Two teams in danger of slipping into a relegation battle will go head-to-head at the memorial stadium this weekend, when Hartlepool United make the long journey south to face Bristol Rovers. Whilst dropping out of the Football League is an unlikely prospect for either side, the pair can ill-afford any more slip-ups.
Starting the weekend in 18th, Joey Barton’s Bristol side currently boast a seven-point buffer between themselves and the drop zone. A gap that should be enough to see them across the line this season, a run of one win in the last five League Two matches has caused slight concern amongst the Gas faithful. Yet to win back-to-back games in the league all season, the hosts will have a chance to amend that record this weekend, having take three points against Rochdale in Rovers’ last fourth-tier clash, all the way back in mid-December.
Wins have come at less of a premium for Hartlepool in recent weeks, having seemed to turn a corner since new boss Graeme Lee arrived in the North East. Winners in four of his seven games in charge so far, that run includes a standout FA Cup Third Round triumph over Championship Blackpool last weekend. Guiding the club to the Fourth Round for the first time since 2008/09, just weeks after he was appointed as manager, speaks volumes of the impact Lee has had.
Not afraid to rip up the rule book, Lee will be hoping to achieve another milestone this weekend, by becoming the first Hartlepool manager to achieve the double over Rovers this century. Slender 1-0 winners when the pair met earlier in the campaign, the visitors will be targeting their first three points at the Memorial Ground since December 2006 – a run of six games without a win in the South West.
Little to separate the pair, a score draw seems likely.