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Focus On: Accrington Stanley

4 September 2019

We take a detailed look at our next opponents...

Bristol Rovers look to end a bleak record against Accrington Stanley on Saturday when they host the Lancashire team. It is a remarkable statistic that in 12 meetings, since Stanley re-gained admission to the League, Rovers have won 2, drawn 2 and lost 8. The goals in those games read, Rovers 17, Stanley 9! Rovers two victories have been 4-0 and 5-1. All the Accy victories have been either 1-0 (5 times) or 2-1 (3 times). If ever Rovers had a bogey team it surely has to be the Reds.

After getting off to a good start last season, Stanley struggled and like Rovers were drawn into the amazing late-season relegation battle in Division One. They have not got off to the best of starts this season and had picked up just one point from their opening four League games. Last weekend they celebrated their first win of the season after coming from behind to beat MK Dons 2-1.

Stanley dominated the early play, but it was MK Dons who opened the scoring in the 18th minute. Rhys Healey's ball over the top found last season's 22-goal striker Kieran Agard who outmuscled Mark Hughes and fired home. It was his first goal of the season.

Stanley were unlucky not to equalise in the 27th minute when Joe Pritchard's strike hit the underside of the crossbar, bounced down and was cleared. The Reds got the goal their play deserved in the 52nd minute when a Jordan Clark strike was kept out by a combination of goalkeeper Lee Nicholls and the post, and Colby Bishop was there to fire home the rebound for his fourth goal of the season.

The comeback was complete in the 59th minute when Pritchard's ball in found Hughes at the far post and his bullet header beat Nicholls. Stanley should have made it three in the 64th minute when Clark was fouled in the area but Nicholls dived the right way to keep out Bishop's penalty. Healey had a goal ruled out for offside in injury time.

Stanley assistant manager Jimmy Bell spoke to the Press after the game, "It was a great performance, a great win and it was nerve-jangling in the end. We were eager to get the first three points on the board this season, so we were going to get that but I think the performance deserved a lot more than that.”

"We should have been out of sight, we missed the penalty, we missed a host of great chances and we got a great compliment off their manager at the end, as he said 'you're a very good team and you fully deserved the three points', so that summed it up for me."

Talking about MK scoring first he went on to note, "Confidence was affected, we haven't won for five games, we haven't won in the league, with playing so well it was a body-blow but it was great that we responded. We played well if not better than what we did against Shrewsbury Town today, and it was a body-blow but we got back up and hit them with three or four really good shots in the second half. If it was a boxing match, we'd have knocked them out."

Rovers and Stanley have played one another 14 times before. The very first time was an FA Cup tie on 14 December 1929 at Eastville, the home team running out 4-1 winners, as George Reay netted twice, Jack Phillips and Fred Forbes also scoring for the Pirates with Danny Ferguson scoring for the Peel Park team. Four years later at the same stage Rovers visited Peel Park and came back out of the Cup, losing 1-0.

Fast-forward over 70 years before the rejuvenated Stanley were back into the League after their 1961 demise and visited Bristol once again. The very first league meeting again took place in December 23 2006. Once again Rovers hit 4 goals but this time Stanley were scoreless. Richard Walker put Rovers ahead on 6 minutes, Steve Elliott on 22 minutes and Walker with a 26th-minute penalty made the game safe. Stuart Nicholson completed the scoring on 88 minutes. The return game in Lancashire on 6 March ended in a 1-1 tie, Richard Walker again giving Rovers the lead, but Shaun Whalley equalised for Stanley in the last minute.

Rovers finished their 2011-12 home programme with a flourish as they disposed of Stanley with a 5-1 victory. Matt Harrold scored twice on 11 and 22 minutes (the second a penalty), Andy Dorman 29 minutes, put Rovers 3-0 up, before Kevin McIntyre on 38 minutes put Stanley back in the game before half-time. In the second half goals by Matty Lund 58 and 78 minutes gave Rovers their last victory over the Lancashire team.

In the last 7 games (before the battling 0-0 draw in January), Stanley had come out winners by a single goal every time. On 28 January 2014, the Gas dominated for most of the game, and put the Accrington goal under plenty of pressure, but they could not find the back of the net and the visitor’s took advantage at the last minute to win 1-0. It was heartbreak for Rovers when Peter Murphy volleyed home the winner in the final seconds of added time.

In the 2015/16 season, Billy Kee's overhead kick moments after coming on was a rare moment of quality as Accrington won a forgettable encounter. Kee had just replaced Josh Windass when he spectacularly scored after a right-wing corner was headed goalwards.

Shay McCartan and Matt Crooks had chances to extend the lead as Rovers failed to pose much threat. Ollie Clarke's header from Chris Lines' corner late in the first half was their only real moment of danger.

Last season, two goals from Sean McConville earned the away team their first victory in the third tier of the English Football League. The left-sided midfielder opened the scoring after six minutes, capitalising on a good run from Jordan Clark to cut in onto his right foot and score with a deflected shot from 12 yards.

Stefan Payne marked his Rovers debut by heading a close-range equaliser from James Clarke's right-wing cross in the 83rd minute. But McConville had the final say six minutes later with a fine first-time finish with his right foot from the left corner of the box that sent the ball skidding past Rovers goalkeeper Sam Slocombe.

Clark had hit the crossbar after 75 minutes as Stanley produced the more incisive moves, despite being second best in terms of possession.

Neither goalkeeper had much to do in the first 45 minutes, with the only save of note coming from Accrington's Connor Ripley, who dived to his left to get a firm hand on Liam Sercombe's 34th-minute volley.

Speaking ahead of this weekend’s fixture Jimmy Bell admitted that the mood at the club had lightened after two wins in four days and some new signings, "We had a very busy deadline day, players became available and we've got a limited budget, and we've packed the squad out now.

"It should stay open even longer, but a few weeks give you a chance to assess what you've got. We've got a healthy squad now, and we've got good competition."

"We've had two good results this week, and the mood in the camp is a lot different to the first few weeks. If you're playing well it'll eventually turn, we weren't playing bad but we found a way to lose games.”

"We showed a lot more resilience, a lot more know-how of how to win a game and smell danger when you're in front."

Speaking of the Rovers game he commented, "We've got a fantastic record against them, but that counts for nothing. We will tell the players that and we'll go with a system and a style to try and beat the way they play.”

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