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Bristol Rovers (A) match preview

7 December 2018

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Rovers are on the road once again this weekend, this time in the league, when they travel to face Bristol Rovers on Saturday in Sky Bet League One.

Rovers are currently on a run of five games unbeaten in all competitions, with last weekend seeing them progress through to the third round of the Emirates FA Cup after a 2-0 win away at Charlton Athletic on Saturday.

Bristol Rovers meanwhile secured their first win in seven games in midweek as they defeated Swansea City U21s 2-1 at the Liberty Stadium in the Checkatrade Trophy on Wednesday evening.

Brief history of Bristol Rovers

Rovers play at the 12,296-capacity Memorial Stadium, which has been their home since 1996. “The Mem” is their eighth home since the club’s formation in 1883, playing at Eastville Stadium for the majority of their existence, whilst also playing at Bath’s Twerton Park ground for 10 seasons prior to their move to their current stadium.

They are nicknamed the Pirates, which reflects the maritime history of Bristol, whilst their fans are coined the Gasheads, which was given to them after their old Eastville Stadium was located next to a gas works.

This is their third consecutive season in League One, following automatic promotion from the fourth tier in 2016. Their promotion from League Two came on the final day of the 2015/16, with Lee Brown scoring in the last minute to send the Pirates up and earn them their second consecutive promotion after their National League play-off final win over Grimsby Town the year before.

Who’s the gaffer?

Darrell Clarke is the man in the Pirates’ dugout, having taken up his position at the Mem in March 2014 after a spell as assistant manager previously. He oversaw the Pirates’ back-to-back promotions from the National League to League One in 2015 and 2016, and he has taken charge of 245 games in total.

Of those 245 games, Clarke has won 104, drawing 56 and losing 85, leaving him with a win percentage of 42.4 per cent during his time with Rovers.

Ones to watch

Kyle Bennett

The Pirates midfielder will need little introduction to visiting fans on Saturday, having spent four years at the Keepmoat Stadium between 2011 and 2015, becoming a key part of Rovers’ 2012/13 League One title victory. Bennett made 136 appearances and scored 16 goals in all competitions for Rovers, including a memorable double away at Sheffield United during the 2014/15 season. From there, Bennett made a move to the south coast, joining Portsmouth, and in his second season he helped Pompey to the League Two title after six goals in 39 league games. He joined Bristol Rovers back in February following his departure from Fratton Park, and scored his first Pirates’ goal in a 2-1 win over Oxford United later that month.

Chris Lines

The Bristolian is now in his second long term spell with his hometown club, having previously come through the youth ranks at the Mem and spending nine years with the Pirates until his departure to Sheffield Wednesday in 2011. Lines made 190 appearances in his first stint with the Pirates, helping them to the final of the Football League Trophy and promotion from League Two in 2007. Lines then spent two seasons with Sheffield Wednesday, becoming an instrumental part of their return to the Championship in his first year. After a loan spell at Milton Keynes and time with Port Vale, Lines returned to the South West in March 2015, initially back at Bristol Rovers on loan, before making the move a permanent one once promotion back to the EFL was confirmed.

Tom Nichols

The forward is in his second season with the Pirates after signing from fellow League One side Peterborough United. Nichols would be more known for his time in League Two with Exeter City, scoring 34 league goals for the Grecians, and also picking up a Man of the Match award for his performance in a 2-2 draw against Liverpool in the FA Cup third round in 2016. Nichols joined current Rovers’ boss Grant McCann’s Peterborough just a month after his stunning performance against the Reds, and he went on to hit double figures in League One the following season, which in turn led to his move back to the South West with the Pirates.

Who's the ref?

Neil Hair will be the man in the middle when the two sides meet on Saturday. So far this season, Hair has taken charge of 14 games in league and cup competitions, dishing out 44 yellow cards and brandishing a red card three times.

Hair is yet to take charge of a game involving either side, with this being his first season as an EFL official after two previous seasons working in the National League, where he was in the middle for last season's National League play-off final which saw Tranmere Rovers defeat Boreham Wood, despite being down to 10 men after just 48 seconds following Liam Ridehalgh's early dismissal.

Hair will be joined by assistant referees Matthew Lee and Danny Gratton, with Andrew Aylott being named as the fourth official.

Last time out

Bristol came out on top in the last battle of the Rovers when the two sides met at the Keepmoat Stadium back in January. John Marquis put Doncaster in front inside four minutes, but goals from Ryan Sweeney, Rory Gaffney and Ellis Harrison saw Bristol return to the South West with three points.

That result avenged the defeat the Pirates suffered in two days before Christmas last year, as Niall Mason’s first half penalty was all Doncaster needed to seal three points of their own at the Memorial Stadium.

Rovers Half Season Memberships are available now – online at, at the Club Doncaster Box Office in person or via telephone 01302 762576.

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