By Nathan BeesIn a week where the rumour mill has been in overdrive, we can now finally get back to thinking about football.
We have arguably our biggest home fixture of the season tomorrow afternoon against Portsmouth and I for one am thoroughly looking forward to it. Gasheads are set to turn out in big numbers to see Rovers take on the former Premier League club, and with a sold out away following heading to BS7 as well there should be a great atmosphere at The Mem.
I find that when both sets of supporters do their bit to generate some noise, the game carries extra significance. It feels as though the 3 points matter that little bit more because you know the opposition want it just as much as you do.
Of course the reality is there is no difference whatsoever because you want to win every game regardless of who you are playing, but there is definitely an extra spice to proceedings against well-supported teams.
You can be sure that both Rovers and Portsmouth are going to be bang up for it, and that should make for an entertaining game.
Pompey come into the fixture unbeaten in League Two thus far, and on paper that makes them intimidating opponents. There is no fear of Paul Cook’s men in the Rovers dressing room, though, as our come-from-behind draw at Plymouth Argyle last weekend proved that we can match any team in the division. In fact, we could have gone on and won the clash at Home Park given the chances we missed in stoppage time, so the team can take great confidence from the way they performed.
I loved listening to Matty Taylor’s interview yesterday because when he was asked about Pompey’s unbeaten start, he simply said: "They have got to lose at some point!”. That is exactly the sort of thing supporters want to hear. It means the lads are embracing the challenge of taking on this Portsmouth team and fancy themselves to come out on top.
And why shouldn’t they? Name and reputation alone doesn’t win you games (we should know) and, to be honest, there isn’t any team in this division that we should be worried about playing. Every team has some good players - Pompey probably have one or two more than most - but at the end of the day they are a fourth tier side just like us.
On our own patch and against a team who I am certain will not arrive here intending to sit 10 men behind the ball, we should back ourselves to get a positive result.
Admittedly we didn’t create too many chances against Argyle last time out until really late in the game, but our equalising goal changed everything. Although it came from the penalty spot, Ellis Harrison’s strike opened the floodgates and suddenly we looked as though we could create goalscoring opportunities at will - just like we were back in mid-August. We carved through their defence on a few further occasions before full time and if it wasn’t for the world class save Luke McCormick produced to deny Harrison, we would have won the game 2-1.
If we can start tomorrow with the same attacking intent we will cause Portsmouth plenty of problems. We should be looking to make life difficult for debutant goalkeeper Aaron McCarey and his back-line because he only joined the club on loan from Wolves a few days ago. It isn’t likely that he will have struck up understandings with each of his new defensive colleagues quite yet, so if any uncertainty does exist we have to make sure we are on hand to take advantage.
Both on and off the pitch we need to rise to the occasion and show what we are all about. We beat Portsmouth on the last occasion they visited The Mem and I see absolutely no reason why we can’t do it again.
Come on Rovers, come on you blues!