Rovers begin their 2018/19 Sky Bet League One campaign with an away trip to Southend United on Saturday August 4.
Rovers travel to Essex off the back of six pre-season friendly fixtures. Alfie May top scored in pre-season, with four strikes including a hat-trick against Deeping Rangers in an 8-1 away win, with 11 other Rovers players grabbing a goal each.
Rovers finished pre-season with a 2-0 home defeat to South Yorkshire rivals Sheffield United, but impressed against the Blades - especially in the first period - and will be looking to bounce back to winning ways when they head south at the weekend.
Brief history of Southend United
Southend United play at the 12,392-capacity Roots Hall, with the ground being their home since 1955. They are nicknamed the Shrimpers, a reference to the town’s maritime industry, with a shrimp included in the club’s crest.
They have won promotion from League One twice in the last 30 years, winning the division in 2006, returning to the second tier for the first time in 20 years, before being relegated the following season.
The year after saw the Shrimpers face Rovers in the League One play-off semi-final, with James Coppinger inspiring Rovers to Wembley with a hat-trick in the second leg at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Southend became famous for their League Cup victory over a Manchester United side featuring the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney in November 2006, with a Freddy Eastwood goal ensuring that the Shrimpers would be one of just a handful of teams to hold a 100 per cent win record over the Red Devils.
This coming campaign will be the Shrimpers fourth consecutive season in League One, following their return in 2015 after a penalty shoot-out win over Wycombe Wanderers in the League Two play-off final, with a 7-6 spot-kick victory following a 1-1 draw after 120 minutes, with keeper Daniel Bentley saving the decisive strike.
Who’s the gaffer?
Former Shrimpers player Chris Powell is now at the helm of the club he spent six years with as a professional footballer, signing a two-and-a-half-year deal back in January this year.
Powell made close to 300 appearances for the Shrimpers between 1990 and 1996, and his arrival as manager was well-received by the Southend faithful.
Powell has managerial pedigree at this level, leading another one of his former playing clubs, Charlton Athletic, to the League One title in 2012, before taking the Huddersfield Town job two years later.
Powell returned to management earlier this year following time as assistant manager at Derby County, and he currently holds a 50 per cent win ratio, winning nine of his 18 games in charge of the Shrimpers, losing just four as he guided them to a 10th place finish in League One.
Ones to watch
The Shrimpers front man is no stranger to Rovers fans after spending two seasons at the Keepmoat Stadium between 2013 and 2015. Robinson signed for Rovers from Derby County, scoring on his debut in a 2-0 win over Blackburn Rovers, scoring other notable goals against Queens Park Rangers in his first season, as well as a crucial equaliser against local rivals Barnsley in his second.
He moved on loan to Scunthorpe United in March 2015, making an even quicker impact for the Iron, scoring inside the opening minute of a 2-2 draw at Notts County. Robinson joined the Shrimpers from Lincoln City in January 2017, following his FA Cup exploits with the Imps, where he scored against Championship sides Ipswich Town and Brighton and Hove Albion on their way to the quarter-final.
New-boy Hyam is in line to make his Shrimpers debut in Saturday’s opening day clash, following his move from Ipswich Town this summer. Hyam made the move to Essex after 15 years at Portman Road, with the Ipswich academy graduate making over 130 appearances for the Tractor Boys in the Championship. Hyam signed a two-year deal with Chris Powell’s men in July, becoming the Shrimpers’ sixth summer signing.
Forward Cox is a man with Premier League and international experience, with a trip to Euro 2012 with the Republic of Ireland under his belt. Cox played in the top flight with West Bromwich Albion, after helping them to promotion from the Championship in his first season.
Cox made a step down to the second tier, firstly with Nottingham Forest, before a second spell with his first club Reading, before his move to Essex with the Shrimpers in 2016. Cox scored 16 goals in 44 games in his first season with the Shrimpers, and he will be looking to get firing again this year following an injury-hit campaign last year.
Last time out
Rovers' last game with the Shrimpers came in March, with the two sides battling to a 0-0 draw in tricky conditions at Roots Hall. Southend stopper Mark Oxley was in inspired form, with a superb double save denying both John Marquis and Alex Kiwomya from giving Rovers three points.
Rovers' last win at Roots Hall came in 2016, with Andy Williams, Aaron Taylor-Sinclair and a Nathan Tyson penalty giving Rovers three points.