By Nathan BeesThe games have been coming thick and fast so far this season and there are no signs of the hectic schedule easing any time soon.
Having faced Braintree Town last weekend and Wrexham on Tuesday night Rovers are once again preparing for a 3-game week, beginning tomorrow afternoon at Lincoln City.
The mood around the camp will have fluctuated massively in the last few days in the aftermath of those games against Braintree and Wrexham and it highlights how quickly things can change in football.
The defeat to the former led to a collective outpouring of anger and disappointment which the players undoubtedly felt, but the victory over the latter restored confidence that this squad has what it takes to compete.
Those results showed the Jekyll and Hyde nature of our form home and away - something that has made the first month of the campaign feel like a roller coaster ride.
Our low points accumulation on the road is a problem that has blighted us for several seasons now and Darrell Clarke will have to address it soon if we are to get to where we want to be. A ‘top 5’ finish has been quoted this week and the only way we will achieve that is by drastically improving what we bring back from away games.
Sincil Bank isn’t an easy stadium to visit at the best of times but as far as I’m concerned it is the ideal place to send out a statement of intent to the rest of the division.
Don’t get me wrong, it will be a very tough game as Lincoln will be buoyed by their midweek win over rivals Grimsby Town, but if we can replicate the sort of performance we put in at Forest Green Rovers our hosts won’t have an easy afternoon.
At no point in our 8 matches so far have we put together a full 90 minute performance - thus the nervy final minutes against Halifax Town and Wrexham - but I’m confident that if we can tomorrow we will come out with a favourable result.
The last time we visited Sincil Bank we saw Rovers destroy Lincoln in the League Two Play-Off Semi Final second leg and whilst that seems like a lifetime ago now I can remember it vividly.
Many tipped The Imps to win the game that day and yet we outclassed them in front of the Sky Sports cameras thanks to a stunning goal from Stuart Campbell and some clinical finishing from the likes of Rickie Lambert and Richard Walker.
A lot has changed (and gone wrong) since then but it doesn’t mean we can’t come out on top and prove the bookmakers wrong once again.
We head north with Angelo Balanta on board and I’m looking forward to seeing him in action for the first time. Tuesday night was probably too early to give him a run out but he has now had time to acquaint himself with his new team-mates and it seems likely he will feature at some point tomorrow.
His career hasn’t quite progressed as he would have liked when he burst on to the scene as a highly rated teenager seven years ago but he now has a chance to prove himself.
The Conference won’t be the level he wants to play in but having failed to earn a deal with a Football League side over pre-season he has had to accept a drop to non-league for regular football.
However, he has age on his side and all the right attributes in his style of play to enjoy success in the game. At Rovers he will get first team opportunities on a regular basis and that will provide him with the platform to display just what he can do on a football pitch.
Consistent match-winning contributions will be enough to earn him a contract either to remain here long-term or to join a club in a higher division next summer, so the sooner he forces his way into the team the sooner he can get bums off seats with his quick feet and trickery.
It is a mutually beneficial move for both parties right now and I’m sure Clarke and the club hope that remains the case in a year’s time. For that to be possible though we need to keep picking up points in every game we play.
In the last five outings we have averaged 2 points per game and if we can continue that over a few months we will shoot up the table. Following Lincoln we have two home games on the trot that we should be looking to take maximum points from and, if we do, that will stand us in good stead.
If teams come to the Mem fearing us then they may try too hard not to concede and leave themselves prone to errors at the back which our attacking players can take advantage of.
If we can make the Mem a fortress and find a way to play as well on the road then we give ourselves a solid base from which to build on. The goals haven’t been frequent so far but we are now creating chances and I genuinely believe our strikers will soon be getting their names on the scoresheet with regularity.
Matty Taylor, for example, has been playing very well and the only thing his performances have been lacking is a goal to show for his efforts. He has missed a couple of chances that won’t have helped his confidence but it’s only a matter of time before a striker with his intelligence and movement starts scoring goals.
I’m convinced that once he gets one he will go on to grab a hatful and that’s why I am still tipping him to end the season as our top goalscorer. Prove me right, Matty!
Have a good weekend Gasheads.