Bristol Rovers finished 17th in League One last season following 14 wins, 11 draws and 21 losses. This is their second season back in the third tier, having won promotion from League Two in 2022, after finishing third in the league, securing automatic promotion.
Rovers currently sit in 15th place in the league after five wins, four draws and five losses. Their recent form has been mixed, seeing two wins, one draw and two losses in their last five games. They come into Tuesday’s game off the back of a 7-2 home win against Whitby Town in the FA Cup first round.
The two sides last faced each other in the 2000/01 season in the old-school Division 2. A Boxing Day clash at the Memorial Stadium ended in a 2-2 draw, with midfielders Neil Smith and Phil Parkinson scoring Reading’s goals. The reverse tie at the Madejski Stadium saw Reading claim a 1-0 win after striker Jamie Cureton scored the winner against his former club.
Andy Mangan (caretaker manager): Mangan was announced as interim manager of Bristol Rovers following Joey Barton’s sacking on October 26. Barton had been in charge for three years, but was sacked with the club sitting in 16th place in the league. Mangan is supported by coaches Glenn Whelan, Danny Ventre and former Royal Anssi Jaakkola.
The 37-year-old is a former striker who played for the likes of Accrington Stanley, Wrexham and Fleetwood Town. He started his coaching career at Fleetwood Town in 2019, joining Barton’s coaching team. He joined Barton at Bristol Rovers following his appointment at the Gas in February 2021.
Bristol Rovers have won both games since Mangan took over, beating Northampton Town 2-1 at home in the league and Whitby Town 7-2 at home in the FA Cup.
It was a busy summer in Bristol with 13 players joining Rovers but only five leaving.
Those leaving the Memorial Stadium included defenders Calum MacDonald and Jamie Egan, midfielders Paul Coutts and Harry Anderson and forward Ryan Loft.
Rovers signed centre-back Connor Taylor on a three-year deal from Stoke City, having taken him on loan during the 2021/22 season. Seven players came in on free transfers, including goalkeeper Matt Hall, defenders James Wilson, Jack Hunt and George Friend, winger Luke Thomas and forwards Jevani Brown and Chris Martin.
Five players have also joined on loan, including midfielders Ryan Woods (Hull City), Harvey Vale (Chelsea) and Lamare Bogarde (Aston Villa) and goalkeeper Matthew Cox and defender Tristan Crama who both joined from Brentford.
Midfielder Luke McCormick will miss out on Tuesday’s game as he recovers from an ankle injury.
Cox, Grant, Taylor, Crama, Grant, Woods, Finley, Evans, Thomas, Vale, Collins
Aaron Collins: Forward Collins joined Bristol Rovers in 2021 on a free transfer following the end of his contract with Forest Green Rovers. He actually started his youth career at Bristol Rovers but went on to join the youth setup at Newport County. He made his County debut in 2014 and went on to make 25 appearances for the club.
Collins made the move to Wolverhampton Wanderers in 2016 but never made a first-team appearance for the club. He did have a series of loans away from Wolves, playing for the likes of Notts County, Tranmere, Maidstone and Newport. Permanent moves to Morecambe and Forest Green Rovers followed and it was with the latter that Collins had his most settled spell.
The 26-year-old has gone on to make 120 appearances for Rovers since his move in 2021, scoring 37 goals, four of which have come this season. The Welshman has also represented his country at under-19 level. Collins can play either as a striker or on the left wing and is a strong dribbler who likes to cut inside.
One to watch
Luke Thomas: Winger Thomas signed for Rovers this summer, joining the club on a free transfer following the expiry of his contract with Barnsley. He started his youth career at Cheltenham Town and went on to join Derby County in 2016.
Thomas only made two appearances for the Rams but did have loan spells at Gloucester City and Coventry City during his time with the club. He moved to Barnsley for an undisclosed fee in 2019 and became a first-team regular at the club during his first season.
He went on to join Bristol Rovers on a season-long loan deal for the 2021/22 season, playing 32 times, scoring one goal and recording five assists. The 24-year-old returned to Barnsley last season and was a regular in the first team again but left the club once his contract expired this summer.
Thomas predominantly plays on the right wing but can also play as a number 10 or in centre midfield.