By Tony Leighton
Bristol Rovers striker Dave Clarkson has played over 350 matches in a career that is now in its 12th season, but despite his lengthy background in the game the 27-year-old Scot is set for a new experience when the Pirates take on Bristol City in Wednesday evening's Johnstone's Paint Trophy First Round tie at Ashton Gate.
Former Motherwell player and Scotland international Clarkson, who moved across Bristol to join Rovers in July last year after being released by their big local rivals City, told football-league.co.uk: "I've never played against one of my old clubs before, so it's going to be a bit of an odd experience for me.
"But I'm looking forward to going back to Ashton Gate, seeing some old faces and hopefully coming away with a win. We've been below City in the League for a few years now, but I know we beat them in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy before my time at either club and it would be nice to do it again, especially for our fans."
Rovers and City are this season in Sky Bet League 2 and League 1 respectively, the two clubs having not been in the same division since a 2000/01 campaign in which the Pirates were relegated from League 1. Rovers fans did, however, win the bragging rights following the last encounter between the arch rivals.
In 2006/07 City were promoted to the Championship but lost to League 2 Rovers in the Area Final of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy. After a first leg goalless draw at Ashton Gate the Pirates won 1-0 at home to reach the Millennium Stadium Final, in which they were cheered on by 40,000 fans but lost 3-2 to Doncaster Rovers.
Another run to the Final, this time at Wembley, would be relished by the supporters of either club as relegated City also set their sights on regaining their Championship place at the first time of asking while Rovers attempt to gain promotion three seasons after they suffered relegation from League 1.
Rovers have made a better start to their league campaign than have City, but Clarkson is concerned only with his current team's progress as he continues his return to action after a sometimes difficult first season at the Memorial Stadium finished with him missing the final two months through an ankle problem.
"I enjoyed my three years at Bristol City," said Clarkson, who has hit two goals to date this term, "even though I had an in and out time in my last season there and spent some time on loan at Brentford. I had to drop down the League to join Rovers, but they're a very good club and I'm thoroughly enjoying it here.
"We had a poor start to last season and I didn't have the best of times with injuries, but we did well in the second half of the campaign and we can kick on this year. I feel that we can make a promotion push, and beating City in the Trophy would certainly give us a boost for our league campaign."
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