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20 December 2013

By Nathan Bees

After the Wycombe Wanderers abandonment at Adams Park in August 2012 I was certain that it was one of those rare occurrences that happens only once in a blue moon.

It was one of the worst feelings to see us cruise into a 3-1 lead and have it ripped away late in the game due to the decision of Wycombe’s Health and Safety Officer.

I couldn’t recall too many occasions where a Rovers game had to be abandoned midway through, particularly when we were winning, and didn’t expect it to happen again for a very, very long time. 

I was wrong, but thankfully this time the scores were still level. The match with Crawley Town was becoming farcical due to the heavy rain on Wednesday evening, admittedly, but for the referee to abandon the game with just quarter of an hour remaining seemed strange.

It had been chucking it down throughout and the condition of the pitch was deteriorating rapidly, but did it really need 75 minutes of action to decide that the match was no longer a spectacle? 

The pitch was unplayable long before the game was called off so the decision to wait until so close to full-time was incredible. Why not do it at half-time?

Extra Time in those conditions would have been impossible and I’m sure the referee didn’t want to risk that eventuality becoming a reality.

It would have been controversial (and probably unprecedented) for a game to be abandoned when 90 minutes had already been played, so that probably motivated the decision with the clock ticking. I have no complaints with the game being abandoned as it was the right call, I am just disappointed with the timing of it. 

The fact we must replay the replay is inconvenient with so many fixtures scheduled over the coming weeks but it can’t be helped. The new date for the tie is Saturday, January 4th with the victors then playing their third round game with Birmingham City just days later on either January 7th or 8th.

It’s a quick turnaround and isn’t helpful to whomever progresses, making an already difficult match with a Championship side even tougher.

Rovers fans could be justifiably frustrated having gone all the way to West Sussex only for the game to be stopped, but what about the players and coaching staff? 

Those who figured had to play on a heavy pitch for 75 tiring minutes, wearing them out ahead of Saturday’s big game with Portsmouth. Fitness levels will not be at their optimum level ahead of tomorrow’s showdown and that will, unfortunately, be of benefit to our opponents.

The clash with Pompey is arguably our biggest so far and it’s one we need to win, so to be disadvantaged like we will be makes John Ward’s preparations all the tougher.

From whatever perspective you look at it from, Rovers haven’t come out of the abandonment in the best of shapes. It’s the way the footballing world works sometimes (although it usually feels like it works against us more often that it works in our favour).

The fact Tom Lockyer’s booking still counts in a game where everything else was expunged just about sums our season up really, doesn’t it? 

It seems unlikely Mark McChrystal will be fit enough to play tomorrow so it remains to be seen who will fill in alongside Tom Parkes.

Youngster Pat Keary came into the team and performed admirably at Mansfield Town earlier in the season and I would be happy to see him start.

John Ward says he would have no problem in naming him in his starting XI and that must be reassuring for the Patchway-born teenager. It would be a good test for him and I’m sure he’s looking forward to potentially making his full home debut.

Keary and the rest of the team will be in for a tough test against Richie Barker’s men for a number of reasons, not least because they need points as much as we do.

Their league position isn’t healthy and the players will want to rectify this as soon as possible. On top of that, they are playing for their futures under the stewardship of a new manager who will undoubtedly be ruthless with January on the horizon.

On paper they have some established players in their squad and most of them have experience of football at a higher level than League Two, making their situation all the more baffling.

For some reason though it hasn’t been working for the fan-owned club up to now and hopefully we can heap more misery on them tomorrow.  

Their supporters were quick to sell-out their allocation of tickets and it should make for a great atmosphere around the Mem. A large, vocal away following usually prompts a response from Gasheads and that always makes for a more exciting game.

There will be no let up from the Portsmouth supporters and I’m hoping that we will more than match them - no song other than ‘Goodnight Irene’ should dominate Horfield tomorrow afternoon.

This is my last blog of 2013 so I would like to take the opportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Thank you all for reading in the past twelve months, it’s much appreciated. Your kind comments on Twitter are always nice to read.

I say it every year to no avail, but… hopefully 2014 will be a successful one for Bristol Rovers Football Club. The only thing I can say with any degree of certainty is that it will be a bumpy ride, as always. 

Up the Gas!

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