By Gerry Prewett.
Prior to last weekend’s loss at Home Park, Bristol Rovers would have been looking to go to Peterborough and avoid defeat. The poor start to the second half and controversial decisions by the Referee meant that the Gas cam home empty-handed when for the bulk of the game they looked the better team.
Meanwhile Peterborough United, now under the Management of Steve Evans, are still very much in the chase. Currently in 7th place and one point behind Plymouth on 56, they lost their chance to take 5th spot when they went down 2-1 to Managerless Oxford.
Centre-half Rob Dickie, prodded the ball home from close range in the sixth minute when Peterborough failed to deal with James Henry's corner in the wind. Henry nearly doubled the lead moments later with a 20-yard drive that hit the inside of the post. That was how it remained until half-time.
As the game passed the hour mark the home side doubled their lead as a poor pass from Michael Doughty was capitalised on and Henry who was given time to send a fierce drive through Jonathon Bond who could only get a hand to the powerful effort
A minute later Steve Evans' men pulled one back when Jack Marriott turned in Marcus Maddison's cross for his 29th goal of the season. Maddison had earlier smashed an angled drive that Simon Eastwood saved with one hand, while Marriott drilled a shot narrowly wide late on.
Peterborough skipper Jack Baldwin was sent off in stoppage time for a second yellow card. It was Posh's first defeat in eight games as they dropped out of the play-off places.
Speaking after the game Evans commented, “A lot went wrong for us today. I got the team selection wrong, the shape wrong and the system wrong. We also didn’t work hard enough as a team in the first-half. “
”I had to take someone off to get a second striker on and, although Jermaine didn’t play well, he was far from the only one. He was no worse than six or seven others.”
“The conditions helped them score the first goal, but Oxford were better than us. We did create a couple of good chances to equalise, but we couldn’t take them. The conditions were farcical. Both sides spent a lot of time hemmed in by a strong wind, but we are capable of better. My young group of players will learn from this defeat and so will I. We have had a hard week with two away games, but we will get a good week in on the training ground and get a plan ready for the next game. “We will be better.”
“We made two or three good chances to equalise. Maybe if we did that we’d go on to win the game because they would have been on the back foot. I think we’ve all experienced trying to waste time in football but this was a new one for me. I think he (the referee) could have added about 20 (minutes) and it would have been about right. But take nothing away, well done Oxford and we wish you well.”
The Posh boss was also critical of what looked like a 50/50 challenge between Cameron Brannagan and Chris Forrester which forced the latter out of the game with a gash in his thigh, “We got robbed a little bit when there was an over the ball challenge on Chris Forrester that results in him getting stitches in the bottom of his thigh. There is (a stamp), but that’s for people to look at. I just go with what I watched on the clips. There’s certainly some afters, but we’re not here to make that a headline.”
In the 37 previous meetings between the team's Rovers have won 14, there have been 11 draws and Peterborough have come out on top 14 times. In East Anglia Rovers have won 5, drawn 6 and lost 9 times.
Rovers have not beaten the Posh since 3 February 2007 when goals by Rickie Lambert, Richard Walker and Stuart Campbell for Rovers and Dan Crow and Aaron McLean for the away team gave Rovers a 3-2 victory at the Mem.
On the opening day of the 2006/07 promotion, season United dealt out Rovers a 4-1 thrashing on 2nd September 1967. Like most teams Rovers started the season full of expectation. What they didn’t expect was to find a ‘borough team on fire. Jamie Day, Richard Butler and Simon Yeo all scored in half an hour of devastation to give Posh and unassailable half-time lead. Despite a reply from Sammy Igoe, a Lloyd Opera finish saw an emphatic win for the home team
On 25 February 2006 Rovers recorded their last victory at London Road 2-1, after Junior Agogo had scored Rovers first goal he was sent off shortly after Richard Walker’s goal gave the Gas a 2-0 lead. Dean Holden pulled one back for the Posh but it was not enough.
On 3 February 2007 at the Mem, Posh scored two early goals by Adam Newton and Dave Farrell had Dean Holden sent off, Rovers pulled back the two goals, by Richard Walker and Steve Elliott and then conspired to allow Richard Logan to score a 73rd minute winner. It was a dour performance by a Rovers team sadly lacking in confidence.
Rovers first League meeting with Peterborough was on 4th September 1962 when goals by Keith Williams, Ian Hamilton and Bobby Jones secured a 3-1 win for the Pirates in front of an 11,860 Eastville crowd. Just 6 days later the Posh gained their revenge with a 1-0 victory at London Road.
On 15th September 1964 Rovers gained their biggest win over Peterborough when an Alfie Biggs’ hat trick and a goal by Bobby Jones gave the Pirates a 4-0 win. Rovers’ first goal was a penalty when the Referee Setchell ruled that Ian Hamilton's goal bound header was deliberately handled by Graham Birks. The 17,415 crowd were denied a sight of crowd entertainer and Irish international Derek Dougan who was out injured.
The following season Rovers keeper Bernard Hall had a good reason to remember the game. Diving at the feet of Peterborough's dangerous winger Tom Watson, Hall caught a kick to the head and the tip of his left ear was removed. It was never found! The game ended up 1-1.
On 6 September 2008 there was a remarkable televised game at London Road. Craig Mackail-Smith scored a hat-trick for the Posh as his team three times held a two goal lead. Aaron McLean and Scott Rendell also notched for the home team whilst Steve Elliott, Jeff Hughes, Rickie Lambert and an own goal Shane Blackett provided a nine goal feast and a 5-4 home win.
Rovers last victory at London Road was on 25 February 2006 in a remarkable game. Junior Agogo gave the Gas a 36th minute lead. On 54 minutes it all kicked off, Richard Walker doubled Rovers lead, Posh’s Adam Newton was given a yellow card, quickly followed by a yellow for Phil Bolland and a minute later a straight red for Junior Agogo. Dean Holden managed to pull one goal back but it was on 90 minutes and Rovers held on for a 2-1 win.
Looking ahead to the remainder of the season Steve Evans noted, “It’s the time to get really serious. Every point will be crucial and it’s close enough for every goal to be just as important as well.”
“We will have to fight to the death for everything on offer. There can be no friendships on match days. Everyone is our enemy and we can’t let anyone stand in our way. We have to get the wins, which will get us where we want to be any way we can.”
“It’s going to be close with twists and turns still to come every week. There will be pressure, but we have enough experience on and off the pitch to cope. We had a setback last weekend and we need to bounce back from that by beating Rovers.”
“I watched them play at MK Dons recently when they won 1-0 after dominating the game. Rovers deserved to win, but it could easily have been 7-6. They have some strong attackers with Ellis Harrison a particularly good player, but they have weaknesses at the back we can exploit.”
“It should be a cracking game though and we are all looking forward to it. We have the attacking strength to cause problems for any League One team. We didn’t play well at Oxford last weekend, but we still created chances and we still looked dangerous every time we went forward.”
“I was with the Oxford manager at the Northampton game on Tuesday night and he told me was concerned every time we went past half-way."