 in a League 2 (Championship) tie at Twerton Park. Carl Saunders scored both Rovers goals and John Byrne for the away team.
The teams did not cross paths in Bristol until 27 February 1958 in a Division 2 game with Rovers winning 2-1 with goals by Dai Ward and John McIlvenny for Rovers and Ron Kichenbrand for Sunderland entertaining a 24,602 crowd.
On 7 September 1971 Rovers started one of their epic League Cup runs of that era to the Quarter Finals. Third Division Rovers beat Exeter City away in the First Round and were drawn at home to Sunderland in the Second Round. Both sides were awarded and scored penalties, Sandy Allan for Rovers and Billy Hughes for Sunderland. Wayne Jones and Harold Jarman scored two more for Rovers and saw them on a second successive visit to the Quarter Finals.
One of the more memorable games during the Twerton Park sojourn took place on 24 February 1988. Rovers were languishing near the bottom of the table and Sunderland looking for automatic promotion from Division Three (current Division One) were the leaders. It was obvious from the outset that the Rokerites realised the danger of playmaker Kenny Hibbitt., A ‘strong’ (and totally illegal) tackle by Gordon Armstrong ended Hibbitt’s game and, indeed, his career as it broke his leg.
This only acted to fire up Rovers Ian Holloway put Rovers ahead six minutes before half-time. Debutant David Mehew scored a goal that split other goals by Gary Penrice and Devon White.
In last season’s tie at the Mem Rovers took a 39th-minute lead when Ollie Clarke's low cross from the right reached Johnson Clarke-Harris with his back to goal. JCH used his strength to turn his marker and fire into the roof of the net from eight yards.
It was 2-0 in the 75th minute, with Clarke-Harris netting from the penalty spot after Max Power had raised an arm to handle a Luke Leahy cross from the left.