Bristol Rovers face Oxford United this weekend boosted by their first win of the League campaign.
The Gas beat nine-man Tranmere 2-0 in midweek thanks to goals from Jonson Clarke-Harris and Tyler Smith.
In what is normally a heated affair, the match with Oxford this weekend is also heightened with the news of the return of former Rovers striker Matty Taylor, who left the Gas to sign for arch-rivals Bristol City on Deadline Day in January 2017.
Taylor, who started his career at Oxford, rejoined the Yellows this week on loan until the end of the season. After an indifferent spell in South Bristol, scoring nine times in 75 appearances. Taylor had joined the Robins after a prolific two and a half years at Rovers where he scored 68 times in 134 games.
Rovers have struggled to replace Taylor’s goals since he left, Luke James was brought in whilst Taylor was still at Rovers but struggled to find the net. Tom Nichols was signed from Peterborough in the summer of 2017 but has also struggled to hit form.
This was until manager Graham Coughlan brought Jonson Clarke-Harris in on a free from Coventry in January, with the striker’s goals helping Rovers avoid relegation last term.
Clarke-Harris scored 11 in 16 last season and opened his account for the 2019⁄20 League One campaign on Tuesday night and the striker has spoken of his desire to hit the ground running once again.
“The sharper I get the better I will get,” Clarke-Harris told the Bristol Post
“I’m looking to build on what I did last season so for me right now it’s a great start. I just need more minutes and more game time. I need to train hard, play hard and give us much as I can for the boys.”
“It’s been a long pre-season for me as well, having the operation [on his lower abdomen], watching the boys do their pre-season and realising that I actually really, really miss football. April to August was a long time to be away from the game and I actually appreciate the sport a lot more now.
“I just want to score goals, win games, it’s as clear as that. It’s a short career so I want to be the best that I can be.”
Rovers manager Graham Coughlan may look to the same side that beat Tranmere last time out, meaning the new 3-5-2 system may remain in place. Rovers are still nursing the injuries of first teamers Mark Little, Liam Sercombe and Tareiq Holmes-Dennis.
Oxford travel west to face Rovers after suffering a second defeat of the season in midweek, losing to Burton 4-2 at the Kassam Stadium after being 2-1 up.
Losing in midweek, accompanied by a defeat at Blackpool and a draw with Sunderland means that Oxford sit in 16th place and only above Saturday’s opponents on goals scored and manager Karl Robinson spoke of his sides tough start to the campaign.
“We have played at Sunderland, Blackpool and now Bristol Rovers”, he told the club’s website “There is an expectancy and an intensity at all those grounds. They are places that make you feel like you want to perform. It’s a decent ground and although there may be a few people away for Bank Holiday there will still be plenty there and a great atmosphere.
“We are in a good place, certainly in terms of performances if not the last two results, but it is important that we go out there and play as well as we have done at Sunderland and Blackpool where in both games the fans gave us a standing ovation when we left the pitch.”
Robinson has no new injury worries, but Tarique Fosu will be pushing for a recall after returning to the squad on Tuesday following a knock.
In some unrelated news to match previews; Bristol Rovers fans were hit with some extremely upsetting news on Thursday morning when they learned that former striker Junior Agogo passed away at the tender age of 40.
The Ghanaian striker played 140 games in all competitions for the Gas between 2003 and 2006, scoring 45 goals. Agogo was an integral part of Rovers’ attack during this period, becoming an instant fans favourite before joining Nottingham Forest for an undisclosed fee.
The club will be holding a minutes applause before Saturday’s clash and they will also be celebrating some of Agogo’s most memorable moments via a montage on the big screen before kick-off.