By Gerry Prewett.
On New Year’s Day Bristol Rovers travel to The Breyer Group Stadium, Brisbane Road (as many fans of a certain generation know it) East London to face an old adversary, Leyton Orient. The teams have met there 59 times in the last 90 years!
The record reads 18 wins to Rovers, 14 draws and 27 Orient victories. In Rovers first 12 visits they won 1, dew 1 and lost 10. The very first game took place on 11 January 1930 in the FA Cup and Clapton Orient (as they then were) ran out 1-0 winners with a penalty by left back Tom Lyons. Just three months later Rovers returned for the first ever League meeting and lost 3-0, Reg Tricker (2) and Alf Edmonds scoring for the home team.
Rovers first run of unbeaten games in East London came in the 1950s when the drew 4 games and then went on to win the next 3.
Rovers best-ever result in these fixtures was a 5-1 win with goals from Ian Holloway (2), David Williams, Paul Randall and Graham Withey on 23rd October 1982. Two years later on 30th November 1984, Holloway, Mark O’Connor (2) and Randall were scorers in a 4-1 win.
In 1998-99 the sides were paired together in both the FA Cup and League Cup. After a 1-1 draw at Brisbane Road in the Worthington Cup First Round First Leg, Mark Warren hit a dramatic 119th minute winner in Bristol after the tie looked set to go to penalties. Rovers got their revenge in the FA Cup Fourth Round as three goals in the last 15 minutes saw off the O's challenge.
In an early season game in 2004-05 on 11 September Rovers travelled to Brisbane Road unbeaten with what appeared to be a rock-solid defence. However it crumbled and let in as many goals in one game as it had in the previous seven. It was a game in which Rovers played well in patches and actually led 2-1, but then conceded three goals in just seven minutes in the second half. It was ex-Gas Wayne Carlisle who inflicted much of the pain.
On 12 February 2011, Rovers made the worst possible start to the game, conceding after only four minutes when Jimmy Smith got on the end of a cross from Dean Cox and headed past Luke Daniels.
Things got worse on 15 minutes when Andrew Whing was allowed time and space to get down the right and when 35 yards from goal he unleashed a ferocious shot that flew past Daniels before nestling in the corner of the net.
Jones touched a Jeff Hughes effort wide of the post at the start of the second half and the midfielder was instrumental in a goal for Rovers after 52 minutes when Crowe headed his cross into his own net.
On 77 minutes Orient broke down the left, the ball was played into the box and a young Harry Kane beat James Tunnicliffe to the ball before calmly slotting his shot past Daniels. Kane also scored the home side's fourth goal, a simple tap in from close range after a cross from Revell. So 4-1 to the O’s and ultimate relegation for Rovers.
Rovers last trip to Orient was on 8 December 2020, they took the lead in the 12th minute when Ali Kioki tapped in from close range, after Sam Sargeant had saved Brandon Hanlan’s initial effort.
The equaliser came when Sam Ling’s deflected cross squirmed past Anssi Jaakola at his near post. Gas midfielder Zain Westbrooke started at the Breyer Group for the first time since his loan spell in E10 back in 2017, and he marked his return with a goal as he restored his side’s lead with a venomous free kick that cannoned back off of the crossbar and into the net via the back of Sargeant.
However, things became a whole lot harder for the O’s early in the second half as Jamie Turley was dismissed by referee Alan Young for a late challenge on Zain Walker. Rovers managed to hold on for a 2-1 victory.