By Nathan BeesIt has been an incredibly frustrating week of results for Rovers. We have played twice away from home and put in performances that should have yielded two wins. Instead, we were knocked out of the FA Cup at Tranmere Rovers and were held to a 0-0 draw at Alfreton Town.
It was an individual error that cost us at Tranmere but there is an underlying problem that prevented us from coming out on top in both matches and it is threatening to derail our entire season.
We simply can’t seem to put the ball in the back of the net. You can argue that our all-round play in the final third isn’t great, which I think is a valid point, but we do fashion a few openings in each game and just don’t take advantage of them. If we were able to we would be second in the Conference table and into the next round of the FA Cup, without a doubt.
Missing opportunities in front of goal is costing us at this early stage of the season - imagine how rueful we may well be come April if we don’t rectify the problem. The basis is there for a promotion push but if we can’t improve our goalscoring record we will come unstuck and that is the sad reality of the situation.
The goals for column really is the only thing restricting us at the moment. Of course there are different things that could be improved throughout the team but regardless of that we have done enough to currently find ourselves in fourth place and in the play-offs. That is no mean feat considering the fact we were told how difficult the Conference would be by the likes of Luton Town and Cambridge United over the summer.
We have adapted well, established ourselves as a strong defensive unit and have displayed a real gritty side to our play that is seeing us match every team we come up against. These qualities are standing us in good stead but there is one more element you need in any division in order to achieve promotion and that is what Darrell Clarke is going to have to source.
I don’t think there can be any question that Clarke is trying his very best to do just that. He and his staff aren’t oblivious to our Achilles heel and he has reiterated on many occasions recently that he is trying to bring a player(s) in to improve us up front.
It would be pointless to sign the first striker we are offered and then hope for the best because the chances are they aren’t going to be what we need. Searching for and targeting a proven goalscorer is definitely going to give us a better chance of landing a man who will get the goals we need. Unfortunately, however, it is a difficult task to complete in mid-November when clubs want to keep hold of their prized assets.
I fully understand the idea that we need to be patient to get the right player in as poor recruitment has blighted this football club for years and contributed to both our recent relegations. The problem is, however, that time is ticking away and if we don’t address the problem soon we could easily find ourselves falling behind all the other sides competing for a play-off place.
If that happens, the points difference could prove to be insurmountable by the time we get our act together. It is a tough one for Clarke - I certainly don’t envy the decisions he has to make in the coming days.
Meanwhile, it was with absolute disgust yesterday afternoon that I read about the mindless idiots who have been doing all they can to make Clarke’s job even harder over the last few months.
Some ‘fans’ decided that hounding the players after an away draw at Alfreton Town, a result that took us up to fourth in the table, would be of benefit to all concerned, even though the team already looked completely deflated that they hadn’t won the game. One man even tried to get on the team coach to criticise the players further, just in case the original spouting of abuse hadn’t got through to them.
It is staggering, isn’t it? How can anyone think that is a) acceptable, and b) going to help us moving forward?
When you hear things like this and that of 100 posters going up at the training ground calling for the manager’s head one week into the season, it makes our performance so far this campaign even more respectable. People have been on Clarke’s case from day one because they are unhappy with where the club find themselves just a few years after aspiring towards the League One play-offs, which is both understandable but wholly unfair.
It isn’t DC’s fault we are in the Conference, nor is it the fault of his players. They are now at Rovers to try and right the wrongs of previous sides and I think they deserve our support as they try and get us back in the Football League. That is not to say there aren’t many areas we can improve in the team as clearly we are a work-in-progress, but I would say in the circumstances we have made a very good start.
Clarke knows the vast majority of supporters are right behind him and those who now wear the quarters. He has publicly praised Gasheads numerous times in post-match interviews and during the summer, when I had the chance to speak with him, he explained that he wanted to get Rovers promoted for the fans more than anyone else.
Now, one or two supporters may have let him, and us, down in recent weeks but so far this season Clarke hasn’t let us down. He and the lads deserve our excellent support once again tomorrow to remind everyone involved with the team that we are right behind them. The last thing I want is for our players to feel nervous when they play at The Mem so a vociferous welcome when they walk out on to the pitch will hopefully give them a huge lift, both for the game against Kidderminster Harriers and for the weeks ahead.
At the end of the day they need us and we need them. We want the lads to earn us promotion and we can help provide them with a positive environment by continuing to support them like the vast majority have so far this season. We are all in this situation together and that is the way we need to keep it if we are to succeed this year and beyond.
Come on Rovers, come on you blues.