Keeping the dream alive
After the disappointment of last weeks defeat at Coventry it really had the feeling yesterday of the season being over and it was very surprising in my opinion that a crowd of 9498 showed up at the Mem for hardly an exciting fixture against a struggling Shrewsbury side but perhaps there are a lot more fans more confident than me that the dream is still alive and who still believe there is another twist in the fight for the Play Offs. Anyway for me this was more a case of getting revenge for what possibly was our worst performance of the season at their ground.
It was no surprise that Darrell made three changes and for the second week running the team selected agreed with my team ( a most unusual event I can tell you!!) but perhaps it is a sign of the fraility of our squad particularly attacking and midfield and certainly the main area which DC will be approaching in the summer I hope. Anyway the line up saw the return of Danny Leadbitter, Christian Montano and Ryan Sweeney- the latter was probably the player we missed most at Coventry which just shows how important a signing he has been .
It was a lovely spring day and the fact it was not all ticket that allowed some fans to make a late decision to attend that probably swelled the numbers but the first half was quite a one sided event where other than one moment when Sweeney brilliantly positioned himself to clear off the line following the Shrewsbury player managing to be held up sufficiently by Lumley it was all Rovers and with a bit of luck or some better finishing we could have been out of sight at half time. The football was pretty good to the eye as James and Gaffney both battled well although in truth neither looked like scoring and the players who looked more likely to score were the middle four of the 4-4-2 where not for the first time since January Billy Bodin looked the likely threat with his twisting runs. There was nearly a goal for Tom Lockyer in one of a few goalmouth scrambles where somehow the ball wouldn’t go in and a typically savage shot form Ollie Clarke that was well saved.
Some would say that the sending off of the Shrewsbury player was the turning point just before half time but I don’t feel that was the case as in all honesty we looked a lot more likely to score and played a lot better when the numbers were equal and the sending off probably strengthened the resolve of a Shrewsbury side that I felt were better than their position in the league suggests with several quick players who broke from defence to attack and troubled us at times down the flanks.
I will take up the second half story in the individual players comments other than to say it was a thoroughly deserved 3 points though not as convincing as it should have been.
Lumley 7 Another unblemished performance. Reads the game superbly and is so quick off his line that he cuts out problems before they occur and I would describe him as brilliant at the basics with a matchwinning save in his locker as well. The real test IMO of a good goalkeeper is how he reacts to an error but in truth he has not really made an error yet and I don’t really want him to make one unless we are three or four up which is not very likely with our punchless strikers.
Leadbitter 6.5 Would have been higher if only he could provide a few quality crosses from the numerous runs he makes however I have to say that I see no reason whatsoever why DC changes it for away games against teams we should beat as IMO Coventry were no better than Shrewsbury and I think the same can be said about our remaining games other than Millwall. The main thing for me is that he provides a good foil for Billy Bodin and is always available and that pace he possesses usually gets him out of any trouble.
Lockyer 7 Unlucky not to open his scoring account for the season and pretty solid throughout. He had a tough game against a spirited Shrewsbury striker but came out well on top of the battle and only his distribution again let him down as far too often when he has a bit of time he brings the ball out but ruins the good work with an awful hoofed pass to the invisible man! Its a great shame because he really does read situations superbly.
Sweeney 7.5 MOM Man mountain and fought on after a clash of heads that left him with a bloodied looking eye and still didn’t stop him going into every headed duel. Superb positioning to clear off the line in the first half when a goal against the run of play looked odds on and he showed just how much we missed him at Coventry which is worrying because of course he is not our player and probably unless Wael pays out somewhere near a record fee (Andy Tillson at £375,000 many years ago) it looks unlikely he will be here.
Brown 6.5 Despite not being a constant threat like Leadbitter in many ways Lee’s more reserved attacking strength is more influential with a better end product.but he does have the advantage of a player in front of him who is willing to cover him. Overall a reasonable performance but I didn’t like the way he got involved in the sending off and the decision could have gone against him if we had some of the referees we have had recently.
Bodin 7 A good pressure penalty and a superb goal that only he can score won us the game and could well have been Man of the match but I felt his overall game was not one of his best but who cares if he continues to score on a regular basis. he has such quick feet that he is a nightmare to mark and whenever he has the ball near the edge of the box you sense the crowd feeling that something special is going to happen. After a mainly disappointing first half of the season Billy now has 11 goals and I would not be surprised if there are more to come before the seasons end.
Lines 6 Not sure about his performance yesterday and sometimes I feel this way about his games. Seemed to be involved a lot and always looking to do something special but without that final ball or shot to really be counted. Perhaps I have been harsh and it should be a 7 but sticking to my feeling that he could be better at times. Wasted another free kick from a good position but so glad that he has been at last relieved of corner duty.
O Clarke 5.5 Strangely subdued yesterday before he left with an injury that I very much hope is not serious. The fact he walked off hopefully bodes well. Had one fierce drive where he was unlucky not to score but for me went missing far too much and this was nowhere near the new standards his performances recently have set.
Montano 6 Another workmanlike performance and floated in and out of the game and provided a few clever passes including the knock forward for the move which led to the penalty. Good to see him at last be given some corners and delivered some good crosses but we really do lack a striker who can head a couple of goals or a fox in the box who can pinch a couple and at times I think crossing in is a waste of time because we just don’t take up the right positions. Again I feel he is always going to do something and I don’t see that the substitution with Byron Moore did anything to improve the side. I am sure that there is a really good player here if he was given a run of games but also I have a feeling if you look at the results when he has started games I think you will find that our better results have been where he has started because he provides balance and the majority of time keeps the opposing full back busy enough to not be able to attack us.
Gaffney 6 Tried hard. Fought for every ball without looking likely to score and this is why I think we should be looking for a new leader of the attack next season . A useful squad player but we need better if we are to go further.
James 5 Disappointing. Just cannot fault his commitment or work rate but another game where he has failed to score but more importantly again he did not look like scoring. The highlight for me was the brilliant bringing down of a high ball near the touchline in the first half where I thought why when a person has that ability can he not set the place alight. DC seems to have faith in him so I will keep believing that there is more to come but the trouble is that there is not long left this season to produce it. Perhaps Darrell will have the last laugh again when Luke scores the goals in the last five games to bring about the impossible or should I say the extremely unlikely.
Sinclair 6 Went in for some great challenges and won most of them. Always tenacious and wanting to be involved and rarely gives the ball away.
Moore 5 Added nothing whatsoever to the team. Even when he gets the ball with a chance to run at the opposition he seems to hold back and take too long and is caught and relieved of the ball cheaply. he is under contract for next season so maybe there is better to come but haven’t seen much sign of it other than his solitarily goal.
Easter NOLE Felt it was another game where he should have been used earlier. personally I would still not mind to see him given a year contract as I still feel he has something to offer with his experience and ball retaining ability.
Crowd 6 Great numbers after the defeat at Coventry which has all but ended our play off hopes but the atmosphere sort of had that end of the season feeling or should I say the feeling that this season is not going to be the glorious ends of the season of the last two years.
Referee 8 He has an awful reputation but apart from the sending off that looked like it should have been a last warning (but I could be wrong as I was a long way from the crime!) I thought he refereed the game very well and tried to keep the game flowing. Certainly compared to some of the referees we have had recently I just couldn’t see why the Shrewsbury fans thought he was that bad as they hardly deserved anything from the game.
Shrewsbury 6 Nowhere near as bad as their position in the League and hopefully they can do us a favour in the future and beat Southend on their patch. I really like the look of their left back who was even better at their place and IMO would be well worth signing to provide competition for Lee Brown.
DC Got team selection pretty well right and IMO should go against his policy of changing things for the next away game and stick with this team for the remaining five games (injury aside of course) I know he likes to give full respect to the opposition but so too should they respect us and we are well capable of winning the remaining away games although our recent record on the road would deem it very unlikely. DC has had a magnificent three years and whatever the final outcome of the season I would love at least another three years!!!
So we move on to Wimbledon which is a very winnable game but also a tough one as their results have been very up and down. On their day they are formidable opposition on their own patch but who knows what Rovers will turn up.IMO if a miracle is going to happen then we have to win each of the next 5 games and hope that either Southend or Scunthorpe slip up. I really can’t see it as Southen will still be six points ahead of us even if they lose to Bolton on Tuesday and their goal difference really makes it seven points but can they really lose three out of their six remaining games – Bolton H, Charlton A, Chesterfield A, MK Dons H, Shrewsbury A, and Bury H or can Scunthorpe fail to pick up 7 points from their 5 games against Bolton H, MK Dons A, Chesterfield H,Swindon A, and Coventry H. Oh and then there are Oxford, Millwall and Rochdale!!
Lets just enjoy the rest of the season because who could have dreamt when we lost that game to Mansfield that we would be where we are today. UTG