Rovers are set to return to the Eco-Power Stadium this weekend for the first time since New Year's Day as they welcome Hartlepool United in Sky Bet League Two.
The game will mark five weeks since Danny Schofield’s side last entertained an opponent on home soil - the last being Carlisle United as Rovers won 2-1 thanks to goals from James Maxwell and Kyle Hurst.
The Pools’ visit also sees a first league fixture take place on a Saturday at the Eco-Power Stadium since October.
The last meeting
Hartlepool took all three points when the two sides last met at The Suit Direct Stadium on a Tuesday night back in October.
Josh Umerah put the hosts ahead just before the break, only to see Bobby Faulkner net his first goal in professional football in the 67th minute to pull Rovers level.
Just as the game looked to be heading for a draw, Wes McDonald struck to snatch the points at the death and send the visitors back to South Yorkshire empty handed.
Hartlepool’s recent form
Pools have won one of their previous six league games stretching back to a 2-1 defeat at home to Mansfield in their final game of 2022.
They began the New Year with a 3-3 draw at fellow strugglers Harrogate, before losing 2-0 at Gillingham. They picked up their first win of 2023 against another side around them in the table, when they beat Rochdale at Victoria Park on January 21.
They have fallen to back-to-back defeats since then though, losing to Carlisle United and Colchester United respectively.
Josh Umerah came through the youth system at Charlton Athletic in 2015 and has spent most of his senior career between the National League and the EFL, having also spent a short loan spell in Scotland with Kilmarnock.
The striker only turned out for the Addicks twice but spent time on loan with Wycombe Wanderers and Boreham Wood before permanent spells with Ebbsfleet United, Torquay United and Wealdstone, scoring 31 goals in 125 appearances.
The 25-year-old arrived in the northeast from Wealdstone for an undisclosed fee in July 2022 and has played a huge role in Hartlepool’s season with the number nine currently leading the club’s goalscoring charts, netting on 13 separate occasions this term - 10 times in Sky Bet League Two and three in the Emirates FA Cup.
Club captain Nicky Featherstone has been as key as they come for the Pools over the past decade, becoming the club’s longest-serving player after surpassing the 200-appearance mark during the 2019/20 season.
The midfielder was a youth graduate at Hull City but only managed eight games in the amber and black of the Tigers, going on to sign for six different clubs during the first eight years of his career, most notably spending time with Hereford United and Walsall.
Featherstone signed for then-manager Paul Murray’s Hartlepool in October 2014 and has been a stalwart in the middle of the park ever since, making 323 appearances in the blue and white, scoring 19 goals and playing a major part in his sides’ promotion back into the Football League in 2021.
London-born Wes McDonald joined Hartlepool in a switch from Morecambe in August 2022 and is currently enjoying his second-most prolific season of his career.
The 25-year-old spent time at Crystal Palace and Fulham during his youth career but graduated from the academy at Birmingham City, where he spent three years without make a senior appearance. He also spent time on loan at Nuneaton Town and Solihull Moors before making a permanent switch to Yeovil Town in 2019.
A year later, McDonald moved onto Walsall and, in his first season, scored 10 goals across all competitions – his best record in front of goal to date. In his second season he only managed to score another three goals and moved onto Morecambe.
His stay at the Globe Arena was brief though and he left without scoring in 23 appearances to join up with Hartlepool for the 2022/23 season. Pools’ No.11 has gone on to score three times and assist once this term in 23 appearances across all competitions.