Saturday, August 31st 2013
There will be no room for sentiment in the manager’s rooms this Saturday as old friends John Ward and Aidy Boothroyd go head to head with both in desperate need of the points to drag their clubs away from the early slackers at the bottom end of League Two. Rovers picked up their first three points of the season last weekend with a 3-2 victory over York City at the Memorial Stadium and leapfrogged the Cobblers who are still stuck on three points with just one win in the opening four.
Ward and Boothroyd both had successful time at Watford with Ward working under Graham Taylor in the mid-eighties and Boothroyd promoted with the Hornets in 2006. Boothroyd then appointed Ward as his assistant manager at Colchester United in 2009 before leaving the U’s at the end of the season to join Coventry City.
Ward is now into his second spell in charge of Bristol Rovers having been appointed in December of last year, steering the club from relegation candidates to mid-table safety by the end of the campaign with 42 points collected from 23 games during his time at the club in the second half of the season. That’s set the bar high for this time around but a long injury list has meant that it’s been a slow start for his side.
A 2-1 defeat at Exeter on the opening day was followed by a goalless draw with Scunthorpe and a 1-0 loss at Newport, leaving the Gas with just one point from the opening three games. But last weekend saw them pick up a first three points of the season and they’ll be looking to make it back to back victories tomorrow afternoon.
As for the Cobblers, it’s been a hit and miss opening to the season and the away day blues are far from over. Two defeats in two away games have done little to assure us that last season’s problems are going away on the road and we really need to do something different to get it right. As old pals go head to head, it’s set to be a crunch game as the first month of the 2013/14 season comes to a close.
Rovers striker Matt Harrold returns to the squad after recovering from a groin injury but Eliot Richards is out with a hamstring problem. Ollie Clarke, Seanan Clucas and Jim Paterson are all still missing.
The Cobblers have Chris Hackett back after he served a one match ban last weekend whilst Clive Platt will be pushing for a starting place having returned to the side from the bench in recent weeks. Lewis Hornby is still missing but Matt Heath returns after injury. Friday afternoon saw Town sign midfielder Matty Harriott on a contract until the end of the season and he goes straight into the squad.
Previous Six Meetings…
26/02/13: Cobblers 1-0 Bristol Rovers (League Two)
In the midst of a superb home run in the second half of last season, Ben Harding’s late winner was enough to keep us rolling on towards the playoffs.
06/10/12: Bristol Rovers 3-1 Cobblers (League Two)
The Gas had not won a home game up until the Cobblers visited in early October last season. Anthony Charles was sent off within twenty five minutes and that set the tone for a disappointing day. Tom Eaves put Rovers in front just after the break and Gary Kenneth made it two just after. Bayo Akinfenwa headed in from a Ben Tozer throw in to give us hope but Oliver Norburn sealed that first home success for the hosts.
06/03/12: Cobblers 3-2 Bristol Rovers (League Two)
A massive win for the Cobblers towards League Two survival in 2011/12. Bayo Akinfenwa scored twice in the opening ten minutes before Kelvin Langmead put us three up before half time. Craig Stanley and Lee Brown, from the spot, made it a nervy finish but Town held on for three valuable points.
16/08/11: Bristol Rovers 2-1 Cobblers (League Two)
The Cobblers suffered their first defeat of that season at the Memorial Stadium as Jo Kuffour and Matt Harrold scored either side of a Bayo Akinfenwa strike to earn Rovers all the points at the Memorial Stadium.
10/04/09: Bristol Rovers 1-0 Cobblers (League One)
A Good Friday meeting between the clubs was settled by Jo Kuffour’s goal with twenty minutes to play in a season that would eventually see the Cobblers relegated from League One.
28/12/08: Cobblers 0-0 Bristol Rovers (League One)
Tame stalemate just after Christmas in 2008, part of a sequence that saw the Cobblers win just once in eight games at the end of the calendar year.
The man in the middle…
Mark Haywood is the man in the middle having just overseen the Morecambe v Newcastle League Cup tie earlier this week. He last officiated a Cobblers game in the 3-0 defeat to Leyton Orient in the JPT last December. His last Rovers game was a their 4-0 reverse at Dagenham and Redbridge in May 2012.
With the home form dealt a huge blow last weekend and with four defeats from five in all competitions we cannot afford another one so pressure is on. We’re not usually lucky at the Memorial Stadium but hopefully we can get something at least. 1-1
From the Opposition…
Brian Seymour-Smith, the Bristol Rovers Supporter’s Club Director, gave us the views from the Rovers camp ahead of this weekend’s game. Check it out here.