PLAYERS TO WATCH
Aaron Collins - Striker
Collins is a player that may be recognisable to many Reds fans, after coming up against Crawley in previous seasons for Forest Green Rovers, Morecambe, Colchester and Newport County before his move to Bristol last season. Collins was signed as a free agent by Manager Joey Barton after he left Forest Green Rovers in the summer of 2021.
Last season Collins netted at Broadfield Stadium in a 1-2 defeat in March, but failed to score in our 1-0 defeat at Memorial Stadium six months before, as ex-Red Devils striker Leon Clarke’s goal was enough to seal a win for a team out of form at the time of playing, before Rovers surged up the table in dramatic fashion to earn a promotion spot to League One.
Collins failed to score against Crawley in our two meetings against Forest Green in the 2020/21 season despite looking lively, but did find the net in the season previous in a 3-1 defeat for the Reds at The New Lawn, as Collins wheeled away with an acrobatic celebration. The 24-year old has great pace and acceleration, providing sides with a lot of energy in the final third.
Collins scored a brace in Rovers’ recent 0-4 thrashing over Burton Albion.
John Marquis - Striker
This season Aaron Collins is supported in attack by experienced goalscorer John Marquis. The 30-year-old has an impressive record within leagues one and two, most notably scoring 62 goals across three seasons for Doncaster Rovers, before joining Portsmouth where in the 2020/21 season he scored 16 times in the league.
Last season Marquis joined Lincoln City in January after only finding the net four times for Pompey. He went on to score five more for the Imps before leaving as a free agent at the end of the campaign.
Marquis has also played in league competition for Millwall, Torquay, Northampton, Cheltenham, Gillingham and Leyton Orient - a journeyman with a remarkable tally of goals spread across twelve years so far.
HEAD TO HEAD
In our last eleven meetings with the Gas since 2011, the scores have favoured the opposition across the years, with the Reds winning on two occasions, Rovers winning five times and the games finishing level on four occasions, two of these goalless.
Last season Crawley fell to two narrow defeats both home and away. We lost out 1-0 in Bristol in September with many fans leaving the county mindblown at how we had not scored after a flurry of chances and good attacking football. Rovers looked a different side six months later in Sussex however, winning 1-2 and this time putting in a much more dangerous performance, Newcastle loanee Elliott Anderson may have had a massive impact on this change.
Before last season’s duo of defeats, our most recent meeting with Rovers was three years ago in the EFL Cup first round, when we lost out 2-1 in a midweek August fixture against a side that had both Tony Craig and Sam Matthews in the opposing starting lineup. Tom Nichols also watched on from the Gas’ bench. Kyle Bennett and Ollie Clarke were Bristol’s scorers and Crawley’s Mark Connolly struck in the 88th minute to score a late consolation.
We also faced Bristol Rovers in cup competition in 2016, losing over two legs in the first round of the FA Cup. The first leg was hosted at The People’s Pension Stadium as Lee Brown gave Rovers an early lead, but Billy Clifford levelled the scoring after 35 minutes after making a run into the box to get on the end of Lewis Young’s low cross. Andre Blackman was shown red in the second-half but Crawley defended well to take the clash to a second leg in Bristol.
A rotated Crawley side lined up for the second leg, with the likes of Addison Garnett, Chris Arthur and Alex Davey all getting starts. Matty Taylor gave the Gas a lead 34 minutes into the game but Jordan Roberts levelled the scores on the brink of half-time with a belter of a strike after meeting a corner that swung towards the edge of the box.
Again Rovers took a lead through Rory Gaffney but again Crawley showed character to level it up once more through Matt Harrold, who met Enzio Boldewijn’s neat pass. Unfortunately as the game was taken into extra time the hosts became the victors after scoring twice to end the tie with a 4-2 scoreline.
Last season both sides crashed out in the first round of the competition, and would have been drawn against each other for the second round if both were victorious.
Barton’s Rovers lost out 0-2 at home to Cheltenham Town, during a period of poor form for his eventually promoted side. Alfie May and Kyle Vassell struck in the second half to put proof into some worrying match stats - Cheltenham’s 18 shots to the Gas’ five a standout.
Crawley lost out to League One Gillingham in dramatic fashion at Broadfield Stadium in August last year. Young Gerald Sithole opened the scoring just three minutes in before Sam Ashford latched onto a Will Ferry cross to equalise ten minutes after half-time to equalise.
The game looked dead and buried in the 95th minute despite red dominance as Daniel Phillips scored a terrific goal, but Archie Davies equalised in the final move of the game after making a mazy run into the box and striking precisely into the far corner before wheeling away to celebrate in front of the Rovers fans.
Sadly after both teams dispatched nine perfect penalties each, Ludwig Francillette was the one to miss as Gillingham progressed into the next round.
HOW THEY BET*
Bristol Rovers 23/20
*Odds from betting partners SkyBet at the time of writing. Please gamble responsibly.