MATCH REPORT: The right result in the end!

After the disappointment and undeserved in many respects defeat at Carlisle it was very important that we got back to winning ways today and yet another biggish crowd welcomed the two teams on to the pitch. Darrell Clarke made 3 changes from the starting line up last game bringing back Leadbitter (Can’t understand why he dropped him at Carlisle), Lockyer and Liam Lawrence. James Clarke, Tom Parkes and Montano dropped to the bench and to be honest I was a little disappointed to see what looked like a containing line up rather than an attacking one and to be honest the first half was a very mixed affair with long periods of possession for us but then the wrong final ball and neither keeper having a lot to do. Too much of the time was spent passing the ball about the back four and for me we totally lacked any pace whatsoever on the pitch and the final pass was too often overhit. As for Crawley I have to say they were pretty awful and a dreadful team to watch that seemed to be set up to stop us playing and their only tactic was a big hoofball and a strong physical defence. It brought memories flooding back of what generally happened when we played with Matty Harrold up front. He hasn’t changed at all other than he was better when he played for us.
For me at half time the team was crying out for a bit of creativity in the midfield where Ollie Clarke struggled and Lines was also off the pace however surprisingly DC made no changes at the interval and what happened in the second half was so much better to the eye and the Manager overall had got it right again.

Mildenhall 7 Not a lot to do all game but what he did have to do was deal with some crosses and he did this with confidence and good handling. Couple of poor kicks but mainly his distribution was good.

Leadbitter 7 Defensively I thought he was very good again and his pace at the back gives us added security. His attacking play in the first half was OK but nothing spectacular but this improved in the second half when he attacked more often and proved very troublesome for the Crawley defence. His use of the ball was crisp and accurate generally but a few crosses failed to beat the first man.

Lockyer 8 MOM Great to have Tom back and was soon illustrating what we so sadly missed at Carlisle. Tom is on tremendous form and is now not only reading the game excellently but his movement with the ball and his passing has improved greatly. To be honest Crawley weren’t up to much but were; never the less; the type of team that in the past would cause us trouble and lock us out with not too many problems to get a point or quite often a 1-0 defeat. Tom has really progressed with Rovers from the raw youngster that left the Youth team to the still young but really quite experienced player who surely has an exciting career ahead of him. The question that remains unanswered is whether we will be following his career with another club or whether it will be close hand on a great journey through the Football league with Rovers.

McChrystal 7 Much better than against Carlisle but quite how he got Man of the Match I am not sure but of course everyone is entitled to their opinion. I can only remember once him getting beaten in the air and his clearing up at the back and leading the team meant that we didn’t have many scary moments and Mildy had little to do in a quiet 90 minutes. The great thing about DC is that there are players who he knows he can trust after a bad performance and will play based on past performances and on who plays well together. I am sure Darrell went on McCrystal being the best player to partner the returning Lockyer and again he proved right in his decision.

Brown 5.5 A lot of our attacking goes through Lee Brown and yesterday particularly first half he was not on his game. My biggest criticism o9n him is that he holds on to the ball for too long and when he does give the pass he immediately always goes on the overlap which IMO means we do not see the best of the player in front of him. It also means that the attack is slowed down and to be honest that was the problem with the first half in that too much was based on the full backs getting forward and building from the back-it meant a very slow progress up the pitch, a lot of possession and then very often a wasted over hit long ball. Defensively Lee got caught outa couple of times because Lawrence in front of him is not capable of covering the ground that Montano does to cover those runs forward. My motto to Lee is get the defensive job right first and attack second. His final ball which is usually the source of quite a few goals was missing yesterday and I can’t remember one quality cross which is very unusual.

Bodin 6.5 One of our most skilful and creative players who you can always rely on to provide moments of brilliance.Tends to go inside most of the time and therefore does require somebody to go out wide to make the run and availability to allow this. Leadbitter is far more suited to this than James Clarke and given the chance of regular games I think the Bodin/Leadbitter partnership could flourish but similar to Lee Brown on the other side it is important to make sure the defensive side of the job is right first. This was the case yesterday. Billy was always prompting and looking to play the final creative pass and also making the late runs to get into a striking position. The problem with this is that it is not always going to come off and some passes are going to go astray. The fact he is always likely to pop up with a goal makes him a very dangerous player and the risk of him going missing in patches is worth taking for those match winning moments.

Clarke O 5 Worked hard but went missing too often. Had a poor first half and a better second. I don’t think he is the answer to the defensive midfield position and his shooting ability is the art he brings to the table but this is not enough to warrant a regular place. Yesterday I found his play frustrating as he gave the ball away far too often and for me he just does not demand the ball and by that I mean when he doesn’t have the ball he does not seem to want it and is quite happy just to be the “other man” in the central midfield. He did put a few tackles in and I would describe his performance as an average one. Next week we will need more than average from every player if we are to get a result.

Lines 6 Very similar to Ollie Clarkes performance but the difference is that Chris does want the ball and is always the available outlet albeit that for me he spends too much time deep in our half. His trademark runs were few and far between yesterday and the one memorable one was just as memorable for the terrible pass at the end of it. I would say he did just enough to retain his place mainly because of his willingness to make sure he is in a position where he sees a lot of the ball and keeps the ball moving with quick passing to a team mate. The trouble is that our movement to get forward is often painfully slow and this is where you need Chris to be making more of the bursting runs from midfield ,ghosting past players and taking them out of the game. A rare good corner from him after Lawrence had gone off was perfect for Taylor to score his second header of the match.

Lawrence 7.5 This was more like the performance I expected when we signed him and he definitely showed many moments of class. He rarely gave the ball away and in the first half especially he won his fair share of tackles and closed down opponents well and then gave a simple pass to keep the move going. I often feel that the real art of football is lost these days with far more emphasis from a spectators point of view being on the all action 100% effort rather than sublime football skills with a bit of creativity. Lawrence plays the game with his head held up rather than head down, the ball sticks to his feet and he has the awareness and ability to pick a pass. The free kick was top drawer and perfect and left me wondering why he didn’t take the free kick in the last few minutes at Carlisle. There is also the quality of his corner kicks which created the goal for Taylor and the interesting thing was that Chris Lines seemed to take note and produce a similar corner for Taylors second.

Taylor 7 Probably a little harsh for a player who scored the important first goal and then a second with another header and who now leads the scoring charts for the division with 24 League goals and 1 cup goal but I really felt that he had a very poor first half and just didn’t get involved enough. I thought though what a mate of mine says and that is you should always have your top scorer in the side for those moments and that was very true yesterday. it would have been easy to replace Taylor at half time with Easter or Harrison and then those two sublime headers would never have happened. Just as well DC is our Manager!! Anyway Matty’s all round second half performance was much better and deserved the ovation when he came off.

Gaffney 6 Rory really is needing a goal to get back into his stride but you cannot criticise his commitment and effort. When it isn’t going for you then you still need to put in the running and energy to make things happen; if not for you; then for other players. This is the Gaffney we are seeing at the moment. There was one moment in the first half where I thought we were going to see another memorable goal but he was stopped at the last minute. His work rate is first class and he is always willing to take up wide positions and shows good close control to retain possession and what a long throw he has but the trouble is we could also do with him getting on the end of it!! Something says to me that maybe McBurnie should get a start and yet something else says persevere and a goal will come. Certainly it is good to have options.

Montano 7 We have been crying out for a winger all season and when we get one performing well we put him on the bench! Unfortunately it is very easy to sacrifice a winger in order to tighten up defensively and both at Carlisle and after Carlisle we needed to do that and Monty was the one to lose out. I would say he has been our most improved player recently and yesterday he could have walked away with two goals from his brief appearance. One stunning strike that brought a fine save from the keeper and another strong effort blocked gave us something we had been missing particularly in the first half and I really feel that we must find a way of getting him in the side but can fully understand the problem DC has in balancing the team to give us added defensive stability and yet still capable of attacking. Anyway he certainly showed a great attitude yesterday to being left out and just gave DC a reminder of what he can do. I will stick to my opinion that he is the best winger we have had since Carayol and should be in the team every week.

Mcburnie 6 I have marked him even though he only made a short appearance. Looked very lively and looks a very good player. Will we get a chance to see more of him? I hope so but anyway what an option he is to have available. I always remember John Wards quote that we “have the players to score the goals to keep us up” – what a load of rubbish that man spoke. We now have Taylor, Gaffney, Harrison. McBurnie, Easter and Fallon to choose from with Bodin also capable of playing up front. Well done DC for putting together this squad.

Easter 6.5 Very unlucky to not start after his performance at Carlisle but another I have marked on a very short appearance but because he showed in that short time running ,effort and commitment . We are very lucky to have such a good player to bring on from the bench.

Crowd 7 Was a little disappointed with the size of the crowd as really expected it to be closer to 10,000 as this team definitely deserve to be drawing in the crowds. How many other supporters can watch a team who have taken an astonishing 31 points out of the last 33 available at Home? Quite noisy at times particularly when the late Exeter winner came through. “We are going up” is a little premature but anything is possible under this Manager and with these players. Only time will tell but it is fun on the ride!!
Ref 4 Almost reasonable
Crawley 3 Thank god don’t have to watch this team very often. Came with one intention and in the first half looked like they might achieve it. Certainly would get a bad neck watching them and can’t remember them creating a real chance. Is it Matt Harrold that makes a team play this way or is it the Mark Yates way of playing? My mark is more for the way they played than their effectiveness which until the first goal went in would have been 7!!

it is ironic that the performance yesterday which produced 3-0 win was not up to the footballing standard that the team gave against Carlisle but defensively it was a lot better.

DC Well another game where he got it right. The question now is can he pull off an absolutely amazing result and get us three points at Northampton. I wouldn’t put anything past this man as most things he touches seem to turn to gold. I personally felt it was too defensive a side picked yesterday and was very surprised no substitutes used at half time and could easily have replaced taylor and we wouldn’t have seen those two lovely headers. Thank God DC is our Manager and I am not and long may it continue.

So we sit back in third but how close can you get? Three teams on 71 points separated only by Goal Difference and I can’t remember many seasons where we would be top of the Goal difference when level with two other teams! The question now is how long can we stay in 3rd? Most would probably say not very long with the prospect of going to Northampton next week with the possibility of them clinching promotion if they beat us and the fact that it has never really been a happy hunting ground. Just to make it appear mission impossible Northampton have not lost in the League since 19th December and have won 13 of their last 18 games but just to give us hope the 5 draws have come in the last 8 games and all records have to go sometime so why not next week.

What team will Darrell play? Personally I would go for an attacking team as the best form of defence but that’s me and I don’t expect DC to go that way. The wing back system seems to have gone recently so I would not expect to play that way but you just don’t know. Northampton have Ricky Holmes on fire so I think we should play Leadbitter and Brown both with their number 1 priority being defending. The biggest test will be whether our central defenders can cope with Richards and Collins with the threat always there of John Jo OToole. It’s going to be a fantastic atmosphere there and I wonder whether it will be as hostile as the Match all those years ago in the Play offs but lets go there with no fears and get behind this team and if it is to be our day then sobeit.

Who really would want to be playing a match with no tension whatsoever at this stage of the season? The nerves and nail biting is what following a successful side is all about and anyway if we don’t get the right result there is always another 5 games to go . Its just so exciting being a Gashead at the moment and with 7 wins out of our last eight games why shouldn’t we be confident of adding Northampton to our scalps. UTG

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