By Nathan BeesIt is the day before our biggest away match of the campaign so far at Grimsby Town and I have to say I am really looking forward to it.
It is this sort of fixture that defies the 'non-league' tag it comes with, as far as history is concerned anyway, and with both sides pushing for promotion it promises to be an enthralling game of football.
I have never been to Blundell Park before but it has the look of a ground that can create a bit of atmosphere and that will make a welcome change from some of the uncovered stadiums we have visited in recent months. It would be great to go there and beat a fellow high-flying club to extend the 5 point gap that currently sits between us, as well as edge us ever closer to Barnet in top spot.
The fact it is all-ticket for Gasheads will have a detrimental impact on our following as many people decide the night before an away match whether they fancy travelling to the other end of the country to watch us play, but whatever the figure it will still be highly respectable. Of course, it is Valentines Day tomorrow as well and that won't have helped either, so I salute anyone who has taken the brave decision to treat their other half to a Saturday in Grimsby. or those who have yet to tell their partners they won't be around all day!
Still, it isn't every day that our beloved Rovers are in the hunt for promotion, is it? A perfectly acceptable decision if you ask me!
Last weekend's comfortable victory over Lincoln City restored confidence levels around The Mem after successive disappointing draws on the road and, to be honest, it should have been a much wider margin of victory than 2-0. We hit the woodwork three or four times and Imps goalkeeper Dean Farman made a number of terrific saves to keep the scoreline down. I couldn't believe how we didn't score at least one more in the second half.
Thankfully our failure to capitalise on those opportunities didn't matter a jot at the final whistle and it should act a timely reminder to the lads as to just how well we can play when everyone is on-song. Lincoln's away form was as bad as it gets, admittedly, but they have been in imperious form at Sincil Bank and sit just outside the play-off places. If we can completely dominate a game against them then we can do so against just about anybody.
The pressure is on at this stage of the season to develop some consistency and whilst Mariners boss Paul Hurst will be telling his charges that Rovers are the ones that should be feeling nervous, they will undoubtedly be feeing the heat themselves. They are at home and the onus will be on them to win the game and claw back some ground. They managed to beat Barnet at home in January so they are definitely capable of earning good results, but if we are on our game then we have just as much chance of claiming the points as they do.
We will once again be without Jermaine Easter, Stuart Sinclair and Ollie Clarke, which is disappointing, but there is enough quality elsewhere in the squad to cope with that. Tom Lockyer was great last weekend in the middle of midfield and Adam Dawson was hugely influential on his first Gas start, so Darrell Clarke still has good options to choose from.
I was highly impressed by Dawson's contribution last weekend as he added the sort of pace and delivery from out wide that we have lacked since Fulham loanee Lyle Della Verde picked up his injury away at Wrexham and returned to Craven Cottage. He looked to get past his man every time he had the ball and fashioned some great opportunities for the likes of Matty Taylor, Nathan Blissett and Andy Monkhouse, so in my opinion he thoroughly deserved his Man of the Match award. Extending his loan by a further month yesterday must have been a no-brainer for Darrell Clarke.
There is no doubt he will be a hugely important player for us this weekend as well, particularly on the counter attack. With Dan Leadbitter as his full-back, we have pace in abundance down the right flank and I have no doubt that one of our tactics will be to get the two of them on the ball in attacking situations as often as possible. They have the potential to cause Grimsby's defence all sorts of problems and it will mean they think twice about committing too many men forward out of fear of being caught short.
In the circumstances, if we can leave Blundell Park with a victory it would have to go down as our best result of the season. Beating both Barnet and Macclesfield at The Mem were terrific efforts, but winning at Grimsby would be a real statement of intent. Very few sides return home from there with 3 points to show for their afternoon's work, but if we can buck that trend we can use it as a springboard for the rest of the season.
We have two home games in four days next weekend. What better way to head into those fixtures than with an away win under our belts?
Up the Gas!