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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 www.kentonline.co.uk 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

Stats

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

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

 

Bristol Rovers

Memorial Stadium Founded 1883 The Pirates

For the first time in 94 years Bristol Rovers will be playing non league football. The city of Bristol will have one team in the Football League after the Pirates were relegated last term. Throughout the fifties the club enjoyed second tier football and spent the sixties onwards in the third and fourth levels. Where the Conference Premier have lost Luton Town they have gained Bristol Rovers, who averaged over 6000 supporters per game last season. Rovers are currently hoping for a new home moving to the provisionally named UWE Stadium. The club plan to sell the Memorial Stadium to help fund a 21700 all seater arena and expect it to be ready by the 2015/16 campaign.

Last Seasonbristol rovers

League Two: 23rd

F.A Cup: 3rd Round

League Cup: 1st Round

County Cup: Quarter final

Top Scorer: John-Joe O’Toole

Average Attendance: 6420

Relegation was always a threat last term despite the Pirates entering the bottom two in the final month. Bristol Rovers spent just three matchdays in the drop zone as they struggled all season on their travels.  At the Memorial Stadium they recorded the tenth best home record and fifth best defence. Away from Bristol, the story was completely different finishing with the worst set of results. The Pirates only away win was against Wycome Wanderers, who themselves were embroiled in the fight to stay up. Entering the final fixtures of the campaign John Ward’s side held a three point advantage two places above the drop. Whilst Northampton Town were winning against Oxford United and Wycombe Wanderers beating Torquay United, Bristol Rovers needed victory at home to Mansfield Town. The Pirates were beaten 1-0 condemning them to the Conference Premier on goal difference. Ward was replaced in March by his assisstant manager and after 41 days was sacked from his Director of Football role.

The Manager – Darrell Clarke

Spending time as assistant since the start of last season, Darrell Clarke moved into the hotseat on 28 March 2014. Although too late to save Bristol Rovers, Clarke’s credentials earned from his time at Salisbury City has given the 36 year old the opportunity to turn fortunes around at the Memorial Stadium. Having left Salisbury City in the summer for the Football League when Clarke returned to the Conference Premier he was destined to face his former club until their recent demise. The former Mansfield Town, Hartlepool United and Salisbury City winger spent three years managing at the Raymond McEnhill Stadium. He turned Salisbury City into a formidable home side leading them to promotion via the palyoffs to the Conference South. He took the Whites to the F.A Cup third round for the first time ever before bowing out to Sheffield United at Brammal Lane. A second playoff triumph followed in 2013 when Salisbury City beat Dover Athletic in the playoffs to take the Wiltshire club back to the Conference Premier.

The Summer

Darrell Clarke brings in two former Salisbury City players following the Wiltshire club’s relegation. Jamie White top scored under Clarke in the Whites promotion season having joined from Winchester City. The 24  year old netted an impressive 51 goals in 32 games for Winchester City in the Wessex League. Stuart Sinclair played 37 times for Salisbury City last term as a midfielder. Jake Gosling gruaduated from Exeter City’s academy, the midfielder made his international debut for Gibralter in May scoring the goal that earned a draw with Estonia. Former Forest Green Rovers striker Matty Taylor joins the Pirates, the England C international spent seven games on loan at Chester last term scoring six goals. The experienced Lee Mansell leaves fellow relegated side Torquay United after 380 appearances, the midfielder was the Gulls longest serving player.

There has been a lot movement out of the Memorial Stadium notably top striker John-Joe O’Toole who activated a release cause. The 25 year old made the League Two Team of the Year after netting 15 goals in a struggling campaign. Matt Harold departs and Brazilian winger Alefe Santos, who joins Derby County. Alan Gow was invited back to prove his fitness but with firm offers from elsewhere he leaves Bristol Rovers. Other players moving on include David Clarkson, Fabian Broghammer, Sean Clucas, Jim Paterson, Eliot Richards and Danny Woodards.

Next Meetings

Tuesday 7 October 2014 at the Memorial Stadium

Saturday 31 January 2015 at Princes Park

League Performance Last Ten Years

bristol rover 10 yrsBest Performances

6th Championship (1955/56 & 1958/59) F.A Cup Quarter Final (1950/51, 1957/58 & 2007/08) Never participated in the F.A Trophy