Both Plymouth Argyle and Bristol Rovers come into Saturday’s encounter at the Memorial Stadium knowing that three points could potentially change the trajectory of their season. Rovers bounced back from seven matches without a win whilst Argyle’s capitulation saw them go down to ten men and blow their 1-0 lead against high-flying Ipswich Town as two quick fire goals saw the Tractor Boys secure all three points.
Bristol Rovers have won just once in seven League One matches at home this season, losing the last four in a row.
19th placed Rovers are just three points and four positions below Argyle in the table.
Ryan Lowe’s side have failed to win away at the Memorial Stadium in their last six attempts. Their last win there came on Boxing Day, 2011 as Ashley Hemmings last-gasp winner saw Argyle come from two goals down to win 3-2.
Argyle have lost their last four games in a row, conceding 12 goals in the process.
Rovers will look to field an unchanged side after last weekend’s 4-2 win over AFC Wimbledon.
Goalkeeper Anssi Jaakkola looks set to continue in goal for Paul Tisdale’s side. The Finland international was substituted during the 2-1 win over League Two side Leyton Orient in the Papa John’s Trophy during midweek.
Forward James Daly is expected to be absent. The former Crystal Palace man hasn’t featured since the 6-0 FA Cup win over Darlington a few weeks ago.
Predicted Line-Up (4-3-1-2)
Ehmer, Kilgour, Baldwin, Leahy
Westbrooke, Upson, Grant
Style of Play
Having started the season playing in a 3-5-2 formation, Rovers have switched to a more compact 4-3-1-2 under the watch of new manager Paul Tisdale. The former Exeter City boss picked up his first win at the fourth attempt against Wimbledon last weekend following two losses and a draw since his appointment in November.
Perhaps uncharacteristically of many League One sides, Tisdale’s side like to play without a tall, physically opposing forward. Instead, in Sam Nicholson and Brandon Hanlon, they have two shorter, yet very pacey forwards at their disposal. The duo scored all four against Wimbledon last weekend, doubling their combined tally for the season to eight goals. Whilst Hanlan is a natural forward, Nicholson is typically a winger. This often reflects in his play, drifting out wide and making runs at opponents as Rovers break forward and counter their opponents.
Hanlan, the club’s top scorer in League One this season, combines his abundance of pace with an equal amount of strength, allowing him to play on the shoulder of opposition defenders, able to receive the ball and make bursting runs at goal. His positional awareness twinned with these attributes is exactly why the former Gillingham man has scored exactly a third of Rovers’ league goals so far this season.
Attacking midfielder Erhun Oztumer is the sides primary creative outlet. The former Walsall man has slowly been bedded into the Rovers side since joining on-loan from fellow League One side Charlton in mid-October. Although his impact so far has been far from his usual standards, the 29-year-old has impressed in the recent cup games, scoring in a 6-0 win over Darlington in the FA Cup as well as providing his first league assist last weekend against Wimbledon. Whilst very agile due to his lack of height, a physical approach against the former Bolton man will make it difficult for him to work his magic.
23-year-old Zain Westbrooke joined from Championship side Coventry City after gaining promotion with them from League One last season. The central midfielder made 22 appearances for the Sky Blues, scoring four goals and assisting a further two. So far this season, The Englishman is the only Rovers player to register more than one assist (two). The former Brentford man is strong on the ball and will look to link the defence and attack with his long driving runs through the middle. Westbrooke is also versatile, being able to play anywhere across the midfield having been utilised in central, defensive and right midfield positions last campaign. The defensive nature of fellow midfielders Josh Grant and Ed Upson allows Westbrooke to aid the attack.
Last weekend’s showing against Wimbledon was effectively a one-off in terms of performances for Rovers this season. Tisdale’s side have only averaged one goal per game from their 15 League One games. Only bottom of the table Wigan (11) have scored fewer. Aside from forward trio Nicholson, Hanlan and Daly, only Luke Leahy (two), Josh Grant and Jack Baldwin (one each) have contributed.
Argyle have lost their last four in a row whilst Rovers have lost their last four home games in a row at the Memorial Stadium. Neither seem to be able to keep a clean sheet either so it feels as though, going on current form, a score draw could be on the cards. Without key man Danny Mayor, there will be a creative void in the Argyle side so the responsibility will be on Welsh forward Luke Jephcott once again to deliver. In a season that has had its ups and downs, the academy graduate has been one of the few constant shining lights in the side. Paul Tisdale appears to be instilling belief in Rovers side, already optimistic after a positive summer recruitment drive and will be keen to get one over on Argyle having spent so many years managing their arch rivals.