MATCH PREVIEW: Bristol Rovers v Hartlepool United

GasCast Match Previews by Simon Gray

Bristol Rovers play their first league match in over a month this weekend as they welcome Hartlepool United to the Memorial Stadium.

The Gas have had their last four league matches postponed due to a Covid outbreak at the club and have therefore not played a League Two fixture since the 4-2 win over Rochdale in mid-December.

Rovers did manage to field a side last weekend in order to fulfil an FA Cup Third Round fixture where they were beaten 2-1 at Championship Peterborough United.

Rovers were also without manager Joey Barton for that due to a positive Covid test but the former Fleetwood boss should be back in the dugout for the Hartlepool game as long as he provides two negative tests prior to the match.

Injuries and Suspensions have also hampered Rovers in recent weeks, with Sam Finley completing his third and final game of a three-match ban but Cian Harries returns after serving his suspension period.

New signings James Connolly and Ryan Loft are set to make their league debuts for Rovers as they look to propel themselves up the league table.

Loft was cup-tied for the Peterborough game whereas Connolly was announced two hours before kick-off and impressed on his debut against a side that were free-scoring on their way to promotion to the second tier last season and coach Andy Mangan has spoken of the club’s desire to bring the Cardiff U23 captain in.

“James is a really good player,” Mangan told BristolLive.

“He’s been on our radar since he played at Blackburn. We’ve got him on loan from Cardiff and he can play in the four, and he can play centre-back. He’s a big boy and he can pass with both feet and he competes.

“He’ll be a really good signing for us, someone who will come in and definitely contribute for the rest of the season.”

“We’ve got an awful lot of boys coming back from COVID and suspension and a lot of lads are coming back from injury so the squad is looking really strong at the moment,” he added.

“We’re very excited for the rest of the season. In the last 10 games, the fans have seen a massive desire and a will to win.

“It’s time. With just a little bit more time on the training ground and the lads are understanding what they’re very good at and what we need to work on.

“The lads have been superb. The team spirit in and around the training ground, it’s awesome. There has been a big shift at the football club and we are ready to move forward. The culture of the team is excellent.

“There are going to be a couple more moments, it’s not going to be all plain sailing from here. We have to work very hard on the pitch and once the performances come, the results will come.”

Hartlepool go into the game having played four matches since Rovers’ last league fixture, two in the league and two in the cups and notably knocking Championship Blackpool out of the FA Cup earning an away tie at Premiership Crystal Palace.

The Pools are however winless in their last five away games in the league, last coming away with three points on the road at Bradford on the 19th of October.

Hartlepool have new signings Jake Hull and Marcus Carver available after their arrivals this week.

Striker Carver signed on a permanent deal from Southport and defender Hull shortly followed him through the door on loan from Rotherham and boss Graeme Lee gave his reaction to the young defender joining.

“I am very pleased to get Jake Hull in,” Lee told the Hartlepool Mail.

“Another player who comes in with a great attitude and character.

“He has the attributes we were looking for in a defender and we know he can be a real success here.

“We would like to thank Rotherham as well for allowing Jake to spend the remainder of the season with us.”

Lineup Predictions:

Bristol Rovers Predicted XI (3-4-3):

Hartlepool United Predicted XI (3-5-2): Killip (GK), Byrne, Liddle, Odusina; Sterry, Featherstone, Crawford, Holohan, Ferguson; Molyneux, Culllen

Score Predictions:

Harley: The Gas 2-0 Hartlepool

Max, Mets & Sam: The Gas 2-1 Hartlepool United

Simon: The Gas 3-1 Hartlepool