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League 1 Spotlight: Bristol Rovers

Tom Hancock profiles the Pirates.

6 July 2018

Chairboys fans will be relishing the return of this fixture after a two-season absence. There isn't long to wait either; it's the second home game.

After dropping out of the League altogether in 2014, Bristol Rovers fought back with consecutive promotions to return to the third tier for 2016/17. The last two campaigns have seen the Gas cement their place in the division with successive mid-table finishes, but recent history points to that being their ceiling. After last making the third tier play-offs in 1997/98, they wound up in mid-table or lower in eight of their nine campaigns at this level during the next two decades.

History taken into account or not, promotion will be a tough ask, but with a fervent fan base that would no doubt love to see their side join their bitter rivals City in the Championship – where they've not played since 1992/93 – and a solid foundation on which to build, expect Rovers to be giving it their all in pursuit of a top-six finish.

Last season: 13th in League One

In charge: Darrell Clarke
Appointed in March 2014 after nine months as assistant manager, Clarke has already been on quite an adventure with Rovers, with the Conference title and promotion from League Two already under his belt. The 40-year-old former Mansfield, Hartlepool and Salisbury City midfielder had previously been in charge of the last of those between 2010 and 2013, guiding the now defunct Whites to the Conference in his final campaign at the helm, after they had reached the FA Cup third round for the first time ever the season before.

Star player: Tony Craig
He may have only been with Rovers since January – when he joined after leaving Millwall – but it’s already fair to describe Craig as an integral member of the side. A Chairboys loanee way back in the 2004/05 season, the 33-year-old centre-half has spent most of his career at this level or higher, helping Brentford and Millwall to promotion to the Championship in 2014 and 2017 respectively. He possesses the quality to still be plying his trade in the second tier, and his experience and reliability will be invaluable over the coming campaign.

Key ins: Central midfielder Ed Upson and winger Alex Rodman have come in on free transfers from MK Dons and Shrewsbury respectively – the former has played Championship football with Yeovil and Millwall, while the latter played a starring role in Shrewsbury’s brilliant 2017/18 campaign. Centre-forward Gordon Reilly has also joined on a free after netting 22 goals in 44 games for Scottish Championship St. Mirren last season.

Key outs: Left-back Lee Brown has signed for Portsmouth and is the most significant loss, while striker Rory Gaffney has joined National League new boys Salford City.

EFL head-to-head:
Meetings: 28
Wycombe wins: 13
Bristol Rovers wins: 11
Draws: 4

First meeting:
27/08/1994 (League One): Wycombe 0-0 Bristol Rovers

Last meeting:
27/02/2016 (League Two): Wycombe 1-0 Bristol Rovers (scorer: Luke O’Nien)

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