After a busy festive programme, it’s now back to the one competition we seem to be having some joy in! Yes, it’s the Leasing.com Trophy; everyone’s favourite tournament since we got out the group stages for the first time. Of course, we’ve always loved this great competition and have much love for the brains behind it all. We may well change our mind depending on how this Third Round tie goes, however. But that’s football innit. Funny old game and that…
Bristol Rovers v Stevenage: The Preview…
Bristol Rovers – who are they?
You’d forgot that Bristol Rovers spent a season in the Conference not so long ago, hadn’t you? For the first time since 1920, the 2014-5 campaign saw The Gas playing outside the Football League; ending the previous campaign second bottom of League Two. How we’d take that for ourselves right now if the current season were to end tomorrow. Anyway, it proved a short stay and Rovers came roaring back.
The 2015-6 season saw ’em win their second promotion on the spin after returning to the League; third place in League Two enough for one of the three automatic spots. That does, however, hide an important fact. Not that was the first time we’d met ’em in competitive circumstances. Or even that we took four of the six points up for grabs. Nah – it was that Rovers gave Teddy Sheringham his first away win as Boro’ manager.
That’s a nice claim to fame, innit?
Our Record vs Bristol Rovers: P 1 — W 1 — D 1 — L 0 — F 2 — A 1 — Pts 4
Last time out: Stevenage 0-0 Bristol Rovers, 19 April 2016
How are Bristol Rovers doing so far this season?
If it’s relevant, Rovers are making a decent fight of this season. Goal difference is the only thing keeping them out of the League One playoff places. But recent form hasn’t been too great. A run of four straight wins came to a halt just before Christmas, with two draws and two defeats from the four since. Goals are going in at both ends too; 30 for and against in equal measure in the league. So, it’s looks like there will be opportunities coming our way.
To get to this point, The Gas won all three of their group games – although one came on pelanties against Plymouth. In the last round, they needed pelanties again; seeing off the challenge of Leyton Orient. Only Swindon Town failed to find the net against them.
Tell us something we don’t know about Bristol Rovers
We can all agree Barry Hayles deserved a crack at the Football League in 1997. Our only regret is that it wasn’t with us. Instead, it’d be Bristol Rovers giving him that long-awaited chance. Of course, you knew that already. But the thing you may not know is that Bazza is still responsible for the highest transfer fee ever received by The Gas. His move to Fulham back in 1998 earned The Gas a cool £2m.
Which Bristol Rovers player should we watch out for?
With the League One playoffs in sight, it all depends on how much Rovers are bothered by this run in the Leasing.com Trophy. If they go full-strength on us, however, one man we can’t ignore is Jonson Clarke-Harris. The striker has 12 goals to his name this season, which isn’t too far behind our current league total as a team.
He’s netting one every 127 minutes of action he gets on average, which is good news – he scored against Coventry City in the FA Cup at the weekend, so his average is now in check.
Who is our ref for this match?
Darren Handley. Not someone we know all that well, but not exactly someone we have a problem with. Or, at least, that’s what we remember. When it’s Mr Handley in charge, our luck could go one way or the other. Our full record is WWLDD, which tells you little at all useful. Looking at his record this season, however, it seems as if he loves his red card.
Now 20 matches in, seven players have already received his marching orders, including a Walsall lad on New Year’s Day. What are the odds on another sending off in this one?
Our Record: P 5 — W 2 — D 2 — L 1 — F 8 — A 9
Last time out: Stevenage 1-1 Luton Town, 10 February 2018
And, finally, what do you reckon?
Like we said before Wycombe and then again with Colchester, we don’t hold out too much hope for a Boro’ win here. We’re in no doubt that we’ll give it a bloody good go – and make them work hard for it. But the Gas are probably the strongest team we’ve come up against in this tournament (on paper, at least). We also have bigger battles to come in the weeks ahead. Of course, so do Rovers if they want to make the League One playoffs.
Ultimately, we’ve been proved wrong in this tournament before. Why not again?
Bristol Rovers v Stevenage scorecast: 2-0