By Nathan BeesThe draw with Aldershot Town last weekend had all the components of an entertaining football game. There was goals, penalties, tough tackling and a red card… but it did lack the one thing the 1200 Gasheads at the Electrical Services Stadium wanted to see - Rovers coming out on top.
If I am honest I think a 2-2 draw was a fair result on the balance of play as neither side really deserved to lose, yet immediately after the match I was a little bit disappointed. A draw away from home is never a disastrous result but the fact we had got ourselves in front and then got pegged back made it feel more like a defeat.
I won’t have been the only one who felt like that post-match but after calming down and reflecting on the game I accepted that it was a fair outcome. On the day Aldershot carried as big a threat as we did and it made for a nervy 90 minutes, so to come away undefeated for the ninth successive game was definitely a good thing, even if we didn’t take 3 points.
Our recent run of form has been excellent and I think we should be encouraged that we are aggrieved not to be a few points better off. With those points on the board we would be top and that shows just how far we have come since the start of the season when we had picked up just one point from our first three matches.
Last week I touched on the fact Darrell Clarke wants to improve his squad in the next couple of weeks and I would hazard a guess that a striker is a priority. We aren’t scoring as many goals as we should be, which is reason alone to source another forward, but the fact we are unable to extend Adam Cunnington’s loan beyond the 3 months he originally signed for means we will be short up top (in more ways than one) after November 22.
I am not sure if the situation has changed but it seems unlikely that Ryan Brunt will be the man tasked with strengthening our front-line. Brunt joined York City on loan after requesting to leave and with Clarke happy to sanction the deal I imagine we won’t be relying on him to come back into the team.
Regardless of what happens with the former Stoke City youngster I think we will see a new striker join in the next fortnight. We need to improve our goal return and there may well be a player out there who is both obtainable and willing to join a promotion-chasing side.
With the FA Cup starting for us next weekend and our league schedule picking up again in November it is important that we have as many players to choose from as possible. When the games come around thick and fast it is common to pick up injuries and suspensions and that makes it vital to have a squad strong enough to cope with it.
It seems that with a couple of new additions and players returning from injury we should be well equipped to tackle the task in hand.
Angelo Balanta has become the forgotten man since he signed as he sustained an unfortunate injury in a reserve team game against tomorrow’s opponents Forest Green Rovers last month. The winger is still a little way off fitness according to Clarke but his introduction to first team affairs could well give us a shot in the arm and some flair on the flanks.
I was pleased when I heard he had signed because he was a very highly rated player a few short years ago. His career clearly hasn’t taken off in the way he would have anticipated when he burst on to the scene at QPR but he is well thought of by the clubs he enjoyed loan spells with.
The positive reviews I have heard about him have come from his performances in League One, which suggests to me that if he can recapture his form with us that we will have a very talented player on our hands. It may well take a few games and a lot of hard work on the training ground before he hits his stride but once he does his explosiveness could be exactly what we haven’t had in our attacking play so far.
Hopefully he can be the game changing player that can help us turn the tight victories into much larger scores and, more importantly, win us the games that look set to be heading for a draw.
Should you be reading this Angelo I am not trying to put pressure on your shoulders; I’m just looking forward to seeing you in action.
Our clash with Forest Green tomorrow highlights one of the quirks of the Conference fixtures computer as it will be the second time we have met them already this season.
That game at the New Lawn in August was probably the first time this Rovers side showed a little bit of what they can do. Up against a side with experienced Football League players, we turned up and were the better team for long periods of the game. I certainly left the ground very disappointed we hadn’t won given the way we took the lead and created two or three gilt-edged chances afterwards.
Although at the time a point felt like scant reward for our showing it probably did the team more good than we realise. The performance proved to them and the fans that they could play good football and more than match a strong team. Forest Green’s large budget is well documented - you only have to see the names on their team sheet to realise they mean business - and yet we were better than them. It must have given everyone in the dressing room a big confidence boost.
This weekend’s game will be a big test for both sides in terms of how far they have come since that 1-1 draw. We go into every game now wanting to win, especially at home, and Forest Green will be more than aware of our impressive home record. That will, however, act as inspiration for them because they will want to be the first side to defeat us on our own patch.
It should make for a decent game.
You can make a case for style over substance almost every match day and tomorrow is no different. They will come here to frustrate us - the crowd and the team - and we will need to be determined enough to break them down and take our chances. That may mean the football is a bit ugly at times but does it really matter?
I don’t know about you but as long as we win I don’t really care how we do it.
Come on Rovers, come on you blues!