It’s a midweek six pointer this week as Bristol Rovers host relegation rivals Swindon Town on Tuesday with both sides looking to climb out of trouble.
The Gas and The Robins are locked on 34 points in 19th and 20th respectively and are only safe from the dreaded four relegation places by goal difference, with Swindon leapfrogging Rovers at the weekend thanks to a 2-0 win at Fleetwood.
Rovers meanwhile, were well beaten away at Plymouth in a defeat that manager Joey Barton described as ‘abysmal’. Barton even went onto say that some players might be shown the exit door this week if they are not up for the fight.
“We now go into a phase of 10 games when we’re fighting for our footballing lives,” Barton said.
“We’re trying to climb Everest and those that can come with us, great, because the higher we go now, the altitude, the air gets thinner and if we’ve got any passengers, they’ll cause casualties along the way.
“So on Monday morning, we might lose one or two, because we can’t have any dead weight trying to summit this mountain that is in front of us for our League One survival.
“I’ve asked the lads to have a day with their families tomorrow to analyse their performance, the team performance, I only want people from here on in that understand we’re trying to climb Everest, who understand that as you get higher and higher, the altitude and the air gets thinner and thinner, and it gets tougher and tougher.
“We can’t have any passengers for these next 10 games, because if we have passengers, we’ll all die, we’ll all be killed. You can’t, with the challenge we’re trying to do, carry people.
“I’ve asked them to go away and have a long, hard look at themselves, and decide on Monday whether they’re all-in or not.
“If they’re all-in, great, we’ll get on with the job of summiting the mountain. If they’re not, they won’t be coming on the journey with us.”
Joe Day is expected to be back between the sticks for the Gas after serving a one match ban. First choice Anssi Jaakkola is close to a return but Tuesday’s crunch match will come too soon for the Big Fin. Josh Grant is still recovering from the injury sustained at Hull a few weeks ago with both Alex Rodman and Josh Barrett also missing through injury.
Swindon go into the game having halted a run of four defeats in a row with the victory over Fleetwood last time out and they, like Rovers, are hoping for a positive result to create a gap between themselves and the relegation zone.
Swindon went into the Fleetwood game with manager John Sheridan making several changes to his defensive line up, regular centre back pairing Dion Conroy and former Rovers defender Tom Broadbent were dropped and there was a debut for experienced goalkeeper Lee Camp.
Camp became the seventh goalkeeper to play for the Robins this season and the fifth to win on debut and boss Sheridan praised his new number one along with his side’s overall defensive display.
“I think our biggest problem and I’ve said it many a time, is the goals we concede,” Sheridan told the Swindon Advertiser.
“Even against Fleetwood, we’ve played very well overall, but their two big opportunities have come from our mistake.
“One was from our free-kick out wide which they’ve then broke on us, and the other one is when we play a risky ball into the middle of the pitch when we shouldn’t.
“We’ve been getting punished for those mistakes throughout the season, but we looked solid against Fleetwood.
“The five of them there looked solid, and you had Lee Camp with his experience. It was a good performance, but we’ve got to take this into a massive game against Bristol Rovers on Tuesday night.”
“Lee has got the experience, and he’s played at a high level. He’s a talker, we’ve seen that in the few days that he’s trained with us so far. I think it will give the lads a bit of confidence as well, knowing they’ve got a quality goalkeeper behind them.
“He sees the game, and he’s always talking to his defence and keeping them on their toes. His experience will hopefully be very valuable for us in the final 10 games.”
Having been pleased with his side’s performance at the weekend and with no new injury concerns, Sheridan may opt to play an unchanged side in the crunch match at the Memorial Stadium.
Bristol Rovers Predicted XI (3-4-1-2):
Swindon Predicted XI (5-3-2): Camp (GK), Caddis, Iandolo, Grant, Odimayo, Thompson, Palmer, Missilou, Pitman, Payne, Twine.
Mets and Max: The Gas 1-1 Swindon Town
Simon: The Gas 1-0 Swindon Town
Jack: The Gas 2-0 Swindon Town