By Gerry Prewett.
Bristol Rovers have a break from League action this week when they take a short trip to visit League One team Oxford United in the FA Cup on Sunday.
What is remarkable about this fixture is the instance of continuous runs of results in favour of one club or the other. Let’s look at the facts. Overall, the teams have clashed in Oxford 31 times, Rovers have won 11, there have been 7 draws and 13 Oxford victories.
In the first 13 games (1966- 1995) played in Oxford Rovers won once, there were 4 draws and the home team won 8. Between 30 September 1995 and 25 October 2003 there were 6 games played Rovers won 4 and there were 2 draws. Oxford won the next 4 games. Then, from 9 February 2013 until 29 December 2018 came a truly remarkable set of results, 6 straight victories for the Gas.
In those early games in only their second visit Rovers suffered a 4-1 loss on 2 February 1967. Alfie Biggs was Rovers’ scorer, with doubles by Grahame Atkinson and Mick Morris for the U’s.
Rovers’ next visit, only 7 months later, was much more productive, a mid-week 2-0 victory with goals by Harold Jarman and an own goal by John Shuker sent the Eastville faithful home happy.
It wasn’t until September 1995 that the victory was to be repeated when the two Marcus’s, Browning and Stewart scoring past Timmy Carter in the U’s goal and Chris Allen scoring for the home team in a 2-1 win for the Gas. Back in 1982 and 1983 Rovers played two Boxing Day games at the Manor, scored 2 goals in both and lost both, 4-2 and 3-2 respectively.
On 22 January 2000 Rovers had their best-ever result, a 5-0 thumping, with a hat-trick from Jamie Cureton a Robbie Pethick goal and another by Nathan Ellington.
On 9 February 2013 at the Kassam Rovers took the lead on 54 minutes. The ball was played up to Ryan Brunt, who cut into the area where he was brought down by Oxford skipper Jake Wright.
Brown stepped up to send Luke McCormick the wrong way with his spot kick, but the referee had seen a player encroaching into the area and ordered the penalty to be retaken. Brown kept his nerve, and put his spot kick in the same place as the first, with McCormick again going the wrong way.
Rovers wrapped things up in stoppage time. Once again Brunt was fouled and, as the Oxford defenders switched off David Clarkson found Richards with a quick free kick. The young striker did the rest, running through on goal and beating McCormick in a one on one situation.
Rovers last visit to the Kassam was on 23 January 2021 in a League One game. The U's lost midfielder Marcus McGuane to a leg injury early in the match but it did not appear to hamper them as they largely dominated play.
They took the lead in the 32nd minute. Centre-backs Rob Atkinson and Elliott Moore combined with two headers following a corner and Matty Taylor finished off with a flicked shot after staying onside.
It took until the start of the second half for Rovers to engineer a first real sight of goal, when Abu Ogogo poked an angled shot wide. Taylor added a second in the 73rd minute, beating an ineffective offside trap to run on to Liam Kelly's ball over the top and score. Brandon Hanlan forced a smart fingertip save out of Jack Stevens as Paul Tisdale's men tried to respond, but they ended well beaten.