IF THERE is a surprise at Bristol Rovers’ Memorial Ground tomorrow - and with the potential impact of a new manager then you can’t write anything off - it will hardly equate to the disaster of Rotherham United’s visit there last season.
There had already been indications that Rotherham’s bright start under Andy Scott was starting to unravel.
It was a Friday night game in October and Scott made two late signings, left back John Harley and then, actually on the day of the game, Guy Branston.
So, a back four that had barely met let alone done any work together was soon in trouble and when Branston earned himself a red card early in the second half, the night went from bad to worse and Rovers, struggling at the time, revelled in a 5-2 victory.
Branston is now on the other side of the fence having joined Rovers recently as they strive to stop their slide down the League Two table.
In the event, they put the blame at manager Mark McGhee’s door, jettisoned him after yet another poor performance in a 4-1 defeat at York last Saturday and quickly brought in John Ward who has not only managed Rovers before but also bitter rivals Bristol City.
The experienced Ward, 61, was sacked by Colchester in September but is renowned for having well organised teams and it is certain that his opening week on the training ground will not have been wasted.
“I have a lot of respect for John Ward and I expect him to turn Rovers’ fortunes around and they will finish in mid-table,” said Millers manager Steve Evans. “I’ve heard a lot about what we can expect from Bristol Rovers under a new manager but I expect a lot from my team and don’t expect our standards to drop after the performance in midweek at Notts County.”
The dilemma for Evans is whether to keep the same side or consider, at the very least, the claims of skipper Ian Sharps and left back Liam Ridehalgh who are available again.
On Tuesday, Evans recalled Mark Bradley at right back and 18-year-old Jack O’Connell, on loan from Blackburn, at left back.
Bradley again showed he has an eye for goal, his third so far, whilst O‘Connell’s first start in his first game at left back earned rave reviews.
So well did Johnny Mullins and Kari Arnason play in centre defence it means Evans has a big call to make over Sharps. And if he goes with him does that mean Mullins reverting to right back?
“It’s about energy levels as well because we have a busy spell coming up but the boys have been buzzing in training; there’s a bounce about them,” said Evans.
“They will be reminded of what produced the performance at Notts County the other night; the hard work,the drive and the determination. On what could be a bit of a mudbath of a pitch, we are going to need every bit of the qualities we showed at Meadow Lane. For sure it’ll be difficult.”