Bristol Rovers are rolling back the years with the appointment of Mark McGhee and the former Reading, Leicester, Wolves, Millwall and Brighton boss can get off to the perfect start by leading the Pirates to a shock win against joint-leaders Cheltenham at Whaddon Road on Saturday.
McGhee has been out of the game for over a year since departing his last job at Aberdeen and it's more than five years since he was last involved with an English club, but he boasts vast experience and should expect a warm reception from a dressing room that you suspect is glad to see the back of Paul Buckle.
It's difficult to pinpoint exactly why things went so pear-shaped for Buckle at the Memorial Stadium, save to say the problems became self-perpetuating as the former Torquay boss isolated himself from the players and alienated most of the fans along the way, creating a situation that was simply irretrievable once Rovers had suffered back to back home defeats against Plymouth and Crewe over the festive period.
The Gas ended the Buckle era on a wretched sequence of six defeats in eight matches but four points from subsequent league outings against Hereford and Crawley under caretaker boss Shaun North suggest they have plenty to offer and a sharp upturn could be in the offing. Few would deny that the personnel ought to be operating much further up the table than 16th place.
Opposing Cheltenham is obviously a brave call considering Mark Yates' men have won 12 of their last 15 league matches but we see a couple of warning signs that point towards an imminent stutter, the main concern being a five-day warm-weather training break in the Algarve last week.
To their credit, the Robins did the business against Aldershot on their return but, in truth, that fixture was a gimme considering that Dean Holdsworth's men have only scored one goal in the last 13 hours and this is where the sense of anti-climax could sink in after returning to the daily grind back in familiar surroundings and much colder temperatures.
Either way, Rovers will relish going into a local derby against as rank underdogs and odds of 9/2 with Stan James about the away win ought to be snapped up.
Meanwhile, Hereford survived on the back of a New Year resurgence last season when they bagged 13 points from the first five games of 2011 and they're shaping up to do something similar this time around. Take a chance on the Bulls beating Oxford in their own backyard at odds of 5/1.
Jamie Pitman's men have continually struggled to pick up wins on home soil in recent years but positive results tend to come in spurts on the road and victories over Burton and Dagenham in their last two away outings suggest they have rediscovered the right formula for digging in and snatching unexpected triumphs.
It only adds weight to our case that inconsistent Crewe did a job on Chris Wilder's men at the Kassam last weekend, which means the U's have only won three of their last 12 matches and that's ropey enough for us to take them on at the price.
1pt Bristol Rovers to beat Cheltenham at 9/2 (Stan James)
1pt Hereford to beat Oxford at 5/1 (general)Reuse content