By Nathan BeesHallelujah! We have football again tomorrow after our second enforced break of 2015!
Can you tell I am looking forward to it?
For some a weekend off presents an ideal opportunity to do other things and spend time with family and friends, but I just feel lost on a Saturday afternoon unless I'm stood on a terrace somewhere watching Rovers. It is sad but true, and that is why I am happier than most that we are back in action with a trip to Dartford tomorrow.
Not only does it give me the Rovers fix that I desperately crave but it is without doubt a hugely important game, as we have lost ground on Barnet in the last fortnight. In our two week break both Macclesfield Town and Grimsby Town picked up a few points and are now neck-and-neck with us in the promotion race, and that has ramped up the pressure on Darrell Clarke's charges.
I don't think it is a bad thing necessarily because it may give the lads the focus required to hit the ground running again after the unhelpful break from action, however, I am wary that one game in four weeks is not conducive to maintaining good form. That isn't to say we can't beat Dartford and carry on where we left off over Christmas, as we have the quality to beat any team, but it certainly isn't ideal preparation for the run-in.
Still, there are some positives to having some time off. With the exceptions of Stuart Sinclair and Ollie Clarke, all of the lads who were nursing knocks will have been able to recover fully, and that will stand us in good stead.
It is very concerning to hear, however, that Sincs has had to have a scan on his foot injury and whilst it is reassuring that he has not been ruled out of tomorrow's game just yet, something is clearly not right. We missed him massively against Woking and desperately need him fit and ready to go as soon as possible as he has proven to be one of our best players.
Clarke's injury is not as bad as first feared thankfully but the potential absence of two central midfielders highlights just how small our squad actually is. With that in mind and the fact Darrell openly admits that he is always on the lookout to improve the team, I think it is highly likely we will attempt to bring another player in.
A midfielder seems the most likely option and is definitely the area I would like to see us improve - preferably a creative player - but I think you can make a case for a defensive or flank reinforcement as well. Darrell knows his squad better than anyone, though, and I think everyone will be happy to back his judgement as most of his signings this season have made a positive contribution.
According to reports it doesn't seem likely that we will have anyone signed in time to play tomorrow, but if we are to bring someone in we won't have to wait long to discover who it is as he will need to be signed before the deadline passes on Monday. It is almost time to constantly refresh your Twitter timelines, folks!
Dartford will present a stern challenge at Princes Park tomorrow afternoon and will, you would think, rise to what is being billed by them as a big occasion for their football club. They may be in the relegation zone but Tony Burman's side need the points just as much as we do and that makes them a dangerous opponent - the fact we only beat them 1-0 at The Mem in October proves that.
Yet again there will be a big Gas following making the trip to Kent and after the drab encounter at Woking they will be hoping for a much more purposeful Rovers performance this weekend. Not only would an attacking start put our hosts on the back foot and act as a sign of intent, but it will also be a good way to frustrate the home fans as well.
If we can go a goal up early on the complexion of the game changes dramatically and any confidence the home side had beforehand will evaporate. Play a more patient game, however, and Dartford will grow into it and make life more difficult for us than we need it to be, so I hope the message pre-match is 'get at them from the first whistle'.
Our strike force would scare defenders in the Football League let alone the Conference and what we need to do is create as many opportunities for them as we possibly can, because I think all our strikers have the potential to get us goals. Goal difference could prove vital at the end of the season and although our +16 total is respectable, it isn't a patch on Barnet's +37. We need to do all we can to improve it over the coming months.
We have the players to do it and Darrell now has the ability to mix things up during a game in a bid to grab more goals. Nathan Blissett, Matty Taylor, Ellis Harrison and Jermaine Easter all bring different qualities to the squad and that means we become more difficult to defend against, as we aren't restricted to just one way of playing. Given that each team we face have their own strengths and weaknesses I have no doubt Darrell will utilise the different combinations available to him over the next few weeks.
We did lose a forward this week, though, with Ryan Brunt leaving the club and joining League Two side Plymouth Argyle. Brunt has had a torrid time with injuries in the past 18 months and it was clear that he wasn't part of the club's plans, so a move is beneficial to all concerned.
He is a really nice guy and always gave his all for us, which is more than can be said for some over the last few years, and I hope he can get his career back on track at Home Park. Good luck, Ryan.
All that leaves me to say is. bring on Dartford.