Bodin’s ablaze

On saturday we bolstered our play-off hopes with a win over west-country rivals, Swindon Town. The result saw us climb to the balmy heights of eighth in the table. The gas were in control for the majority of the match and thoroughly deserved the win, the only negative being that we should have added more goals to our tally, but in the end Billy Bodins’ 29th minute effort proved decisive.

Darrell Clarke looks to have utilised the loan market well this transfer window, unlike prior unsuccessful loan signings such as Kelle Roos, Joe Lumley and Anthony Sweeney both look like good additions to the squad. Lumley commands his area well and is dominant in the air. I like how he is confident and stands by his decisions and who doesn’t love his passion? I can see him becoming a favourite during his time here, but I don’t think we will sign him permanently. Sweeney came across as a real leader, he organised the defence better than I’ve seen for a long time and was strong and committed in the tackle. Similarly to Hartley he is a threat in the air at the other end of the pitch and almost grabbed a goal from one or two set pieces. D.C. deserves credit where it is due for bringing in these two.

In the midfield, Ollie Clarke turned in another performance of absolute quality, he’s looked a different man over the festive period and into the new year and has more than stepped up to fill the whole that Charlie Colkett left. I’d be surprised if the Swindon man has found his way out of Ollie’s back pocket yet! He’s always been capable but never shown enough consistency for my liking, until now. Clarke provides an anchor for Linesy when he goes on his mazy runs and breaks the play up so well, he’s the cleanest tackler at the club without a shadow of a doubt but he offers so much more than just that, he can attack. We’ve all seen the goals Clarke has scored and he seemingly doesn’t know the meaning of close range, almost all of them have been rockets! I’ve come to know them as ‘Ollie Clarke specials’ and he came very close to another one on Saturday, rattling the crossbar with a powerful volley. He was good value for man of the match and his performance probably merited a goal.

Bodin is also back to his best and after a slow start to the season his first goal at Chesterfield in late November has done the Welsh wingers confidence a world of good, he has since added five goals including a boxing day hat-trick against Coventry City. He’s ghosting past defenders and looks dangerous every time he picks up the ball. His goal on Saturday was sumptuous, from the edge of the box using the outside of his left boot, it swerved away from Vigoroux and in off the far post. Quite a spectacle! With that Billy has now amassed 20 goals in 58 League appearances for Rovers, a statistic made all the more impressive when you consider the fact that he plays on the wing.

Darrell got the tactics spot on in my opinion, Sinclair playing in behind the two strikers really helped our pressing game which caused Swindon all manner of issues. Vigoroux’s kicking was dreadful all afternoon and when they tried to play out from the back they ran into trouble. The high press from the front three also meant that the midfielders could squeeze higher up the pitch, both Clarke and Lines caught their central midfielders out on the ball a few times and it restricted Colketts’ ball time, given time and space we all know how dangerous Colkett can be. He was criticised for the substitutions but, whilst offering nothing, Gaffney and James both have good energy levels and work ethics which allowed us to keep pressing late on. Gaffney will be disappointed he didn’t score in the closing stages. Byron Moore was the only poor substitution but Bodin was apparently carrying a knock in training so it was the right thing to do, and Swindon really didn’t create much all afternoon.

It’s a very pleasing victory and it stops the rot after two away defeats, even more pleasing that we kept a clean sheet. Darrell is clearly addressing the two things that will prevent us from mounting a play off challenge, the first is the defence which I’m feeling more and more confident about with each passing game, we’re getting better. The second is the away form and only time will tell if we can pick up on the road, but with next week’s opponents Rochdale having lost their last two home games 4-0, we have as good a chance as any of walking away from Spotland with a win. Let’s start February as we mean to go on, COYB!

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