Bt Nathan BeesHow good is the prospect of Rovers returning to action tomorrow after our enforced international break last weekend?
I am not someone who can easily find something else to do to engross, entertain and enthral me quite like the football does, so I couldn’t be happier that we are back to normal on Saturday.
Whilst it would have been great to have another home game to follow up our victory over Wycombe Wanderers in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, a trip to Mansfield Town is one to look forward to.
It is by no means a glamour fixture, but given our recent form and the Stags’ start to the season it should be a very good contest. Their home record is superb and our away record is superb, so something will have to give - and I am confident it won’t be our enviable run on our travels.
What the last three games have proven to me is that we can be the team I thought we were going to become back in August. At that time we were on a winning run and played as if the transition from Conference football to League Two was non-existent, and that gave me huge amounts of optimism. Our poor September dampened my belief slightly, but the way we have played recently suggests that we definitely do have the potential to be a top seven side.
The ease with which we brushed aside Hartlepool United, Morecambe and Wycombe Wanderers indicates that when we are on top form we can beat anyone in the division. Our attacking play in those games would have been too much for any League Two defence to handle in my opinion, and that bodes well as we head into the second quarter of the campaign.
Talking of boding, our man Billy Bodin has been absolutely superb since coming into the starting XI against the Pools. His energy, invention and direct style has been a revelation out wide and I have been thoroughly impressed with his contribution to the team. He is providing our strikers with chances and looks just as threatening in front of goal himself, which is exactly the sort of qualities a manager wants his wide players to possess.
On the other flank, Jake Gosling may not have got himself on the scoresheet recently but his performances have been equally as impressive. Interchanging regularly with Bodin, Gos has been instrumental to our noticeable improvement in the final third, laying on assists and generally being the focal point of much of our offensive play.
At the moment you cannot justify dropping either player…
Unfortunately, though, it looks like injuries could keep both of them out of action this weekend. It is a cruel twist of fate given how patient they have had to be to get their chance in the first team, but it is perfectly in keeping with the gloriously unfair way that football works.
A bitter blow, yes, but all is not lost. We played 3-5-2 at the start of the season and made it work well - who’s to say we can’t do it again now? Admittedly the formation didn’t work particularly well for us in a few games last month, but we are a different proposition now. Confidence goes a long way and that is something we have in abundance right now, so a formation change shouldn’t impact on us too much.
I am looking forward to visiting the One Call Stadium tomorrow as I have never been before and it isn’t often that I get the chance to go somewhere new. What should make the occasion even better is the fact a large number of Gasheads are heading north for the game, and that should make for a good atmosphere.
I guess victory against the Stags will taste that bit sweeter given the fact they were the team to consign us to relegation in May 2014, but I don’t feel that we ‘need’ revenge. We went down that year because we were not good enough across 46 games, not simply because we lost to Mansfield on the final day.
I would take some additional satisfaction from beating them and I am sure Darrell Clarke would too (not least because they are one of his former clubs), but all that really matters is the here and now and getting another 3 points on the board.
Come on Rovers, come on you blues!
Twitter - @HarddToBeatt