Depleted City returned to winning ways in stunning style with a 4-0 win in front of the Sky cameras last week to mean two out of the three sides promoted alongside City last season have been vanquished by that scoreline. Saturday presents an opportunity to complete a hat-trick of wins over the other promoted sides with the visit of a Bristol Rovers side that is currently on a poor run. City’s injury woes were such that last week youngsters Harrison King and Pedro Borges made the bench, but a sign that things might be improving came in the shape of their departure to Plymouth Parkway on loan. Harry Kite was a borderline absence last week so should return at least to the bench, but the centre back situation is still yet to be eased meaning Josh Key is likely to continue to deputise.
Having put together a stunning run last season culminating in a final day 7-0 win over doomed Scunthorpe that saw them promoted ahead of Northampton on goal difference, Bristol Rovers were installed by pundits as the promoted side most likely to succeed this season. However, after an encouraging start that saw the Gasheads win two of their first three league games, they have failed to win since, and go into Saturday’s match in the bottom four in the division. Joey Barton was relatively busy in the transfer market during the summer, the main signing probably John Marquis who is looking to recapture the form he showed at Doncaster and Portsmouth. However, he has found the net just once, with the scoring threat coming mainly from ex-Forest Green forward Aaron Collins, who has six goals, and former City loanee Ryan Loft who has three.
If City’s two home fixtures against Bristol Rovers last season, in the league and the EFL Trophy, finished at half time, City would have won 9-0 on aggregate, but second half only would have seen Rovers win 4-0. The league fixture saw hitherto winless City race into a 4-0 lead after 22 minutes through Jay (2), Dieng and Kite before Finley bagged a consolation in the second half. The EFL Trophy match was even more lopsided – City led 5-0 at the break through Coley (2), Dieng and Amond (2) but were pegged back to 5-3 in the second half by goals from Westbrooke, Jones and Anderton. The return in Bristol was an altogether more sedate 1-1 draw, Hoole’s opener for the hosts cancelled out by Jevani Brown before Josh Coley missed a golden opportunity late on to seal the points. As a result of City’s win the league head to head record is now level at 26 wins apiece, 28 matches finishing level.
The match officials for this game are:-
Referee: Declan Bourne
Assistant Referees: Adam Ricketts and Kevin Morris
Fourth Official : Elliott Swallow
Last time Declan Bourne was seen at St James Park was last November when we beat Oldham Athletic 2-1.
Pre-match interview with Matt Taylor
Pre-match interview with Jamal Backman