By Nathan BeesIt is fair to say last weekend's goalless draw against Woking was disappointing after our recent run of form.
We lacked creativity for large parts of the game and didn't boss the midfield like we usually do, which resulted in a relatively drab 90 minutes of football. Woking rarely troubled our back four in truth, so I wasn't concerned that we would lose the game, but I must admit that these days even a draw feels like a defeat. I don't have unrealistic expectations; I just know we are good enough to beat everyone in the division.
What made the feeling worse was the fact Barnet had come unstuck in the lunchtime kick off against Grimsby Town, meaning we had the opportunity to narrow the gap on top spot to just 3 points if we recorded a victory. As it was, our draw reduced their lead to 5 points, which is still progress and should be seen as a positive step, but it isn't as good as we all hoped it would be come full time.
Whilst we have to admit we didn't create anywhere near enough chances, we were robbed of at least one perfectly good goal by the officials. Matty Taylor was put through on goal by a Woking defender in the first half, which meant that although he was stood in an offside position he was actually onside, and like all good strikers he swept the ball home. By the letter of the law it was a perfectly good goal but the linesman raised his flag as he said it was a Rovers player who played the ball through.
The way in which Taylor and Lee Mansell protested with the referee showed just how angry they were with the decision and, as the highlights conclusively prove their argument correct, it is safe to say they were right to feel aggrieved.
Taylor was once again ruled offside by the linesman in the second period after Nathan Blissett played him through to score. It looked like the Woking left back was playing him onside, but it was a much tighter call and I can understand why the linesman got it wrong. That isn't to say we should excuse officials for getting tight decision incorrect, but it is easier to understand how in real-time linesmen may get it wrong from time to time.
Those non-goals were, in all honesty, our only two noteworthy attacks of the game as we created very little for our strikers all afternoon. Stuart Sinclair's absence reduced our drive and creativity in the middle of the park, while Jake Gosling couldn't get going to the level he had done over Christmas, so we didn't get many crosses into the box either. Unfortunately strikers can't score without the ball.
Even the introduction of star signing Jermaine Easter didn't bring about a change in attacking prowess, although his appearance was well received by the 1900-strong Gas following inside the ground and the 200 or so locked out. I won't dwell on the lockout debacle here as it has been discussed to death elsewhere this week, but I do hope no Rovers fan is unlucky enough to find themselves in the same position at any of our remaining away games.
The most important thing for Darrell Clarke and his squad now is to prepare for the meeting with Dartford next weekend and not get too wound up by the Woking stalemate. Those games where you never really get going happen from time to time and when they do the important thing is ensuring that whatever happens you don't get beaten. We didn't, even away from home against a play-off chasing side, and we should take great comfort from that. The simple fact is we don't lose games very easily and for me that is the mark of a good team.
What it means is that even with the likes of Grimsby Town, Halifax Town and Macclesfield Town still to play on the road, we know that we can pick up points when we are not at our best. We will, of course, go to these places intent on winning - Clarke wouldn't have it any other way - but if it doesn't quite click for us on the day our opponents will still know they won't find it easy to beat us. Psychologically that can make the challenge of playing Bristol Rovers even tougher and work in our favour.
Along with everyone else I am getting bored of the stop-start nature of our 2015 so far. I am not for one moment disappointed that we are out of the FA Trophy, however it seems like every side we are scheduled to play at the moment are still involved in it, which is obviously causing our league games to be postponed. While I think us being out of the tournament will probably be beneficial to us on the injury-front, it may have a detrimental impact on our ability to build up a head of steam and go on another winning run.
The only way to counteract the fact we are having to go two weeks before our next match is to make sure that we put our recharged batteries to good use from the very first whistle next weekend - and that applies to both the players and us supporters.
If we get right at Dartford from kick-off and stop them from settling into the game, we give ourselves a much greater chance of establishing the attacking fluidity we lacked against Woking. They are in the bottom four for a reason and we can send out a statement of intent to our promotion rivals if we record a comfortable victory away from home, which I am confident we have the ability to do. I am not saying we should go gung-ho, but let's put a nervous defence under pressure early on.
Enjoy your football-free weekend Gasheads and don't get too wound up by results elsewhere in the division. While it would be nice if Southport and Nuneaton Town could do us a favour, I don't think we should be relying on it!