By Nathan Bees
Wow. What a monumental relief that terrific victory at Wycombe Wanderers was. We were staring down the barrel of a gun at 1-1 with results elsewhere going against us and I must admit, I feared the worst during the second half.
Fortunately David Clarkson capitalised on a defensive mistake to slot home from close range and spark wild scenes in the away end.
As supporters we deserved that moment considering some of the performances we have witnessed over the course of the season and it was a great feeling. Clarkson could well be 2014’s Andy Rammell and if we complete the job against Mansfield Town and stay in League Two he will be fondly remembered for many years to come.
The response from Gasheads has been outstanding and tickets for tomorrow’s game have been selling at a staggering rate. For it to be a home sell-out is outstanding and I cannot wait to taste the atmosphere before kick-off.
There will be plenty of nerves I am sure but as soon as the referee signals the start of the game the noise will be deafening and hopefully that will inspire the team to victory.
It may also make it intimidating for a Mansfield side with nothing to play for and if we can put them on the back foot from the start it will hand our boys a huge advantage. We practically breathed the winner into the goal last weekend and I wouldn’t put it past the Blackthorn End to do the same this week.
It isn’t often we get a full house at the Mem so it would be nice to mark the occasion with 3 points. As Darrell Clarke rightly said in his interview yesterday, staying in the Football League for a club our size shouldn’t be seen as an achievement but it will certainly be a huge relief to all concerned if we do it.
It will be nice to get this season out the way because there is a serious rebuilding job required this summer. Darrell has made it clear that he knows what direction he wants to take things over the close season and I am hoping he is given the chance to show us.
Our recruitment for far too long has been inadequate and I am looking forward to seeing who is lined up to come in given the noises that have been made so far.
One of the difficulties facing Darrell is deciding which of the current squad he wants to keep. Many fans will be split over who deserves to stay and who should go but I don’t think there will be anyone unhappy with the fact there will be changes.
The scope is there for big movement given the number of players out of contract and it will be interesting to see who has suitably impressed our manager over the last few weeks.
The prospect of the UWE Stadium in a year’s time will hopefully act as an attraction to potential signings and help us to keep our best players, including the likes of John-Joe O’Toole and Michael Smith.
Both men made the PFA League Two Team of the Year, despite our lowly position in the table, and deserve immense credit for making the cut ahead of some good players at the top of the league.
I am sure the club are determined to build next season’s team around the two of them but there is sure to be interest from managers looking for a goalscoring midfield player and an attack-minded right back.
I wouldn’t begrudge either a move to a higher level but I hope they realise that they are appreciated here and could be part of a new dawn with Bristol Rovers, something they are unlikely to find elsewhere. We are a unique club and they are one of us.
First things first though; we have to finish what we started last weekend and beat the drop.
I would implore all Rovers fans to be careful with how they react at full-time if we win, because an over-the-top celebration could land us in real trouble. The FA are already investigating the pitch invasion at Wycombe and we may face a fine or ‘worse’ for what happened.
It would be ridiculous if we were docked points given the fact Wolves fans invaded the pitch several times in their recent victory over Rotherham United and weren't punished, but we need to help ourselves here.
According to the regulations the conduct of some supporters was over-exuberant but surely the FA will take into account that it was an outpouring of emotion because we may just have kept ourselves in the Football League?
I know the game’s going soft in that respect and becoming increasingly sterile but if they are football fans themselves they will understand how we felt when Clarkson scored. I would like to think so, anyway.
However, it’s imperative we don’t make matters worse for ourselves by invading the pitch tomorrow as it just gives them a reason to punish us.
We will all be very relieved if we stay up and it’s worth a big cheer but let’s not be stupid enough to jeopardise our points tally by going on the pitch. It would be an overreaction and it’s not worth it.
Let’s not let ourselves down at the final hurdle.
Right, it’s almost time for the talking to stop and to watch on nervously as the boys in blue and white go about completing the survival job. I am confident we can win the game but wondering ‘what if…?’ will make the next 24 hours unbearable. We have to get over the line without relying on other results.
Go out and do us proud, Gas.