Top three, could it be?

Ellis Harrison’s goal and Rovers fourth against Newport last Saturday meant we snuck into the automatic promotion places on goal difference. With Plymouth at home to Luton later on the afternoon I fully expected us to be outside the top 3 by the the end of the day.

As it happens an injury ravaged Plymouth went down 1-0 which meant we would be in the top 3 for the next week!

This got me thinking: Could we do it? Could we stay in the top 3 until the end of the season? Here are the reasons why I think we can:

We are on red-hot form and it doesn’t look like ending

In the run of five wins in our last six games we have played some great football, full of confidence and scoring freely. Even when Mansfield came to the Mem and setup for a draw we found a small bit of quality to get the result we needed.form-table

We haven’t been particularly lucky in any of those games either. We have thoroughly deserved each of our victories and we’ve still been winning when we haven’t been playing particularly well. If we can keep getting those results even on an off day we will have a great shot at the top three.

DC

In Darrel we have a manager that takes each game at a time. Each game is it’s own project and that has earned him a ‘tinkerman’ reputation and some stick from fans when changing a winning team. But he gets results and I trGasCast Darrell Clarke 100 gamesust him to be able to pick the best starting 11 for each match.

On top of that he isn’t afraid to change things around during a game. He has built a squad that can change formation mid game and give us another dimension. Add to that the great team spirit he has instilled I would say he is the biggest asset BRFC has at the moment.

We have a squad not a team

DC consistently says that football is a squad game nowadays. This will mean players will get dropped game to game even when they are playing well, but it means that everyone get their chance. Recently Montano, Clarke (O) and McCrystal have all come into the team and slotted in effortlessly.

This give us an advantage as we aren’t as affected by injury, loss of form, international call ups, etc as much as other teams. It also means DC can setup game to game safe in the knowledge his players will perform regardless of the formation or if they have had a run of games.

We have real quality

Through the spine of the team we have some real quality. Players that other teams would love to have playing for them.

GK – Mildenhall. If you had told me I would be writing this at the start of the season I would have laughed at you, but since he has come back into the team he has simply been immense. Commanding his area, fantastic shot stopping and starting off attacks with quick distribution. He has experience enough to know when to hold onto the ball and kick too.

CB – It goes without saying that Lockyer can play at a much higher level. He is undoubtedly one of the top centre backs in this division and could get a MOTM award most weeks.

CM – In recent weeks we have seen Lines come into form at just the right time. On his day he is one of the best players in this league. His running, passing and newly found tackling skills have been a driving force in our midfield.

ST – For all his detractors Matty Taylor now has 20 goals in his first season of league football. He has effortlessly made the step up from non-league and has flourished this season. His link up play at times has been incredible. This has meant he keeps his place in the team even when he isn’t scoring and has chipped in with five assists so far this season.

Consistency

While we have marched up from 12th to 3rd other teams have dropped points around us. Accrington have failed to capitalise on their games in hand and Plymouth have dropped lots of points meaning we have been able to reel them in.

Even Portsmouth with their fantastically assembled squad went 3-0 down to Newport recently. Other teams have slipped up and we haven’t. If that can continue we should be able to hang onto 3rd.

And here is the reason I think we can’t:

Injuries

DC likes to have a small squad and this has fostered a fantastic team spirit and never say die attitude within the squad. However it leaves us at risk if we sustain a lot of injuries or absences. At the moment we only have two fit CMs (Clarke and Lines) this makes me nervous if something we’re to happen to one of them. It also means that we can’t play our 3-5-2 with three CMs comfortably if DC wanted to.

I can’t think of any other reasons why we can’t do it. We have our noses ahead now and it’s in our hands.

If you had offered me top seven at this stage in the season in August I would have bitten your hand off. The fact we are top three means I am over the moon. Even if we end up in the top seven (only two wins away realistically) I will still be chuffed.

We have a big game against Cambridge on Friday. All we can do is make sure we get the three points and hope for a favour elsewhere.

Tom is a season ticket holder sitting in the posh seats in the Dri-build. Originally from East Bristol he now resides in the badlands of BS3 where Irene is a slag and Darrel Clarke wanks off dogs if the stickers are to believed.

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