After the disappointment of squandering the lead at Southend and ending up with nothing, Paul Tisdale’s City side has had a week to reflect on this before the first of two matches in the space of a few days against sides struggling at the bottom. A blank midweek will have helped with the lengthy injury list, while Jamie Cureton may be back to 100% fitness after beingwithdrawn with half an hour left at Roots Hall.
Bristol Rovers have been something of a surprise package so far this season but for the wrong reasons. A strong finish to the last campaign under new manager Mark McGhee allied to what is believed to be one of the larger budgets in the division saw Rovers installed as one of the pre-season favourites, but a poor start has seen them winless after 9 matches in all competitions. They must have done something to anger someone upstairs, as the only time they looked a cert for victory, when 3-1 up at Wycombe, lightning twice struck the away end and the match was abandoned for safety reasons.
On the playing front they have been dealt a major blow with Prince Harry lookalike Matt Harrold ruled out for the season. He joins ex-City star Danny Woodards on the sidelines, the attacking full-back picking up an injury in pre-season. There will be, however, a couple of familiar faces in the Rovers line-up on Saturday – Adam Virgo at the back was one of about 8000 loanees City used in the fateful 02/03 season, but more so will be Matt Gill, the midfielder who was a talisman in City’s rise from the Conference to League One before a lucrative move to Norwich where he completed the feat of achieving promotions from the Conference to the Premier League in successive seasons (see Matt Gill’s penalty miss for City at Shrewsbury, here). They have just bought Tom Eaves, a striker, in on loan from Bolton.
In 81 meetings between the sides City just enjoy the edge, 26 wins to Rovers’ 25, with 30 draws. The last season the sides met, the 2010/11 campaign that saw Rovers relegated, the match at The Park ended 2-2. Rather poignantly being as this was the first match after the tragic death of Adam Stansfield, City opened the scoring after 9 minutes through Dan Nardiello, but Rovers equalised then went ahead after Richard Duffy’s red card before John O’Flynn restored parity from the spot. The return ended 2-0 to City (Nardiello with a brace), sandwiching a win on penalties for City in the JPT.
The thoughts of Mark McGhee on the Bristol Rovers website
Assts: Adrian Tranter and Neil Radford
Fourth Official Adam Hopkins
Not seen at the Park since the 4-0 drubbing by Huddersfield last season.