Written by Nathan Bees
I can’t begin to sum up how gutted I am that we lost the game on Wednesday night.
After a frustratingly slow start that saw City take the lead and Rovers pinned deep inside their own half we came to life and went on to become the better team in the second period.
When Mark McChrystal headed in the equaliser I thought that the least we would manage was taking the tie to penalties. When Joe Bryan netted the winner I couldn’t believe it. The footballing gods are too cruel for words sometimes.
Even in defeat, however, I couldn’t have been more proud of the players and our magnificent support. City may have won the game but we have emerged with pride intact and as a Sky Sports pundit acknowledged: ‘Rovers were the better club.’
Both on and off the pitch, bar a few idiots that were only interested in causing trouble, players and supporters represented Bristol Rovers with tremendous passion and neither could have asked for more from the other.
When you consider the 1 division gap and the number of young players in the team our performance was admirable and warranted more than a 2-1 defeat.
Our support was superb and there was barely a second that passed where no noise was emerging from the 2400 Rovers fans in the East End. I’ve watched part of the game back on TV and ‘Goodnight Irene’ was
loud and clear before, during and after the match.
My Twitter feed was inundated with people complimenting our continued singing following the pitch invasion and the overwhelming suggestion from neutrals was that Rovers are the preferred Bristol club. That should fill us all with pride.
There are plenty of positives that the lads can take from how close the match was and it should act as a real confidence boost as we return to league action.
We gave away very few goalscoring chances and defended well for the vast majority of the 90 minutes. Our back 5 can be pleased with how they restricted City to opportunistic efforts from distance and our midfield can be encouraged by how they controlled the second half.
In the first 45 minutes our forward play wasn’t great but it got better and better as the game wore on and we managed to get in behind their defence on a number of occasions. With a cooler head in front of goal we could have easily scored a second and forced a penalty shootout.
It just wasn’t to be, though. If we can take the good things we produced at Ashton Gate into our future games then I think we will prove a very difficult team to play against in League Two.
This weekend’s trip to Plymouth Argyle has been overlooked due to the magnitude of the Bristol derby but it’s a very big game for both sides.
Rovers are looking for a third successive league win while Argyle will fancy home advantage in their bid to jump into the top half of the table.
They will certainly fancy their chances given that their JPT game was played on Tuesday, giving them 24 hours longer to recover, but with the momentum we can take into the game we have nothing to fear.
Besides, our substitutes bench is becoming stronger and stronger with each passing week and we now have the quality outside the first eleven to freshen things up should we need to.
I’m unsure on ticket sales but I would be surprised if we didn’t take 1000 or more as it is our first away game at Plymouth that hasn’t fallen on a Tuesday for a number of years.
It will be my first trip to Home Park and I’m looking forward to it, I just hope there are a good number of Gasheads present to support the team. It can make all the difference.
It’s important not to dwell on the derby defeat because overall we can come out of the fixture with great pride. We were unlucky not to take it beyond the 90 minutes but that’s football.
The ‘mind the gap’ phrase that City fans like using will soon become redundant because there’s barely a ‘fag packet’ between us, as John Ward rightly said on the night. It’s all about how we respond now and with two important away games coming up we have the chance to improve our sluggish start away from home.
Onwards and upwards Gasheads.