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Bristol Rovers v Dartford

In form Bristol Rovers are next up for the Darts on the Tuesday night as the sides face each other for the first time in almost eighty years.

Both sides have recorded similar results  over the last three Conference Premier games with one win followed by two successive draws. However, it’s the Pirates who are unbeaten in seven league games and all season at the Memorial Ground, where Dartford will visit for the very first time.

Last week manager Tony Burman remained positive ahead of two difficult fixtures against Grimsby Town and Bristol Rovers, he told www.kentonline.co.uk: “We’ve got a tough game again on Saturday – Grimsby at home – and then Bristol Rovers away on Tuesday. It’s relentless, but at the moment, the guys are starting to get things right. They’re starting to believe and the work rate is there”, he added: To go to Bristol Rovers is going to be another great experience, like when we played Luton Town and Cambridge United last year”.

A late goal on Saturday denied Dartford another famous win against Grimsby Town. Having beaten the Mariners at Blundell Park two seasons ago then at home last year, the Darts almost added a third victory. Elliot Bradbrook hit the woodwork but his brother Tom found the back of the net with another header just past the hour mark. Tom’s third headed goal of the campaign left the Darts in front until the 86th minute. In a match which saw seven cautions by official Christopher Powell, Nathan Collier saw red when his professional foul brought down Lenell John-Lewis, who equalised from the spot.

Prior the 1-1 draw Burman said: “I’m in a more positive mood now than what I’ve been in for a long time, simply because the players are reacting. Slowly but surely, they’re getting into the routine”, he added: “They know what’s wanted from them and they’re having a good go at making things right”.

Before the Mariners visited Princes Park many would have taken a point but being so close to victory left the Dartford boss commenting: “I think we should have kept the three points. We went a goal up and we’ve been punished for a mistake. It’s a bitter pill to swallow but I can’t fault the effort, the way the guys played”.

A draw against one of the early season contenders and a third match unbeaten will give the Darts a positive vibe. Dartford’s squad will now be tested at the back with Collier about to serve a suspension and Lee Burns picking up an injury. Burns was on the wrong end of a hefty challenge on the weekend resulting in the right back being substituted.

Now the Darts face a Bristol Rovers team who were tipped as one of the favourites to go back up. The Pirates, relegated from the Football League last term draw similarities to Luton Town in that they have a strong following. This season Bristol Rovers are already averaging over 5500 at the Memorial Ground and with 94 years of life in the Football League are a big club in the Conference Premier.

At the start of this season, Bristol Rovers picked up one point from the first nine available losing to table toppers Barnet and newly promoted Altrincham. Only one more defeat has been tasted since at part timers Braintree Town, but a five game winning run in September has left Darrell Clarke’s side a point away from a playoff spot.

Clarke, who earned a good reputation at Salisbury City watched his side draw to a late goal on the weekend. Dover Athletic’s Tom Murphy scored in the last minute to cancel out Adam Cunnington’s first half strike. Clarke spoke to BBC Radio Bristol about the disappointment felt by the squad, he said: “It’s a very quiet changing rooms in there. Obviously the lads are very disappointed, as well as the staff, because we should not have chucked it away. We should be sat here with three points”.

The Bristol Rovers boss felt his side could have been better in front of goal and is hoping for an improved result on Tuesday, he continued: “We just need to be more clinical at the top end. But I’m not going to be to critical of the boys. It’s another game where we are undefeated and it’s about all the negatives about today being put right for Tuesday night”.

With a strike force as good as a mid table team, the Pirates have scored 17 times in 14 fixtures, only two more than the Darts. Somewhat surprising with the likes of Cunnington, who scored 29 times over the last two campaigns with Cambridge United and Tamworth. Matthew Taylor is also a good prospect in the Conference Premier having been signed from Forest Green Rovers.

Defensively, the Pirates have the second best home record conceding only three times. At the back their tight defensive displays is the result of a regular back line featuring goalkeeper Steve Mildenhall, Lee Brown, Tom Lockyer and Tom Parkes. In the middle of the park, former Dartford favourite Dave Martin has appeared a dozen times this campaign. The 29 year old had two spells at Princes Park scoring 16 goals in 90 appearances. Martin’s performances and spectacular goals in the Isthmian League’s earned him a move to Crystal Palace before spells with Millwall, Derby County, Southend United, Notts County, Walsall and Luton Town. The winger played 11 times on loan at Dartford last season.

The two sides last met in a F.A Cup tie back in 1934 at the second round stage. Dartford of the Southern League had beaten Enfield 3-0 to qualify for the proper stages, then defeated Bedford Town in a close encounter which ended 3-2. In front of a home crowd of 6805, Bristol Rovers in the Division Three South at the time, edged out the Darts 1-0 at Watling Street.

Team News

Lee Noble hasn’t featured for the Darts since the 2-1 home win versus Dover Athletic, the midfielder has been struggling with an ankle injury. Lee Burns who suffered a rib injury earlier in the season will need to be assessed after suffering from a hefty challenge to the chest on the weekend. Nathan Collier will begin is suspension for the red card he received four minutes from time.

Steve Mildenhall returns from suspension for his sending off against Eastleigh. In the same game Ollie Clarke picked up two cautions and served a ban on the weekend. Andy Monkhouse was included in the matchday squad after returning from injury and missing a month out.

Head to Head

Bristol Rovers wins: 1 / Dartford wins: 0 / Draws: 0

Current Form

Bristol Rovers (DDWWWW) Dartford (DDWLWL)
Dover Athletic H 1-1 Grimsby Town H 1-1
Eastleigh A 1-1 Welling United A 2-2
Southport A 1-0 Nuneaton Town A 2-1
Woking H 2-0 Forest Green Rovers H 1-2
Nuneaton Town H 3-1 Dover Athletic H 2-1
Lincoln City A 3-2 Gateshead A 0-1

Previous Meeting (F.A Cup Second Round)

08.12.1934 Dartford 0 Bristol Rovers 1

 

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