By Keith Brookman
With the League Two season now concluded, we know the names of the four promoted clubs we will be playing against next season, namely Swindon Town, Crewe Alexandra, Plymouth Argyle and Northampton Town.
So, no new grounds to visit out of that quartet, though it will be interesting to see the new stand at Home Park, Plymouth, in use for the first time.
Swindon Town are old rivals from way back, our first league meetings happening in January 1921 in the inaugural Third Division season. Swindon were 2-1 winners on 15th January, while Rovers won 3-1 the following week.
The clubs had previously met each other as Western and Southern League clubs and both had been crowned champions of the latter competition, Rovers in 1904/05 and Swindon in 1910/11 & 1913/14.
The total number of league meetings now stands at 90, with Rovers having won 35, Swindon 39 while there have been 16 draws.
Although there were two FA Cup meetings between the clubs, in 1900/01 and again the following season, there has only been three FA Cup ties involving both clubs since then. In 1945/46 Rovers were 4-2 aggregate winners, losing at the County Ground 1-0 and winning 4-1 at Eastville.
In 1948/49 Swindon were 1-0 home winners when the clubs met again in the competition and their paths haven’t crossed in FA Cup action since.
There have been two meetings in the League Cup, in 1984/85, Rovers winning the First Round, first leg tie 5-1 at the County Ground and Swindon winning 1-0 at Eastville in the second Leg a week later.
In addition, the last two seasons has seen the clubs meet in the Football League Trophy. Swindon were 4-2 winners at the Mem in 2017/18, while Rovers were 1-0 winners in last season’s tie, which was also played at the Mem.
In total we have met each other 97 times since becoming league clubs, with Swindon coming out on top on 43 occasions. Rovers have won 38 games and 16 games have ended all square.
Only one man, Fred Ford, has managed both clubs, but there have been a host of players who have turned out for both clubs, among them Gary Emmanuel, Andy Gurney, Sammy Igoe, Tim Parkin, Mark Walters, Steve White and Brian Williams and Andy Williams.
The latest in what is quite a lengthy list is central defender Tom Broadbent, a member of last season’s successful title winning squad while goalkeeping coach Steve Mildenhall is also, of course, a former Rovers player.
Runners up to Swindon were Crewe Alexandra and it’s been a while since we last played at Gresty Road; memories of that huge stand running down one side of the ground dwarfing the other three and of one of the best fish and chip shops in the land behind one end of the ground (if it’s still there!).
The first league meetings between the sides didn’t come about until 1963/64 and Crewe did the double over Rovers that season, winning 2-1 at Eastville and 4-1 at Gresty Road. They also did the double the last time we met, in 2011/12, winning 5-2 at the Mem on the last day of 2011 and 3-0 at Gresty Road in April 2012.
Rovers have won only three of the 20 league meetings between the clubs, with Crewe winning nine and the remaining eight being drawn.
Crewe hold the upper hand in the FA Cup as well, winning the only tie between the clubs 2-0 at Twerton Park in January 1991.
The only time we have met in the League Cup was in 1981/82 when Rovers drew 1-1 at Gresty Road and were 1-0 winners in the second leg to go through 2-1 on aggregate.
We were also aggregate winners in1994/95 play off semi final when, after a goalless draw at Twerton Park, we drew 1-1 at Gresty Road to go through to the final on the away goals rule.
Overall, we have met each other on 23 occasions in all competitions, with Crewe winning 10 of those games, Rovers four while nine games have ended all square.
Among the players to have turned out for both clubs are Byron Moore, Steve Phillips, Kevin Street, Brian Parkin and Danny Woodards.
Occupying third place, and the final automatic promotion place come the end of the season were Plymouth Argyle, another side we have met on numerous occasions.
Our paths had crossed in the Southern League, of which Argyle were champions in 1912/13 and both clubs became members of the Football League in 1920/21, with Rovers winning the first league meeting between the sides 2-0 at Eastville on 23rd April and Plymouth winning 2-1 in the return fixture at Home Park just one week later.
Argyle have won 28 of the 82 league meetings between the clubs, Rovers 26 and there have been 28 draws.
Two of the seven FA Cup meetings between the sides took place last season, with Rovers winning a second round replay 1-0 at Home Park after a 1-1 draw at the Memorial Stadium. There have been three draws between the sides in the FA Cup, Rovers have won three ties and Argyle one.
Of the four League Cup meetings, there have been two draws and two wins for Rovers. The last time the clubs were paired in this competition was in 2000/01.
We were also at Home Park last season in the EFL Trophy, which ended all square at 1-1, though Argyle did win the resulting penalty shootout. The only other meeting in the Trophy was in 2000/01 when Rovers were 3-0 winners.
Since entering the league back in 1920, there have been 103 meetings between the sides in all competitions, with Rovers winning 32 games, Plymouth 37 and 34 games have been drawn.
Malcolm Allison and Ian Holloway have managed both clubs, while many players have turned out in blue and white and green and white. In fact, there were three former Rovers players on Argyle’s books last season, in Gary Sawyer, Byron Moore, who has also played for Crewe, of course, and Dominic Telford.
Others to have played for both include Johnny Williams, Barry Hayles, Mickey Evans, Bruce Bannister and Jermaine Easter.
The final team of the quartet coming up from League Two are Northampton Town, play off winners who beat Cheltenham Town and Exeter City in the play off semi final and final respectively.
Like Rovers and Swindon, Northampton can also claim to have won the Southern League title; they were winners in 1908/09.
They, too, were founder members of the Third Division of the Football League in 1920/21 and Rovers won both games in that first campaign, with a 2-1 away win on 12th March 1921 and a 4-2 home win a week later.
Of the 92 league meetings so far, Rovers have won 30, there have been 27 draws and Northampton have won 35. The most recent league meetings took place in 2017/18 with Rovers recording an emphatic 6-0 win at Sixfields in October 2017 and the sides playing out a 1-1 draw at the Memorial Stadium in March 2018.
The sides met in the FA Cup in their Southern League days, in 1907/08 and 1919/20 and since that inaugural Football League season there have been three further meetings in that competition, the last being in 1973/74 when Rovers were 2-1 away winners at Northampton’s former home, the County Ground.
As far as the League Cup is concerned, the clubs have been drawn together just once, co incidentally 1981/82, the same year we played Crewe in the competition for the only time. The Cobblers won both legs of the second round tie, 2-1 at Eastville and 3-1 at the County Ground.
Northampton won promotion this time around with a former Rovers player, Keith Curle, in charge and three former Rovers players in their squad, namely Chris Lines, Andy Williams and Joe Martin.
Of the 102 meetings between the clubs in all competitions since we both entered the league, Rovers have won 35, Northampton 38 and 29 matches have been drawn.
Ian Atkins is the only man to have managed both clubs, while a number of players have turned out for both clubs, most notably Bobby Jones, Richard Walker, James Hunt, Dave Savage and Craig Hinton, as well as Andy Williams who scored in the play off final – the same Andy Williams who also played for Swindon!
The two meetings in the Trophy has seen one Rovers wins and one draw. Don’t mention the play offs, though! In 1997/98 Rovers beat The Cobblers 3-1 in the first leg of the Division Two play off semi final at the Mem, only to lose 3-0 in the second leg and 4-3 on aggregate.
For those who may think that the game against Plymouth constitutes something of a west country derby, Northampton is about three miles closer to Bristol and Crewe only about ten miles further so thank goodness Swindon came up as it’s only about 40 miles from Bristol.
Unfortunately, there’s still a great deal of travelling to do and looking at the teams that might drop down from the Championship it could get worse… Hull, Barnsley, Middlesbrough and even Wigan maybe!