Karma Chameleon – What a day

Karma Chameleon

By Martin Bull

I still genuinely can’t quite believe that Saturday happened. Although I believed we could win, and that there was obviously some chance of Oxford United or Accrington Stanley failing to win, I never expected it to be quite so dramatic.

As the 80th minute was approaching the situation was getting forlorn so I took my mind off the tension by formulating a headline for this weeks article; ‘We all live on a yellow substitution’, a hideous mash-up of a classic Beatles song. My reasoning was that the surprise Daggers substitution at half-time seemed to have worked well; shoring up their left back area which was getting over-run in the first half by Billy Bodin and Daniel Leadbitter. Bodin looked to be the only man on the pitch with the composure to get a winner for us, yet he was finding space much tougher to locate after their reshuffle.

Nervous pressure was getting the better of several players on the pitch with Rory Gaffney, Matty Taylor and Lee Mansell in particular failing to take relatively easy chances to bang in a goal or six. I’m certainly not blaming them; I imagine very few League Two players have been in that sort of atmosphere and weighty situation before, and even if they had it is no guarantee that butterflies can’t still flutter in your tummy.

By now I felt it wasn’t going to happen for us, although that was partly just my head trying to protect my fragile heart, weakened by years of failure, near misses and an inferiority complex that hung like a shadow over our club. But if there is just one thing us Rovers fans should have learnt this season (and to some extent last season) it is that we should NEVER give up, because our team doesn’t.

Of course the late charge doesn’t always come off, but this set of players are fit and determined and certainly do try until the final seconds, and the stats back it up; Rovers rescued 20 points from losing positions this season, and scored 54 second half goals (the joint highest in League Two), of which 20 came in the last 10 minutes (the second highest).

35 shots on goal, about half of which were on target. 17 corners. Several golden chances. Numerous slaps on the woodwork. But nothing would creep in, and all this against the back drop of an inspired goal keeping performance and an opposition who, like Stevenage just a few weeks ago, were tiger-ish in defence of their dignity, and also tidy up top. The Daggers certainly came with a sense of freedom of expression and did not sit back or waste time.

The turning point came in the 82nd minute when Tom Lockyer made a vital goal line clearance. It was crucial, even if occurred slightly in slow-mo. My belief returned. A little. Maybe karma could be changing it’s colour after all? Maybe our final day relegation at the Mem on goal difference, after a shock goal in off a post in front of the Blackthorn faithful, really could be turned on its head?

If there is a karma billionaire out there his name isn’t actually Wael Al-Qadi, but Lee Brown. The man who has the most Gas appearances of the current squad, the man who missed out on that Mansfield match at the last minute but stayed with us because he felt it was the right thing to do, the man who is awaiting the arrival of his second child, and most importantly the man who played every second of all 50 games of this season. A remarkable statistic for a remarkably fit and reliable man.

It could hardly have been more fitting that fate chose Browner to bash in the winning goal in the 4,500th minute of his season. The only more apt scorer could have been if the ball had been mysteriously sucked into the net by the spirit of those Rovers loyalists who’ve sadly left us in recent times, including Ben Hiscox, Barrie Meyer, Ray Spearing, and Paul Withey.

As much as I feel sorry for Accrington fans that one of three exceptional teams had to miss out, at least they can sleep soundly in the knowledge that none of our recent opponents gave less than 100 per cent. The end to this season re-iterated why all fans ought to have hope and should keep on following their team however depressing it gets because you never quite know what is going to happen when a ball is on a patch of grass and 22 players are kicking the… cough… out of it.

Well, I’m back to where I started supporting Rovers, in the third tier, and that feels good. Karma may come and go but it will get there in the end.

Martin Bull became a Gashead in 1989 and immediately fell in love with Twerton Park, standing near G pillar. Three of his seven books have been about Bristol Rovers. ‘Away The Gas’ is packed full of over 50 years of ‘I was there’ away game moments, all written by fans, ‘Print That Season! - One man’s weekly meanderings throughout Bristol Rovers’ promotion campaign of 2014-15’ is the antidote to obedient season reviews, with none of the hindsight that most writers rely on, and 'Double Darrell' is similar, but chronicles the 2015-16 promotion, and is even better. Full details of all are available at www.awaythegas.org.uk

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