by Nathan Bees
Who’d have thought a week ago that we would be just 11 days away from the first Bristol Derby in 6 and a half years? I was well aware that the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy gave us a chance of facing our fiercest rivals but I must admit I didn’t think it would happen, certainly not in round 1 anyway.
But Soccer AM’s Helen Chamberlain and Max Rushden ensured that Bristolians got the tie they were looking for by drawing City and then Rovers together in front of a delighted studio audience.
The derby has not only attracted massive attention in and around Bristol but from Sky Sports as well, who have decided to screen the game to the nation. I’m sure this will please exiled Gasheads unable to travel to Ashton Gate and it gives the entire city the chance to show just how big this fixture is.
There is life outside of the Manchester or Merseyside derby, even if more football fans choose to ignore it. Most importantly, of course, the match provides Gasheads with the platform to out-sing our ‘big’ local rivals in their own stadium.
Oh what it would mean to all concerned to hear Goodnight Irene reverberating around the East End after a famous victory!
In truth a win would see us rewarded merely with a place in the second round of the competition but the reality is that the bragging rights mean much, much more. The pleasure we would all have going into work the following morning after victory far outweighs the prospect of any potential second round tie.
We could get to the semi-finals without experiencing a game as big as this and that gives an indication of just how significant this clash is.
A positive result could prove to be the springboard our season needs, just like it did in 2007 after Rickie Lambert’s winner in the second leg of the area final (which, ironically, was City’s last fixture in this competition).
His goal subsequently inspired the team to reach, and win, the play-offs. We all desperately want a similar result this year and I have no doubts that the team will rise to the occasion and take confidence from the performance they will put in.
Before facing the Robins we have two home league matches to play and, hopefully, win. The result last weekend at Newport County was poor, even though it was a refereeing decision that ultimately cost us the game.
Fortunately Garry Kenneth, Ryan Brunt and Matt Gill are back in contention after recovering from long-term injury and that will boost everybody in the dressing room this weekend.
I speculated in my blog last Friday that the Newport clash was likely to have come too soon for the trio to feature but our lack of forward options forced John Ward to throw on Ryan Brunt in search of an equaliser.
He got 20 minutes at Rodney Parade and followed that up with a much needed goal and hour of action in a midweek reserve team game with Hereford United. Gill also played 60 minutes of the match while Kenneth lasted the full 90 and scored a header from an Alefe Santos corner.
It’s encouraging to know that we have a player who is capable of delivering a dangerous cross into the penalty area and I sincerely hope he gets the chance to show it at first team level. A repeat against York City tomorrow would go down very well indeed!
I for one am delighted to see players returning from injury given our lack of seniority and strength in depth. Brunt was instrumental in our forward play last season and has been sorely missed whilst I’m convinced there is an awful lot more to come from both Gill and Kenneth now they have shaken off niggling injury problems.
Their return to fitness comes at the ideal time and if they can help initiate a win against Nigel Worthington’s Minstermen then we’ll get an idea of just how influential they can be for us moving forward.
Following John Ward’s comments to the media yesterday I am looking forward to seeing a more ‘adventurous’ Bristol Rovers this weekend. An attacking display that earns us 3 points would be the perfect tonic to last Saturday’s bitter disappointment and will almost certainly encourage indecisive Gasheads to purchase tickets for the big derby on Wednesday 4th September.
Up the Gas!