By Nathan Bees
So we head into the largest and most anticipated away game of the season at Portsmouth on the back of the most sickening of results last weekend.
The Fratton Park clash was the one I looked out for when the fixtures were released last June and I was both pleased and gutted in equal measure with the fact it came so late in the season.
On the plus side it meant it may be a game that had a lot riding on it given its our penultimate away trip of the season - and clearly it does - but I was disappointed that we had to wait so long for it.
Now, 24 hours before, I wish that we weren’t playing Pompey at all. Their form under new boss Andy Awford has been terrific and the club’s supporters are buzzing, relatively speaking, at the way their team have been playing recently.
In stark contrast, we are on a poor run of form and head to Fratton Park having won just once away from the Mem all season. It’s a daunting prospect, especially when all home tickets have been snapped up to ensure the attendance is well over 18,000.
The Torquay United debacle last weekend highlighted a number of concerns. The team were working hard and willing something to happen but they simply didn’t have the same grit and raw desire to make a game-winning contribution as our Devon counterparts did.
I am always one to hold my hands up and say we were beaten by a better side if we actually have been and last Saturday was one of those occasions.
It’s just frightening that the team who inflicted the defeat on us are rock bottom of the league and destined to drop into the Skrill Premier. It doesn’t say much for our survival hopes and I left the Mem angry and horrified at the prospect of relegation - just as everyone else did.
The forum and Twitter was awash with negativity immediately after and I felt the pain that everyone was trying their best to express. It was a long and sobering night taking in the emotional outbursts of Gasheads understandably cheesed off with another season of failure but I couldn’t bring myself to join in. If I did it would have felt like I had given up.
In the days following the game I didn’t quite know what to think about it all. I was so dejected that I was telling myself there was no way back but I mellowed slightly and realised that anything other than 100% support for the team in the final four matches would have a detrimental effect on our chances.
I had a ticket for Portsmouth and I wasn’t going to abandon the team now. As concerning as our perilous position is, destiny is still in our own hands and the 2500 Gasheads heading for Fratton Park have the ability to make a difference - and we all know it.
I share the frustration of supporters who feel that as a fan base we are being relied upon and rallied way too often to help motivate the team but in these circumstances what else can we do?
We have four massive games left to preserve our Football League status and jeering the lads will not help us in our fight.
If relegation is confirmed then by all means let the world know how disgusted you are by it all. However, whilst there is still hope for us don’t make life any more difficult for the men who have the ability to keep us up. It’s the one thing we can do to help - the rest is up to them.
It doesn’t get any easier when our next game is against a Rochdale side who could clinch promotion with a win, so it’s imperative we bring something back to Bristol with us.
We give ourselves a chance if we can pick up at 3 points this Easter weekend as it would give the whole club a lift before another potentially massive trip to Wycombe Wanderers next Saturday.
They are fighting for their lives in an even worse position than we are and if the game has anything riding on it I dread to think how tense the atmosphere would be that day.
The team need to rediscover the same battling qualities that they displayed in our 2-0 win over Portsmouth at the Mem back in December, as well as the finishing touch in front of goal, and I sincerely hope Darrell Clarke can find a system that coaxes it out of them.
They’ve proven, infrequently, that they can do it and now they have to produce it on the big stage when everyone is counting on them.
I can pretty much guarantee that I will be as nervous as I ever have been at a Rovers game tomorrow afternoon but I can also assure you I will sing as loudly as I ever have done.
I know it won’t be pretty football and it’s unlikely we will score several goals to make life comfortable for ourselves but as long as the end result is a win then the inevitable nail-biting will be worth it.
Enjoy the day as best you can Gasheads and here’s to us reproducing the sort of support that roared us on to an unexpected victory at Pompey’s fierce rivals Southampton 5 years ago. Anything can happen in football and I hope more than anything in the world that we can pull off a result.
Come on you blues.