By Nathan BeesTuesday night’s battling victory against Dartford was somewhat overshadowed by the accusation from visiting goalkeeper Jason Brown that he was subject to racial abuse from a Rovers ‘supporter’.
I am absolutely at a loss as to why racism remains an issue in this day and age and it angers me that someone was willing to stoop to such disgusting levels whilst representing our football club from the terraces. There is simply no defence for it and the club’s strong statement yesterday about a zero-tolerance approach and a lifetime ban was pleasing to read. It says, in no uncertain terms, that Rovers are against racism and will come down like a ton of bricks on anyone found guilty of such abuse.
Unfortunately the mindless idiot accused of making the comment has catapulted Bristol Rovers back into the media spotlight for all the wrong reasons once again and football fans across the land will wrongly associate every Gashead with his crime. I am not racist and I don’t believe for a second that the vast majority of other Rovers fans are either, so this one man’s opinion is not the shared view of the football club.
His action isn’t a fair reflection of what we are really about and I sincerely hope that people look at this incident for what it is - one man behaving abhorrently in a crowd of over 5000. Despite the bad press our fan base has received in recent months I don’t think it is representative of the behaviour that so many of us display at matches home and away week in, week out. I think it’s important to remind the football world that we aren’t all bad.
The media seem to have a field day reporting the negative stories associated with Rovers and the most disappointing aspect is that they rarely emphasise anything that shows us in a good light. The highly complimentary letter sent by Eastleigh chairman Stewart Donald about the ‘exemplary’ Rovers support last Tuesday, for example, went largely unnoticed by the press and yet there is a furore about this bad news story.
They are 100% justified in covering this but it would have been nice for the praise we receive to be publicised as well. I can’t say I’m surprised that this is the case, though. I study journalism at UWE and one of the first things we were taught on the course is that controversy will receive more airtime as it has a certain wow factor; it grabs the public’s attention. I just hope that this slightly frustrating coverage doesn’t sway our Conference opponents (and beyond) into thinking we are a bad bunch.
I, like many others already have, would like to apologise to Jason for what happened and hope he feels the action taken by the club is appropriate. His reaction to the incident may have riled a few fans at the time but I am certain nobody would have jeered his every touch if they knew the reason for his outburst to the referee.
The tweets he has sent out since the incident have been hugely respectful of Bristol Rovers and it says a lot about the man that he has seen past one individual’s behaviour to ensure his Twitter followers don’t get the wrong impression. He has gone on record as saying we are a ‘fantastic club’ and it is now down to us to bring the perpetrator to justice and justify the kind words. Rest assured, Jason, that the club will not stop until the matter has concluded in the only way it possibly can - with the man being prosecuted.
Since the game there has been little focus on the performance, understandably, and perhaps that’s a good thing as it wasn’t a performance that would win a beauty pageant. We didn’t quite possess the energy levels we usually hit teams with and it seemed as if the large number of games we played in September had finally caught up with us.
Clearly it didn’t hamper us too much, though, as we got the job done and that’s all that matters really. There are definitely areas for improvement, particularly in attack where we need to score more often to kill teams off, but we are learning whilst winning matches and I think if you offered that to other managers they’d bite your hand off.
As the score was only 1-0 in the second half we gave the Darts an incentive to attack us and it almost led to a repeat of the 90th minute equaliser we shipped against Dover Athletic last Saturday. Thankfully we didn’t but we can’t keep running the risk of drawing games we deserve to be winning.
It is unlikely we will remain in the promotion mix if we are unable to score more than one goal a game, no matter how confident we are in our defence’s ability to keep clean sheets. We get in behind the opposition’s back-line often enough to net more goals so we do have foundations in place to improve our tally. The key thing for us now is to seize the initiative and become more ruthless in and around the 6 yard box, which Darrell Clarke has repeatedly said he is confident will happen.
Matty Taylor seems the most likely candidate to go on and become our top scorer, even though he hasn’t had luck on his side so far. Some of his decision-making when through on goal has let him down but he has also been unfortunate with the bounce of the ball in the box as well, which is a big reason why he only has two efforts to his name so far.
I do believe, however, that you create your own luck in football and for that reason I’m adamant Taylor will go on to score plenty for Rovers this season and beyond. He works incredibly hard every game and he gets himself into good positions - if he keeps doing that he’ll get his rewards.
We head to Aldershot Town tomorrow on the back of some much-improved away form and we’ll need to maintain that if we’re to come away with a good result. The Shots’ position in the Conference table isn’t matching their pre-season expectations quite yet but that makes them a potentially dangerous opponent. They have some good players in their squad and if they have realistic designs for a play-off push they will need to start winning games much more regularly, especially at home.
I hope every Gashead heading to the game gets behind the team in the sort of manner they did at Eastleigh and hopefully we will be rewarded with another positive performance. There’s a good spirit amongst the players, management and supporters again at the moment and whilst that remains the case we give ourselves a good chance.
Come on you blues.