Rochdale v Bristol Rovers Match Preview


By Simon Gray

Bristol Rovers head up to Rochdale without striker Matthew Taylor for the first time since his deadline day move to arch rivals Bristol City.

Taylor’s move to City caused uproar across the north of Bristol but manager Darrell Clarke has called for calmness and also noted that he has already got a replacement in mind without delving into the free agent market.

“Luke James was brought into the football club as a replacement for Matty Taylor,” Clarke told the Bristol Post.

“Luke has not had a fair opportunity to show why I have brought him into the club. He, along with the other strikers, will now get that chance to step up to the plate.

“That’s why I didn’t panic and pay over the odds for another striker on deadline day.

“I’ve worked with these boys and I know what they are about. We move on as a club and I can confirm that I did not lose one wink of sleep over it.”

Rovers also go into the game bolstered by a new signing with Rob Harris joining on a free transfer to provide competition for left back Lee Brown.

“Bob comes in at left-back. He is coming back from an injury that has set him back a little bit.” Clarke said.

“We’ve offered him a contract until the end of the season. He will push Lee Brown for the left-back spot and has a chance to earn himself a longer-deal.”

Rochdale go into the game having been knocked out of the FA Cup Fourth Round last time out at the hands of Huddersfield.

Dale lost 4-0 that day and it was the second week in a row they lost by that score line at home with them being beaten by Oxford United in the league the week before.

However they have only drawn one and lost three home games all season, winning the other 10 and manager Keith Hill is looking forward to the final few months of the season.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen with respect to the next 19 games but I’m excited by the prospect of playing against Bristol Rovers at the weekend or any other opposition,” Hill told the club’s website.

“It’ll be a good game. They’re a good side and they’ve adjusted brilliantly to League One. Darrell is an excellent manager and I think he does things with a lot of enthusiasm.

“They’re having to deal again with, in the way that we’ve dealt with, losing their talisman and their leading goal scorer, but he’ll deal with it really well and they’ll adjust because they’re a good, good side.”

Team news ahead of the match is that Rochdale are without Josh Lillis and former Rovers midfielder Matthew Lund who both underwent operations on their respective injuries this week.

Calvin Andrew suffered a fractured cheekbone in the defeat to Huddersfield meaning he could be out for some time.

Joe Bunney, Steven Davies and Joe Thompson also remain on the side lines.

Ollie Rathbone returned to training this week and could be back in time for the weekend.

Rovers are without Liam Lawrence after he had his contract cancelled by mutual consent on deadline day.

Peter Hartley and Jake Clarke-Salter remain on the injury list but new signing Johnny Burn could feature for the first time since his permanent move from Middlesbrough.


Rovers have only ever beaten Dale twice in their 15 visits to the Crown Oil Arena.

The last meeting between the two sides ended in a 2-2 draw at the Memorial Stadium earlier in the season.

In Rovers’ last visit to the Crown Oil Arena in 2013, Lee Brown, Ollie Clarke and Ellis Harrison all featured with Captain Tom Lockyer as an unused substitute.

21, Bristol Rovers fan for as long as i can remember. Highlight has to be to 06/07 Play Off win. Seen Rovers at 43/92 clubs in England and counting.

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