Bristol Rovers start their “2019⁄20” League One season away at Blackpool with fans optimistic after avoiding relegation last term.
The Gas go into the game having won the final pre-season game 1-0 away at recently relegated and hotly tipped to bounce back up to League One Plymouth Argyle last weekend.
Much of Rovers’ survival last season was down to the goals of January signing Jonson Clarke-Harris, with the striker netting 11 times in his 16 appearances for the Gas. However, Rovers may be without the striker this weekend after manager Graham Coughlan stated in his pre-match press conference that although he is fit, he may not be selected.
“Jonno’s fit, whether he’s used at Blackpool or not, I haven’t made that decision,” Coughlan told the Bristol Post.
“He’s been on the grass this week, whether I chuck him in and risk him is another thing.
“We’ll assess Jonno after today, we’ll have a look at him and see where he is. It’s a 46-game season, if you chuck in cup games you’re looking at anything up to 56 games in a season, so to risk a player on the opening weekend would be foolish.
“There’s one or two little areas that need to be tightened up so far as Jonno, I’m not 100 per cent sure at this moment in time on if he’ll play or not.
“Most Rovers fans may be weary of a Clarke-Harris-less Rovers but given that the striker has not featured in any pre-season friendlies, it could be for the best that he is not rushed back.”
Other injury concerns for Rovers include Tareiq Holmes-Dennis, who could be out until November after injuring himself in pre-season and midfielder Sam Matthews is another casualty from the summer.
News broke on Thursday that striker Gavin Reilly has headed out on loan to Cheltenham Town until January but new signings Tyler Smith and Victor Adeboyejo will be keen to fill the Scotsman’s boots.
Blackpool go into the game after what some would say as an eventful summer. Last season’s boss Terry McPhillips stepped down claiming he never wanted the job long term and he was replaced by experienced manager Simon Grayson, who has brought in a host of new signings, Jak Alnwick and Joe Nuttall to name a couple.
Nuttall was a target for Rovers this summer, but Rovers boss Coughlan said that Rovers were just not able to match Blackpool’s offer for the then Blackburn striker.
“I fully expect them to maybe have a centre-forward in the building before kick-off on Saturday,” Coughlan continued.
“One which we like as well but we just can’t match Blackpool.”
Blackpool have lost former Rovers left back Marc Bola over the summer with the defender joining Middlesbrough for a reported £1.2million.
Blackpool’s only injury worry seems to be midfielder Matty Virtue, after he limped off during a 2-0 win over Fylde three weeks ago.
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