By Nathan BeesThe disappointment of last weekend's draw with Dartford has lingered among supporters ever since the final whistle sounded because we simply should not have let two separate one goal leads slip against a side who sit in the relegation zone.
From a promotion-chasing perspective it was inexplicable and many people have resigned themselves to the likelihood we will now not be able to catch league leaders Barnet.
Whilst I am nowhere near as confident or optimistic as I was a month ago that we can win the Conference, I don't think the team could have done too much more against the Darts.
On what was an absolute quagmire of a pitch that was simply not conducive to any form of intricate passing football, Rovers adapted well and overcame the loss of star signing Jermaine Easter to injury after just seven minutes of the game. We found ways to cause a scrappy Dartford side problems and ultimately scored two goals, which on any other day would likely have won us the game (I have lost count how many times we have drawn an away game 0-0 and rued the fact we couldn't find just one goal to earn us all 3 points).
Unfortunately two individual errors wiped out our advantages almost immediately after we found them and you just cannot legislate for that. Steve Mildenhall has been an outstanding player for Rovers over the last couple of years - and will continue to be for as long as he is here - but he gifted them their first goal (although he looked as though he was fouled beforehand) and it took the wind out of our sails massively. Then, when we finally got our noses back in front, the outstanding Tom Parkes misjudged the flight of a forward ball and conceded a free kick just outside the box and we all know what happened next.
Neither player can be criticised too harshly because those mistakes are uncharacteristic and not in keeping with the performance levels they have reached for the vast majority of the season, but it cost us what would have been a vital victory. Both players will have taken responsibility for their errors and at the end of the day they can't do any more than that until they next get back on the pitch, when they can then help the team get back to winning ways.
Darrell Clarke can't do anything on the training ground to prevent individual mistakes, it is just one of those things that seems to happen when luck isn't on your side - and it is safe to say it isn't on our side at the moment.
Not only have we suffered injuries to Ollie Clarke and our player of the season so far Stuart Sinclair, but now star signing Jermaine Easter is going to have a spell in the treatment room as well after sustaining a knee injury on his full debut. Typical, isn't it? On top of that we just don't seem to be getting the bounce of the ball and tight refereeing decisions aren't going our way (like the wrongly disallowed goals Matty Taylor scored at Woking), and it is starting to bite us on the backside.
Still, we can't dwell on things like Lady Luck for too long as it is beyond our control. Our focus has to be on ensuring we continue to put pressure on the sides around us and pick up as many points as we possibly can in the final few months of the campaign. What better place to rediscover our winning touch than at The Mem against Lincoln City tomorrow afternoon?
It feels like something of a novelty to play at home given the excruciatingly long time we have had to wait since the Torquay United game on New Year's Day, but I for one am really looking forward to it. There is nothing quite like a home game.
Okay, so The Mem isn't the most glamorous stadium in English football and it may not be as widely appreciated by some supporters as a couple of our previous homes, but to me it is exactly that: our home. I didnít get to experience Eastville and whilst I was taken to games at Twerton Park when I was a child I don't remember it, so I feel affection for The Mem like older supporters feel affection towards their first Rovers grounds.
I will never forget the first time I truly absorbed the atmosphere and everything about the match day experience as a Rovers fan at The Mem. It may not be the same as the aforementioned grounds but to me - when I was a young boy - the noise, the passion and the sheer enthusiasm Gasheads displayed for their team made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. It is that experience that gets you hooked and I am sure everyone reading this will remember the exact same feelings when their parents took them to their first Rovers game, wherever that may have been.
It may be a weird comparison to make, but you will always have a soft spot for the place where you first realised you were in love. For me, The Mem is that place - and that is why I am thoroughly looking forward to getting back there tomorrow and cheering the lads on to victory.
Lincoln City have been in imperious form at home this season - which makes our 3-2 victory there in September particularly impressive - but their results on the road have been really poor. They will no doubt see the opportunity to claim an away scalp at Bristol Rovers as the perfect time to kickstart their bid for a play-off place and we will have to be ready for that come kick off.
The Imps will likely put an emphasis on getting the defensive side of their game right given how porous they have been recently, and that puts the onus on us to be attack-minded and break them down. They have their threats going forward that we will have to be wary of, but at home we have to be confident of breaching their back-line and scoring the goals that will win us the game.
It is imperative that we are all patient, though, because football matches aren't generally won (or lost) in the first 10, 20 or 30 minutes. It may get frustrating if we don't score an early goal but any negativity isn't going to help us if we are pushing for a winner later in the game. Therefore we need to stick with it and continue to encourage the lads, not make life more difficult for them by groaning if they misplace a pass or fail to hit the target with a shot.
As Darrell Clarke rightly said yesterday, he needs to protect his players from any nerves that may spill onto the pitch from the terraces and we can help him achieve that by being supportive for the duration of the game. It is inevitable we will feel nervous as the match goes on but we give our lads a much better chance of claiming 3 points if we save our frustrations for in the bar afterwards.
I am not saying we shouldn't debate or have a grumble should things not go well, but there is a time and a place. If we want promotion at the end of the campaign then we need the players to enjoy playing at The Mem and feel as though they are invincible there, which is less likely to happen if people get on their backs each time something doesn't go right. You have the right to an opinion but lets do what is best for the men who have the ability to earn our club promotion.
Come on Rovers, come on you blues!