That was the week that was!

If there was a week in the season where you could say lets get rid of that one then this week was the one for Bristol Rovers Football Club. Its very easy to come out and say how bad Matty Taylor was as a player lazy, poor finisher,misses more than he scores,doesn’t work hard for the team,goes missing – I’ve read them all this week and whilst I hate the bloke for joining the dark side for such a ridiculously low price – no I actually hate him for joining them at all!! but at the end of the day I cannot bring myself to lie. Matty Taylor has been immense to our Football Club and I actually think that he will be technically better than anything they will have over there. Goals are very difficult to replace in any team and make no mistake we are no exception as it is difficult to look beyond the likelihood that he would have scored probably another 10 this season (injury permitting) I am sure we have players who can put in a better workrate but I cannot see that we have anybody who will get anywhere near the number of goals Matty would have scored and I will remember him not for his misses but for his goals – every one of them! Will he score the goals to save the scum from relegation? I don’t know because one thing you have to accept with him is that he really is a striker who scores in spells – he can go 6 or 7 games without a goal but you know then that he will have a prolific spell where he scores 8 or 9 in a six or seven game run and this is where I think Matty has made a big mistake because not every Manager will support a player; like DC has done with Matty; and allow him to play himself through bad spells. Lets be honest City cannot afford to play him through such lengthy spell of not scoring and if he doesn’t find his shooting boots very quickly then he will suffer the same fate that John Akinde suffered when he made the switch to us and become subject to hate . All I can say on this is that Matty deserves that because great as he was he has let down everyone of us Gasheads and shown greed as his only motive. Anyway that is it – he is gone- so that’s my lot on the subject as another Chapter in a player for Bristol Rovers comes to a close. Players, owners and Managers come and go and none are bigger than the club and we must move on and quickly as there is still a chance that this season will be one to remember.

So yesterday it was a very difficult trip to Rochdale – a place where we have always found in recent times points to be at a very minimum. On the back of two home 4-0 defeats against Oxford and Huddersfield you would think that it was not as difficult game as it could have been but had you seen those eight goals conceded you would have seen that most of them were down to erratic goalkeeping from Conrad Logan and it was no surprise to find that they had replaced him this week and that we were playing a team who had a very impressive 10 victories at home so far. Just to add to our worries it was also a terrible pitch that faced us as it was clearly cut up before the game started.

When the team sheet came out there were few surprises in Darrell’s selection other than possibly Partington in preference to Leadbitter at full back. James had been given the shirt ahead of Gaffney and partnered Harrison and the midfield four were again Bodin, Lines, Ollie Clarke and Sinclair. This was to be one of our best defensive performances away from home this season but that is not to say we were under the cosh because we definitely were not and over the 90 minutes created the better chances and probably come the end of the match we should have just sneaked it despite having to play against twelve players with another terrible performance from the referee who lacked any consistency in his decisions and in truth very few went in our favour throughout.

Lumley 7.5 At last we seem to have got a good young keeper who dealt with everything that he had to do with confident handling and speedy departures from his line. Only once was he called upon to make an actual save of note where he got down well to a far post header but they say that good keepers don’t need to make spectacular saves and this was definitely the case with Joe’s performance yesterday. For one so young there is an air of confidence in his ability about him which belies his years and based on what I have seen so far I hope that he is available to make a permanent signing.

Partington 7.5 Calm, good in the air and whilst not as quick as Leadbitter is certainly no slouch and has the ability to pass the ball accurately. As a unit the defence looked the best I have seen it for a long time and the most impressive thing for me was that we actually dominated in the air and didn’t look like conceding a goal. He attacked when he could but I have always rated defenders firstly on how they have defended and any attacking is a bonus. The advantage Partington gave us was that he didn’t really need Bodin to help him much as he didn’t take unnecessary risks which meant that Billy could concentrate on what he does best.

Lockyer 7.5 Suddenly Tom looked the player we all know he can be but hasn’t been most of this season and that is a welcome bonus. Won most of his battles against quick, clever opponents and played with great authority which makes it hard to see where Burns is going to fit in and suddenly we have a great depth of defensive cover with James Clarke, Daniel Leadbitter, Bob Harris, Peter Hartley and Clarke Salter when the latter two return from injury. Certainly DC has done an excellent job recruiting in this area in the past month.

Sweeney 8.5 MOM Man mountain and was absolutely immense throughout. Won everything in the air and most things on the ground too in a Man of the Match performance against tidy opponents. His performance bodes well for the difficult matches that February presents us with as does the defence as a whole.

Brown 7 Better performance from Lee but probably missed our best chance late on when he broke clean through coming in from the left onto a great Sinclair past but he delayed his shot just long enough to enable the keeper to block his strong shot. I understand that Bob Harris is an excellent full back so at last Lee may need to up his game to get back to the form of last season and this was a satisfactory performance.

Bodin 7 Full of tricks and is a real handful for defenders when he has the ball at his feet. Even on the difficult surface his skills were there for all to see and his goalscoring is surely going to be one of the key factors as to how our season goes.

Lines 7 Worked hard throughout and battled well for every ball. the pitch was not really suited to his game as it was so bumpy that it was difficult to keep the ball under control but that said he made few mistakes and made a useful contribution against a side who are renowned for playing good football.

O Clarke 8 Maintained his current form and is really on top of his game as he made driving runs through the midfield and showed the composure that his performances have lacked in the past. On a difficult surface he outshone Lines both defensively and in possession and only Sweeney’s magnificence prevented him from getting my vote for Man of the Match.

Sinclair 6.5 Always up for the battle and as usual gave his all and covered so much of the pitch. Made probably the pass of the match in setting up Lee Brown for what should have been the winner but I am not sure what his role is in the side as first half he was almost playing in the hole and then second half played the left side but to be fair was good in possession . Usually when he drifts off to the wing it means he is about to be substituted but that was not the case yesterday and he came back into the game in the last ten minutes and overall I thought; like last week; he did a good job.

James 6 Needs game time now to reach match fitness. He ran his socks off with little to no protection from the referee and didn’t give the Rochdale defence time to settle on the ball. For his size he wins a lot in the air and twice early on came close to getting shots on target including a header which went just over. Could yet prove to be a good signing if he is given the sort of run that Taylor had and I really want him to score soon because it could just be the confidence booster he needs to set his career alight.

Harrison 6 Same as James really in that you could not fault his effort and commitment but with no protection from the referee and the terrible pitch it was never going to be easy.

Subs

Gaffney 6 For those who didn’t think he was up to much I disagree as he was not on long but during that short time I can remember his involvement and giving their defenders something to worry about with a couple of forceful runs including one right at the end where only his finish let him down and it was a shame he couldn’t have picked out Monty in the centre instead of blasting at the ball and sending it across the six yard box and well off target. He really needs a goal to give his confidence a boost but that could be said for all our strikers

Monty Only on a few minutes but could have been the hero if Gaffney had picked out his run into the six yard box instead of blasting the ball across goal.

Referee 3 Awful. Hardly gave us a decision all game and it was like we were playing against 12 players. The thing that annoys me most about referees is lack of consistency and you could almost predict that despite Rochdale consistently fouling it would be a Rovers player who would be first to go in the book- and it was!!

Rochdale 6 As usual a tough team to play against with their slick passing movements and quick players. The fact we edged the game is due praise for our performance and overall it was an entertaining game without having that much goalmouth action. A point is a good return against Keith Hills side and particularly impressive was how quiet we kept the usual troublesome Henderson.

Crowd 9 Noisy and good numbers and got behind the team right from the first whistle to the last.

DC Firstly lets give credit where it is due and praise the additions he has made in the window. Initial signs are very good that he has sorted out the defensive problems with some astute loans and buys. I am not sure if he has left us a bit short of competition in the central midfield and in the goalscoring department but only time will tell. I was very impressed with his interview in the week and really looking forward to the matches coming up now which will really test our “new” defence and goalkeeper. We are so lucky to have a good Manager and whilst losing Taylor is hard if we lost our Manager it would be a lot harder to take.

So we come away from Spotland with an excellent point provided we do well in our next two home games. Bradford and Sheffield United should give us a good indication of whether our defensive problems are over but I would really like to see us go with Monty on the wing in both those games but can understand why DC will probably play Sinclair to give us the extra workrate in midfield.
To conclude my report thank god the transfer deadline is now gone and we can concentrate on the games coming up and the week came to an end with the fantastic news on the training ground which will have a far greater influence on the Future of our club than Matty Taylor. Now for some good news on UWE and things won’t look half as bad particularly as we are only three points off the Play Offs. UTG

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