By Nathan BeesFour wins in a row is pretty much unprecedented at Rovers. We rarely do back-to-back victories let alone string a run together that propels us to within touching distance of the play-offs.
That is the position we find ourselves in right now though and there has been a noticeable change in mood amongst Gasheads as a result.
As I made my way to the Mem last Saturday there were smiles all around and there was a quiet confidence that we would pick up another 3 points. Everyone I stood with felt Woking would present a stern test for us but with how we had been playing they believed we would have too much for them… and so it proved.
Considering how we felt at matches just 6 short months ago it makes a refreshing change. I am looking forward to going to games again and we’re winning. With regard to on-field matters, what more could we possibly ask for at this moment in time?
Yes, a lot has changed since last season and we are obviously competing at a lower level, but no-one can tell me they aren’t enjoying watching Rovers again at the moment. How can you not?
The pain is still there from relegation but we’re seeing our beloved side winning matches on a Saturday again and, slowly but surely, it’s giving us reason to be cheerful.
We are seeing players representing the club who are incredibly proud to be doing so and their commitment and desire is clear for all to see. On top of those fundamentals, Darrell Clarke’s side possess quality and they are set up in a way that gives us a chance of winning every fixture we play.
To be honest, all any football supporter wants from their side is to see them giving it a damn good go week in, week out and that’s exactly what we’re getting with this Rovers team. Clarke approaches each game looking to combine where we’re strong, going forward, with a game plan to nullify the strengths of our opposition, and it’s working a treat.
The Woking game is a great example of how DC had done his homework and then set our tactics around how we could hurt Garry Hill’s men. We started with a fast pace so they had no time to settle and when we got the superb early goal through Adam Cunnington we began to commit less men forward so we could keep our shape at the back.
By maintaining good discipline to our defensive play we comfortably handled everything that was thrown at us and then, as they began chasing the game later on, we had the players that could cause them problems in attack.
The free kick from Lee Mansell was a fantastic strike and just reward for a perfectly executed game plan. It took the wind out of the Woking sails and we saw the remaining minutes out to record an impressive victory over a side that have started the season like a house on fire. DC got things absolutely spot on for the fourth game in a row.
The big complaint many Gasheads had with the tactics of previous Rovers managers was that too much respect was paid to our opponents and not enough focus was on what we could do as a team.
DC seems to have got the balance just right at the moment as our concern with the opposition comes secondary to playing to our strengths, which means we give the opposition cause for concern as opposed to handing them the initiative.
Woking, Wrexham and Lincoln City played against a Rovers team that were dangerous going forward and well organised at the back. Despite the fact they have good teams of their own, they simply didn’t have enough to beat us and that’s testament to the manager and the players.
Having proven too strong for sides with ambitions of reaching the play-offs, our lads should be full of confidence as we head to Southport tomorrow.
They aren’t going to present a test in the same way the three aforementioned teams did but that’s not to say it will be in any way an easier game. What we have to get right against a side that are struggling in the way Southport are is how we acclimatise to our surroundings.
It won’t be like our last away game at Sincil Bank; the pitch is likely to be in a worse state, the stadium isn’t as impressive and the conditions are going to resemble Altrincham and Braintree Town.
We allowed ourselves to get frustrated by the tactics those two sides employed at their grounds and in doing so we played into their hands.
However, whilst those defeats were disappointing it showed us the sort of attitude we need to adopt and exactly what is required to match our opponents in these types of games.
Southport are going to be aggressive and physical but they will be ‘cute’, as Gary Neville would say, in the way they play up to officials. We saw the way the Braintree players threw themselves to the ground at every available opportunity earlier this month and they got exactly the reactions they wanted from the referee and from ourselves.
We rightly felt hard done by but instead of responding in a professional manner we hit self-destruct and allowed them to get on top when they really didn’t deserve to. The next thing we know we have lost the game 2-0.
This weekend we need to be switched on and fully prepared to play Southport at their own game. It’s games like these that we need to be ruthless in if we are to keep ourselves in contention and it will be interesting to see if we can tomorrow.
Hopes will be high inside and outside the camp that we will come out on top and I am confident we will do ourselves justice.
Come on you blues.