By Nathan Bees
What is it about Bristol Rovers vs York City that brings the best out of us in attack? In 3 games against the Minstermen since August we have scored 9 goals - a quite remarkable statistic given that we have only scored 21 goals altogether.
All three clashes with York have been entertaining affairs for the neutral but they’ve not done my heart any good, particularly Tuesday’s meeting at Bootham Crescent.
I wasn’t able to make it (only the second game I’ve missed all season) so I was consigned to the Radio Bristol commentary and, for 70 minutes of the tie, it was thoroughly enjoyable. We sounded dominant, clinical and in complete control of the game - it made for easy listening.
But with Rovers you’re always anticipating the next sucker punch and we didn’t have to wait long for our fears to become a reality. We concede twice inside 60 seconds and handed our hosts a sniff of the FA Cup second round.
Needless to say the final 20 minutes were not an easy listen and felt like an eternity in comparison to the whirlwind hour that saw us race into a 3-0 lead but the main thing was getting through. We did it.
On the few occasions where I can’t go to a game I am the world’s worst listener, or so my parents would have you believe. I head every ball and get so wrapped up in what’s happening that I appeal every decision and sing as loudly as I do in the Blackthorn End during a home game.
That makes it difficult when my family decide to go to bed early as I do wake them up, but surely I was justified this week… we won!
I knew there would be changes to the starting XI following the injury Alefe Santos sustained against Bury and the fact Will Packwood was ineligible to play but I must admit to being surprised that Matt Harrold was rested.
It was a sensible decision considering his recent spate of fitness problems but I hadn’t anticipated a third change. Pleasingly it provided David Clarkson with an opportunity to show what he could do.
Football is a game of opinions and DC is one player who divides them almost evenly. I often have people ask me why I rate him when ‘he doesn’t score many goals’, and every time I say the same thing:
He doesn’t often get to play in his natural position as part of a front two and therefore doesn’t get the clear cut opportunities to score goals.
With the injuries we’ve had he’s been utilised out wide and in attacking midfield, areas that generally mean he is the provider as opposed to the goalscorer, which doesn’t do him justice.
The fact he is trusted by John Ward to contribute in a variety of positions though shows how highly he is thought of by the coaching staff.
Back in August, in one of his only appearances as an out-and-out striker, he scored twice (also against York) and looked a real handful.
Unfortunately he’s had niggling injuries and a 3 game suspension since then and has missed out on the opportunity to maintain a place in his favoured position, but people tend to glaze over these details when assessing him.
One thing that nobody can fault, however, is his attitude and the way in which he goes about his football and I hope he is rewarded with another start again this weekend.
As a team progress has been slow but we are now unbeaten in 5 matches and are starting to look a lot more assured. The longer this run goes on the more confident the lads will be that they can go out and win football matches.
If we can turn the solitary points we are accruing into regular 3 point hauls then we will soon shoot up the table. Easier said than done but we’re not a million miles away from making that happen.
It’s easy to get carried away too quickly but I have a good feeling about our team now, particularly with our more experienced pros back in action. The young boys are adapting to the rigours of league football and, touch wood, we are looking more of a threat going forwards.
It’s never wise to predict what the future will hold for Rovers but it’s safe to say we’ve got the right attitude to tackle whatever comes our way. We’re showing plenty of fight both on and off the pitch and hopefully it will see us reap the rewards in the long run.
I’ll leave you this week with what chairman Nick Higgs rightly said in his update last week: ‘Something worth having is worth fighting for.’