We take a look at Bristol Rovers in our next preview.
We continue our previews of the 23 other teams in League 2 next season by having a look at Bristol Rovers. Find out when we play John Ward's side when the fixtures are released on 19th June.
Formed in 1883, the club joined the Football League in 1920 after the Southern League was transferred into Division Three. Spending over 30 years in that league, Rovers won the competition, and with it promotion in the 1952/53 season. Since then, the club have been promoted a further three times and relegated five times. The most recent promotion was in 2006/07, through the play-offs, with a trip to Wembley Stadium. Rovers won 3-1 against Shrewsbury Town, Richard Walker’s brace and Sammy Igoe’s tap in sealing a memorable victory. That same season, the Pirates went to the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff for the JPT Final, losing 3-2 to Doncaster Rovers after extra time. Rovers returned to League 2 in 2011.
The experienced John Ward returned to Bristol Rovers for the second time in December 2012 after Mark McGhee’s departure from the Memorial Stadium. During his playing career, Ward, a striker, represented Lincoln City over 200 times before having stints at Watford and Grimsby Town. Retiring from playing in 1982, Ward returned to football as York City manager nine years later. His first spell as Bristol Rovers boss was in 1993, where he spent three seasons before crossing to rivals, Bristol City. At the start of the millennium he became caretaker manager at Wolves before spells in charge of Cheltenham Town, Carlisle United and Colchester United. This coming campaign will be the 62 year-old’s first full season in charge of Rovers since his return.
The goalkeeping options for Ward are between the experienced Steve Mildenhall and Essex-born Conor Gough. Mildenhall began his career at hometown club Swindon before spending time at the likes of Notts County, Oldham Athletic and Yeovil Town. The 34 year-old had a two-year spell with Blues, where he was a mainstay in the side from 2008-2010, before signing for Millwall. Signed for Rovers in 2013 on a free transfer. Gough began his career at Charlton Athletic and gained experience in non-league. The 19 year-old signed for the Pirates at the beginning of last season. At the back will see the likes of Danny Woodards, a former MK Dons player, and the highly rated captain, Tom Parkes, a former Leicester City trainee. In midfield will be the much travelled former Exeter City and Walsall man, Matt Gill. Alongside the 32 year-old could be Oliver Norburn. Another former Leicester player, Norburn had a short spell on loan with Rovers in 2011 and penned a permanent deal with the club at the start of last season. Up front, John Ward will have ex-Bristol City forward David Clarkson and former Blues striker Matt Harrold. Ellis Harrison will hope to push on after an encouraging second half of last season.
John Ward will be looking at the talents of 21 year-old Elliot Richards if his side are to challenge for promotion in 2013/14. The Welshman has spent the last two campaigns as a regular in the Rovers side and played 42 times in all competitions last season. The youngster, who came through the Pirates’ Academy, will be looking to add more goals to his game after netting six times during 2012/13.
After a disappointing start to the campaign, Rovers finally won a league game at the ninth attempt, winning away at Exeter City 2-1. However, Mark McGhee only picked up another three wins in his next 15 games and was sacked on 15th December, as Rovers languished at the foot of the table. John Ward took over later that week and eventually took Rovers clear of the drop zone, finishing in 14th place.
John Ward oversaw a number of players being let go including winger Joe Anyinsah, goalkeeper, Scott Bevan, and Adam Virgo. Matt Harrold re-signed alongside Jim Paterson, Mark McChrystal and Michael Smith. The club’s assistant manager, Shaun North departed from the club at the end of last season and Ward will be on the lookout for a replacement.
BLUES vs. BRISTOL ROVERS 2012/13:
Home: Blues 0-0 Bristol Rovers
The game at Roots Hall in April ended in stalemate. Blues had a number of chances to win the game but Barry Corr and Britt Assombalonga wasted good opportunities.
Blues: Bentley, Clohessy, Straker, Cresswell, Leonard (Hurst, 87), Mkandawire, Lund, Laird, Eastwood (Tomlin, 78), Corr, Assombalonga
Unused: Smith, Phillips, Barker, Pinnock, Njie
Away: Bristol Rovers 2-3 Blues
An entertaining game saw Blues win by the odd goal. Rovers took a 1-0 lead through Fabian Broghammer before Gavin Tomlin and then Kevan Hurst put the visitors 2-1 up before half time. Ryan Cresswell added a third just
after the hour, and David Clarkson grabbed a late consolation from the penalty spot five minutes from time.
Blues: Smith, Clohessy, Cresswell, Phillips, Barker, Mkandawire, Timlin, Hurst, Laird, Assombalonga (Corr, 90), Tomlin (Leonard, 73)
Unused: Bentley, Straker, Martin, Woodyard, Eastwood
Bristol Rovers are 11/4 to win promotion this coming season.