By Nathan Bees
My blog last Friday was made to look out of date very quickly due to the unexpected announcement later in the morning that Darrell Clarke had replaced John Ward as Rovers manager.
We have also played two games since then, winning a poor game against Morecambe and losing to Bury having played really well, so a lot has happened since I last wrote!
Where do I begin?
I suppose I should start with offering my unequivocal support to Darrell in his new role. At the time I was happy with the decision as the team was in need of fresh impetus and considering DC already knew the players it made perfect sense.
John Ward is a great man and did a terrific job to keep us up last season when the team seemed destined to go down, but there has been little improvement to our league position this campaign and the results have left a lot to be desired.
A change was necessary to maximise our chances of staying up and I think people were pleased with the move.
The new set-up is ideal, particularly in the short-term. John remains with us as Director of Football, overseeing parts of the football club that he has longed to invest more time in - like the youth department, and an ambitious young manager takes his place as first team manager.
At the time of the announcement it made sense and I haven’t changed my mind after listening to Darrell’s interviews and watching the lads in action against the Shrimps and the Shakers.
He has come across very well and looks very confident in his own abilities as a manager - and with good reason after the success he achieved at Salisbury City. He knows what he wants from the team and has gone on record as saying that he won’t be afraid to make changes should he feel it will help us get results.
In fact, he proved that with his first team sheet last weekend. Captain Tom Parkes was dropped to the bench and replaced by Danny Woodards, restoring the preferred left footed-right footed central defensive partnership that many supporters like to see.
Our back four looked solid and Danny’s assured presence was a help to an otherwise young side.
Admittedly the game was poor because the players were obviously very tense but the 4-4-2 with wide men earned us the win we were hoping for right at the death.
Substitute Ellis Harrison delivered a deep cross to Kaid Mohamed, who planted a superb header into the top corner. The relief around the Mem was incredible and the celebrations showed just happy everyone was with the win. Other scores went our way as well, ensuring Darrell enjoyed the perfect start to his Rovers career.
Bury was a different kettle of fish entirely. We played a 3-5-2 and after a shaky period at the beginning where we fell a goal behind we started playing some great stuff and scored a deserved equaliser.
Unfortunately our Achilles heel came back to bite us on the bum and we didn’t score a winner when we were on top, which we eventually paid the price for. We played with intent and purpose, however, and there was plenty to be encouraged by heading into our final fixtures.
All the players are playing for their futures with the club and that should mean everyone is on their toes and playing to the maximum of their ability.
It’s an exciting time for Rovers off the pitch at the moment and you can be sure that everyone will want to be part of the squad that kicks off our first season in the UWE Stadium. They give themselves a good chance of being there if they can impress their new manager between now and May.
If Darrell can secure our league status and then mould the ‘versatile’ and ‘attacking’ team that he wants here then next year could be very exciting as the countdown to the UWE move begins.
With the news on Wednesday that TRASH had ended their campaign against Sainsbury’s buying the Mem, everyone could finally enjoy a drink knowing there were no more damaging obstacles to overcome. Once contracts are signed off by Nick Higgs with the relevant parties building work can commence. It’s going to happen, Gasheads!
All eyes must now turn to tomorrow’s game at AFC Wimbledon, however. The Wombles are one of the sides just above us in the table and a win would send us a point clear of them. A big ask given our atrocious away record but a performance similar to that at Gigg Lane on Tuesday gives us a good chance of upsetting the home faithful.
Despite our failings on the road this season our away followings have been as impressive as ever and I hope plenty of Gasheads descend on Kingsmeadow to offer their support to Darrell Clarke and the team.
We have to put the terrible form to bed at some stage, why not tomorrow?
Up the Gas!