Bristol Rovers face Southend United at the Memorial Stadium on Saturday. The Shrimpers are also in competition to reach the top 6 in the league table by the end of this season, 3 points above the Pirates.
Southend previously hosted the Pirates back in August where a late penalty scored by Simon Cox gave the Shrimpers the equalising goal. After a goalless first half, Peter Hartley’s header into the right side of the net from Chris Lines’ corner kick took Bristol Rovers into the lead. With only 10 minutes left in the second half, Ellis Harrison’s handball gave the Shrimpers the penalty.
Bristol Rovers’ last fixture was at the Kassam Stadium; a successive 2-0 win against Oxford United. They remain unbeaten in eight consecutive matches. An outstanding performance from the midfield, Ollie Clarke and Stuart Sinclair helped push the Pirates into the lead in the first half.
For Southend United, they faced Port Vale at home. A second draw for the Shrimpers out of their last five fixtures. The Valiants broke the goalless deadlock after Sam Foley’s free-kick was headed home by Chris Eagles. But Anthony Wordsworth’s 83rd-minute equaliser rescued Southend from a second consecutive defeat.
Defender, Peter Hartley is one step closer to being back in action with the Pirates as he posted a photo on Instagram recently of his progress. He was ruled out of action back in January against Charlton Athletic where he suffered a foot injury. The 28-year-old who joined Bristol Rovers from League Two promotion-chasers, Plymouth Argyle is expected to be back in early April.
The club this week have had three of their top midfielders sign an extension to their contract for an undisclosed period. Those faces are Stuart Sinclair, Chris Lines and Ollie Clarke. Clarke has been suspended for two league matches due to receiving too many yellow cards. Veteran player, Lee Mansell has been feeling rather unhappy about his lack of game time with the squad but is still determined to stick with the team. Could he fill in Clarke’s space for their game against Southend?
Southend’s manager, Phil Brown has his hopes set on Stephen McLaughin as he is very close to returning back to the squad in preparation for Saturday’s game. The winger had suffered an ankle injury which he sustained back on New Year’s Eve against Charlton Athletic. Brown has been doubting whether the Irishman will be fit enough this week, whether that being in the starting lineup or on the bench.
Nile Ranger’s availability for the match is dependent on his fitness test as the striker suffered a knock against Port Vale. Brown has explained that if he is successful in the club’s weekly training, “he’ll have a part to play on Saturday.” [Source: Southend United Official Website]
Personally, I believe that this will be a tight game for both sides on Saturday. We stand very close within the league table and if we want to achieve being in the top 6 by the end of this season, we need to start winning these next few matches. Bristol Rovers have been in better form these past few months and have the likelihood of dominating the game. However, I predict a draw; Bristol Rovers 1-1 Southend. When we have played those close to the top of the table, we have seen a clear pattern that we draw all those matches. Overall, it would be great to achieve another win.