By Nathan Bees
So, how relieved are we after picking up our first away win of the season? I’d guess very!
I’m unable to explain how we can travel to Accrington Stanley and lose 2-1 and then head to top of the table Oxford United and win 1-0. It doesn’t make any sense but it is indicative of League Two football - anyone can beat anyone if they play with intent.
It’s frustrating because you just think ‘why couldn’t we play with the same attacking intent earlier in the season?’. Of course, our young lads are still adapting to the physicality of professional football and with several experienced forward players missing recently perhaps over-committing in attack would have left us exposed.
Still, the team should now have confidence in what they’re doing on the pitch because they’ve beaten one of the most experienced teams in the division on their own patch.
And that’s what it’s all about really, isn’t it? Confidence. It’s easy to forget that footballers are human beings and they perform better when they have faith in their ability. Just think back to 2006-2007 for an example of how powerful confidence can be.
I’m not for one moment suggesting that we can expect a repeat of that this year (it’s way too early to call) but it could certainly help to propel us up the table.
Hartlepool United are a side we should look to replicate. They picked up just 5 points before their trip to the Mem 7 weeks ago and that showed in their performance.
Since then though they have been in fine form and they are just one win away from the play-off places. Although disappointed to have thrown away their lead against us back in September, an away draw represented a good result at the time and they have used it to their advantage.
Colin Cooper has done a great job at Victoria Park and was deservedly awarded Manager of the Month for guiding his team to a solid mid-table position.
We’ve got the same building blocks ourselves now; back-to-back clean sheets and 4 points from a possible 6 against top 7 opposition. You could see how much it meant to everyone at full-time last Saturday and that was pleasing to see.
The buzzword this week in interviews has been ‘consistency’ and that’s the challenge that the boys now face - producing results week after week. It’s not easy because every club is looking to do the same thing but that’s precisely where confidence comes into the equation.
We look like we have that now and the players will hopefully respond accordingly on the pitch.
Next up is York City in the FA Cup this evening and we go into the game with a number of players returning. David Clarkson comes back into contention after suspension and both Matt Harrold and Lee Brown are fit again after injury.
Clarkson may be in line to drop into central midfield given John-Joe O’Toole’s suspension and Brown may drop into the back four with Will Packwood ineligible but Harrold may find it difficult to shift Chris Beardsley from a starting role.
Beardsley put in a tremendous shift at the Kassam Stadium and was instrumental in our improved attacking display. It seems to me like an obvious decision to keep him in the team tonight regardless of whether he plays as the lone forward or as part of a front two with one of Harrold, Eliot Richards or Ryan Brunt.
We aren’t playing on a Saturday afternoon this weekend and I must admit that I really don’t like it when this is the case. What are you meant to do on a football-less Saturday?
Having said that it must be said that any game under the floodlights is one to look forward to. There’s a different sort of atmosphere at the Mem during a night match and it’s sure to be even greater given that it’s the FA Cup.
Our last Friday home match came in early 2013 when Barnet were our opponents. Needless to say it was a terrific night given our dramatic late winner but the general atmosphere was brilliant anyway and you could sense an energy on the terraces that doesn’t often exist.
Sure, a first round clash with York City may not be particularly thrilling but given the context it’s one that I’m thoroughly looking forward to. The club are doing what they can to entice as many Gasheads along as possible with reduced ticket prices and it would be great if we could get a respectable crowd through the gates to cheer on the team.
A cup run could be seen as a distraction from our all-important league campaign but it could also be hugely beneficial too.
It would provide additional revenue that may be used to improve the squad in the new year and it may even present us with a magical tie at a Premier League ground - the dream of all lower league clubs in the FA Cup.
I hope we give it a damn good go tonight because it would be awful to see us lose momentum at a time when we look well-placed to kick on. It would be typical Bristol Rovers, in all honesty, but you have to keep the faith.
See you later ladies and gents.