Dartford v Bristol Rovers

Dartford will need to be up to the task of hosting an in form Bristol Rovers side looking to return to League Two at the first attempt.

Undoubtedly the Darts will be underdogs despite home advantage as they look to close the gap on those above them in the Conference Premier. Dartford have lost nine of their last ten league games whilst the Pirates boast the longest unbeaten record this season. The West Country side have not lost in the league since mid October stretching back 14 games.

Tony Burman celebrated ten consecutive years in charge last weekend with a 2-2 draw in the F.A Trophy. FC Halifax Town took the lead on 12 minutes through Richard Peniket and were two up just before the break when Matty Pearson nodded past Jason Brown. With current form against the Darts the tie looked done and dusted, but a spirited second half forced a replay. Substitute Ryan Hayes scored direct from a corner for the second time this season and defender Rory McAuley volleyed a late leveller. In injury time, a disallowed goal for offside denied Dartford progression to the last eight.

After a disappointing 6-1 defeat to rivals Dover Athletic in their last league fixture, Burman has been given the green light to continue as manager with the board backing the boss. New co-chairman Steve Irving told before the F.A Trophy games: “Tony is integral to what we’re doing going forward, both as a director and manager”, he added “Tony is the right man. We will do everything we can to support him”.

A new face may well take part on the weekend with the signing of Jamie Richards from Plymouth Argyle. The left sided 20 year old will be with the Darts on loan for initially a month. His last club was Linfield in Northern Ireland where he spent six months, the defender has made three appearances for his parent club Plymouth Argyle. Out of contract Mat Mitchel-King departed the club this week, the centre back has now joined St Neots Town closer to where the 31 year old works. Mitchel-King made 70 appearances for the Darts in all competitions over the last season and a half.

The story is the complete opposite across the other side of England, Bristol Rovers under former Salisbury City boss Darrell Clarke have gelled. A slow start over the first seven games left the Pirates in 15th. Then came an unbeaten run of nine including five straight victories. In that run without a loss they beat Dartford 1-0 at the Memorial Ground. Top scorer Matt Taylor fired in a first half penalty to win the match but the fixture was marred by reports of Darts goalkeeper Jason Brown suffering racial abuse, an incident later dealt with by Bristol Rovers officials.

Despite the negativity of that night, the Pirates are in third spot with a game in hand over leaders Barnet. Clarke’s side will not want to lose any ground as they chase down an eight point deficit in a bid to return to the Football League. Expectations are high for the West Country club and the best defence in the Conference Premier has helped them mount a challenge. It’s been a fortnight since their last game against Woking which saw a second consecutive clean sheet in a 0-0 draw.

Intentions during the January window have been clear with the permanent signing of Jermaine Easter and loan deal for Adam Dawson. Easter has plenty of Football League experience most recently with Millwall and Crystal Palace. Dawson signed for Leicester City two years ago but has been out on loan with Notts County and this term Nuneaton Town. Nathan Blissett strengthens the forward line joining from Kidderminster Harriers.

Head to Head

Dartford wins: 0 / Bristol Rovers wins: 2 / Draws: 0

Current League Form

Dartford (LLLLLW) Bristol Rovers (DWDWWW)
Dover Athletic  A  1-6 Woking  A  0-0
FC Halifax Town  H  1-2 Nuneaton Town  A  2-0
Kidderminster Harriers  H  1-2 Torquay United  H  1-1
Braintree Town  A  0-3 Macclesfield Town  H  4-0
Braintree Town  H  0-2 Torquay United  A  2-1
Wrexham  A  3-1 Gateshead  H  3-2

Previous Meetings (* – F.A Cup)

07.10.2014 Bristol Rovers 1 Dartford 0
08.12.1934* Dartford 0 Bristol Rovers 1


9 – Dartford have conceded the most penalties in the league this campaign

12 – matches since Bristol Rovers lost an away league game, the longest current sequence in the league

26 – league games since Dartford kept a clean sheet against Torquay United

6009 – Expect a large turnout of Bristol Rovers fans, the biggest supported club in the Conference Premier this season has an average gate of just over 6000

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