By Nathan Bees
Next Wednesday could prove to be one of the most important days in Bristol Rovers’ history as we finally discover whether the Sainsbury’s application is given planning permission by Bristol City Council.
If the green light is given then Rovers can look forward to playing in a wonderful arena that will be the envy of all our local counterparts in the south west.
It’s typical though that one of the most exciting days the club could ever have arrives at a time when we are bottom of League Two. You couldn’t make it up! It’s the way things go for Gasheads.
The fact we lie in 24th place is harsh considering we put in a decent showing against league leaders Gillingham last weekend, but ultimately our lack of points cost us with both Barnet and AFC Wimbledon winning.
The matches get no easier for us over the next few weeks either, with a trip to Fleetwood tomorrow followed up by two tricky games against promotion chasing Exeter and Rotherham.
Whilst we’re not expected to come out victorious in these games it may become crucial that we do because we don’t want to get cut adrift from those around us before we begin playing them in February.
Positively though, our performances since John Ward took charge have been much improved and we look a more organised team now than we did earlier in the campaign. However, the squad is still very inexperienced and lacks the know-how to unlock a resolute defence like Gillingham’s were last Saturday, and that’s something that needs to be rectified in the transfer market.
The enormity of the task is becoming increasingly apparent to Ward as he has admitted missing out on targets due to our lowly league position in the past couple of days.
He reassures Gasheads that he’ll be working tirelessly to land the right players to help us out of our predicament but it does mean that we could be heading to Fleetwood without any new strikers, or a replacement for the injured Garry Kenneth in defence.
It is far from the ideal situation as David Clarkson is ruled out for the third straight game and Joe Anyinsah is rated as doubtful, meaning just Eliot Richards and Tom Hitchcock are available for selection up top unless Ward plumps for the even younger duo of Ellis Harrison and Mitch Harding.
What these injuries mean is Phil Kite is being kept very busy in the treatment room trying to rehabilitate those who have been ruled out long-term. It has been one of the worst spates of injuries to first team players that the club can remember and it means that a huge chunk of our wage bill remain unavailable.
Kenneth’s face will not be unfamiliar to Kitey as he spent a lot of time with him in the summer to get him fit and ready for first team action in September. He started off very well and became an ever-present at the heart of our defence.
The stand-in captain has, however, been ruled out for up to 9 months after damaging his anterior cruciate ligament and it means our central defensive options look very limited right now with no senior players available apart from Tom Parkes and Mark McChrystal.
I would like to wish Garry the best of luck with his operation today and hope to see him return fitter and stronger than ever later in the year.
That’s a long way off just yet though and there are many things that will happen before we see him return. All our attentions have to be on those who are in the team right now and have the responsibility of winning points for the football club.
Whoever the 11 players are that pull on the quarters tomorrow afternoon they require our full support and I’m sure that is exactly what they’ll receive. If we can maintain our improvement in defence then we have a chance of keeping the Cod Army at bay - if we do, we need someone to step up to the plate and fire us the goals we need to win the game.
The next 7 days could be a roller-coaster ride for our emotions but we expect no different when it comes to Rovers. Here’s to there being smiles all-round from tomorrow onwards as that would be the sign of a great start to a pivotal week.
Come on Rovers, come on you blues.