By Nathan BeesThe good start to the season we were enjoying after securing three consecutive wins in August seems a long time ago now, doesn’t it?
Since beating Barnet at The Mem this time last month, we have recorded three consecutive defeats, taking us from the top five in League Two to a more mediocre fifteenth place. It is still early doors, of course, and we still have everything to play for, but what happened against Accrington Stanley last weekend told us in no uncertain terms that we have an awful lot to work on.
I am sure Darrell Clarke was under no illusions that this was the case anyway, despite the positive start we made to the new campaign. Our performances in the winning run were superb, but even then we were worryingly goal-shy, relying on last minute moments of magic to earn all 3 points. It is a problem we have so far failed to address, and it is now seeing us come unstuck.
It isn’t as cut and dry as saying our strikers should do more like some people would have you believe. I have heard a number of supporters suggest that it is entirely the fault of the men at the top of the pitch, but from what I can see we aren’t exactly creating many chances for them. They are feeding off scraps, and that is the main issue.
Our midfielders and wing-backs are simply not creating anywhere near enough opportunities, and that is why we only ever look capable of scoring from set-pieces at the moment. The crosses from out wide have not been great and we haven’t seen our ball-players get on the ball and fashion any killer through-balls, so our strikers are having to try and create something from nothing.
I think Ollie Clarke alluded to this earlier in the week, which is encouraging as it means the lads will be working hard on the training ground to rectify it. I am sure they would have preferred a midweek game to get back out on the pitch and put things right, but a full week of training will hopefully pay dividends this weekend.
While our midfielders are responsible for providing some creativity, I do think we would benefit from strengthening our strike force. I like and have faith in the forwards we already have, but none of them are genuine aerial threats - someone who will win more than his fair share of headers in the penalty area.
At this level, a player with that quality can be invaluable, even if they are only around as a plan b. Darrell Clarke has said he wants to improve his squad and it is thought a big man is top of his wish list, so fingers crossed he is able to bring someone in over the next few days. You can never have too many options.
Plymouth Argyle have started the season very well and they will be gunning for a top seven finish minimum this year. Manager Derek Adams has recruited well having opted to sign players he has worked with previously in his native Scotland (shame it didn’t work for us), and he has this week called for his side to make home advantage count after a number of games on the road.
With home fans buzzing and Gasheads having sold out the allocation given to us, it is sure to be a fiery atmosphere at Home Park and I fully expect it to be a hard-fought encounter. This is the type of game that should bring the best out of us, and if we can earn a good result then confidence will be high going into the Portsmouth game in a week’s time.
The appointment of Colin Sexstone (whose loyalty is now solely with Rovers) to the Board of Directors yesterday is hopefully a sign that positive change is afoot off the pitch, so it would be great if, at the same time, we can continue our excellent progress on it. Who knows where it may take us?
Here’s to a good performance and a big 3 points tomorrow afternoon.
Come on Rovers, come on you blues!