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Club News

In Focus: Robins v. Rovers

5 February 2013

Fan and columnist Murry Toms looks ahead to tonight's big clash versus Rovers and an old friend.

Saturday afternoon's comfortable victory over Torquay United was the perfect preparation for this evening's visit of in-form Bristol Rovers to the Abbey Business Stadium.

Mark Yates' January acquisitions played their part in a pleasing performance to restore the club to third position thanks to a ninth home win of the campaign.

Focus now quickly turns to tonight's Pirates re-arranged visit, tonight making the short trip north up the M5 for the eighth time.

The feel-good factor has returned to Rovers since John Ward, one of Cheltenham Town's most successful managers, rejoined the club in December.

His first game in charge, on Boxing Day, yielded a point against Aldershot Town and they haven't looked back.

Rovers have since won four of five games, losing only to high-flying Gillingham (0-2), in contrast to Cheltenham's winless run in January.

Ward, like Yates, was busy in the January transfer window, bringing in Tom Hitchcock (from QPR), Clayton McDonald (Port Vale), Steve Mildenhall (Millwall), John-Joe O'Toole (Colchester United) on loan while Mark McChrystal (Tranmere Rovers) and Ryan Brunt (Stoke City) joined the club permanently.

Bottom when he took over, the Pirates now sit in 19th ahead of tonight's match, three points clear of bottom side AFC Wimbledon.

But it's tight at the foot of the table, as it is at the top ahead of a busy programme of matches this month.

Just four points separate third (Cheltenham) and ninth (Fleetwood Town) as competition for play-off places hots up.

The Abbey Business Stadium remains one of League Two's toughest arenas, while Rovers have won just three times in 14 matches away from the Memorial Stadium.

But they come into this one on the back of two consecutive wins on the road under Ward.

Rovers impressively found three goals at both Fleetwood's Highbury Stadium (3-0) and Rotherham United's New York Stadium (3-1) to stun the promotion hopefuls in January.

Ominously the large and noisy Rovers following have seen their side lose only twice in seven league matches on Whaddon Road since 2011 (both in 2008).

In total there have been six league wins apiece, with three draws, while Cheltenham came out on top (1-0) in the reverse fixture earlier in the season, courtesy of Chris Zebroski's first half strike against his former club.

They won here last term, Zebroski (then in the blue and white quarters) and Eliot Richards with the goals in the second half.

So can Ward defy the odds once again at the Abbey Business Stadium, this time for Bristol Rovers? Or will Yates' new look side record back-to-back victories for the first time since the end of October (against Plymouth and Exeter) to press home their promotion credentials?

See you there.

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