Bristol Rovers head to top of the league Lincoln City this weekend on the back of their first league win of the season.
Rovers beat Northampton 2-0 last weekend and the performances of certain players gave the fans a new sense of optimism early on in the season.
Standout performers included summers signings David Tutonda and Brandon Hanlan, with the latter earning and scoring the opening goal form the penalty spot.
Rovers followed that win up with a penalty shootout loss in the EFL Trophy to Oxford in midweek, with many youngsters getting a chance to shine in the heavily criticised competition.
Just like the Northampton match, there were a couple of standout performers, including academy graduates Tom Mehew and Cameron Hargreaves – who both played exceptionally well against last year’s League One Play Off finalists.
Mehew, who now has two in two for the Gas spoke of his surprise in finding the net during his minutes on the pitch.
“I am surprised by it all,” Mehew told the Bristol Post.
“I don’t think in my whole youth career I’ve ever scored to be honest, and then I’ve come up to the first team and scored twice.
“I don’t know what I was doing in there to be honest, it was all on instinct. It’s a shock, but I’m just happy to be around and when I get my chance I’ll take it.
“I was happy with my performance but I’d rather get the win so I can play more games in this cup, because that would happen if we won.
“I’ve travelled most league games, but I haven’t been on the bench yet. All I can do is try to take my chance when I get it and be ready for it.”
Mehew’s strong performances in the EFL Trophy mean that Ben Garner may elect to include him in a league game soon with the young manager priding himself on his selection policy of whoever impresses in training, no matter their age.
Rovers will have Anssi Jaakkola available despite the international break after the Finland international was left out of their upcoming Nations League fixtures. Both Josh Barrett and Alex Rodman are nearing a return but the match at Sincil Bank may come too soon for the pair.
Sam Nicolson played 70 minutes in midweek as he continued his rehabilitation from a calf injury and will be pushing for a return to League action.
Lincoln host The Gas with The Imps top of the table, winning all four of their league games so far.
The Imps were tipped for a promotion push last term before old boss Danny Cowley left for Huddersfield, with Michael Appleton chosen as his successor.
Appleton, who has now spent just over a year in charge at Sincil Bank will be hoping to add another promotion to his managerial CV and will be delighted by the start his Lincoln side have made. The former Oxford boss led the U’s to second place in the League Two 2015/16 season, ahead of Darrell Clarke’s Rovers side in third.
After wins over former club Oxford and MK Dons, Appleton’s side have followed those results up with a 2-0 win over recently relegated Charlton before a dramatic 3-2 win at Blackpool.
That win at Bloomfield Road ‘had everything’ in the eyes of Appleton, as he told the club’s website:
“We had a mixture of everything today, the good, the bad and the ugly.
“We were below it in the first half and there is no doubt about that but, I think we showed good character to get into the game. We didn’t give them the chance to build on the lead in the first half.
“In the second half we dominated and were excellent, we controlled it well. The lads went behind twice and won the game which will be good mentally going forward.”
Ahead of the game against Rovers, Appleton spoke of how he watched their recent loss at Doncaster.
“It’s going to be tough”, Appleton told Lincolnshire Live.
“They got their first win on Saturday [against Northampton].
“I saw them at Doncaster recently [losing 4-1] but it wasn’t really a 4-1. Donny played well on the day, but Bristol Rovers had opportunities before the game was taken away from them.
“They’re a very physical, very aggressive side.”
Lincoln will be without Brennan Johnson, Aaron Lewis and Zack Elbouzedi, who have all been called up to their respective nations U21s.
Callum Morton, Joe Walsh and Max Melbourne will all miss the game through injury.
Max – Lincoln City 3-1 The Gas
Simon – Lincoln 2-2 The Gas
Harley – Lincoln 2-0 The Gas
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