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No more nice guys, a red-hot striker and a former Town hero – a look at Bristol Rovers ahead of Blues’ battle

PUBLISHED: 17:36 12 March 2020 | UPDATED: 17:36 12 March 2020

Tyler Smith wheels away after beating Tomas Holy to give Bristol Rovers an early lead in the 2-1 win at Town last December. Picture: STEVE WALLER

Tyler Smith wheels away after beating Tomas Holy to give Bristol Rovers an early lead in the 2-1 win at Town last December. Picture: STEVE WALLER

© Copyright Stephen Waller

As it stands, Ipswich Town travel to Bristol Rovers this weekend for a League One clash. Mark Heath looks at the storylines from Bristol going into the game....

STORY SO FAR

When Town and Bristol Rovers last clashed, the League One landscape looked very different.

Rovers' upset 2-1 win at Portman Road on December 14 last year pushed them up to fourth in the table and was just Town's second home defeat of a season which had started very positively (remember those halcyon days?)

But that match was also the last in charge of Rovers for Graham Coughlan, who jumped ship to take charge of League Two Mansfield Town a few days later.

Former West Brom assistant Ben Garner took over, but the Gas went on a terrible run of just two wins in 16 games which saw them plummet down the table.

They now sit 14th in League One, seven points behind Town with one game in hand.

They lost 3-1 to lowly Southend United on Saturday, but bounced back to upset promotion-chasing Sunderland 2-0 on Tuesday night.

NO MORE MR NICE GUYS

Star striker Jonson Clarke-Harris, who netted both goals in the win over Sunderland, said the victory was bittersweet.

'It's a bit half and half you see because we know we can actually play like that, so we're over the moon to beat such a good team,' he explained.

'But we are still disappointed in ourselves because it has taken so long to actually play like that.

'I think it's gone past that point now of being nice to each other so we are all on each other every day in training now. The penny's dropped.

'No more niceness from any of us anymore because we had a chance this year to go on and actually achieve something and we all messed up.

'So you know back to training ground, back to working hard, back to square one and back to basics.'

OPERATION SPOILERS

While Rovers have left themselves too much to do to push for the play-offs this season, boss Garner insists that a large part of their motovation for the rest of this campaign will be trying to derail other sides chasing the top six.

As well as Town - who surely have also made a Horlicks of their season - the Gas will also face Peterborough, Oxford United and Portsmouth in their run-in.

'It's been a long time coming to put on a right shift and a right performance in front of the fans,' Garner said after the Sunderland win.

'They've seen it go from a high to a real low, in such a short space so you know it's nice to give something back.

Because they spend their hard money coming to support us and specially coming from the game at Southend, they deserved something.

'We've said it before in the changing room, let's just see if we can mess up everyone else's season (up) now.

ONES TO WATCH

The aforementioned Clarke-Harris is Rovers' stand-out threat.

He didn't play in Rovers' win at Portman Road back in December, but has netted 16 times in his 35 games so far this season.

He's fired in 72 shots in those matches, with 39 on target, for a 54% ratio.

After Clarke-Harris' goals there's a big drop off though.

Fellow forward Tyler Smith, who did score in the win at Town among his five strikes for Rovers, has since left the Gas and is now on loan at Rochdale.

Veteran defender Tony Craig, who's made 45 appearances so far this season, is one of a number of players who have netted three times, along with Abu Ogogo, Tom Nichols and Alex Rodman.

A FAMILIAR FACE

Remember the name Ed Upson?

The Bury St Edmunds boy wrote his name into Town folklore when, as a 15-year-old substitute, he lashed home the winner in Town's 3-2 extra-time triumph over star-studded Southampton in the FA Youth Cup Final back in April 2005.

The two-legged clash saw the Saints field the likes of Theo Walcott, Leon Best, David McGoldrick and Gareth Bale, while schoolboy Upson only got on the bench because Owen Garvan fell ill.

The midfielder has gone on to have a solid career in professional football, winning promotion to the Championship with Yeovil, and playing for Millwall, and the MK Dons as well as Rovers.

He's played 44 times for the Gas this season, scoring two goals.


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