By Nathan BeesNow I don’t want to jinx it, but is anyone really starting to believe that we can go one step further than just reaching the play-offs?
It wasn’t ever something that crossed my mind as being possible a few weeks ago. The top 3 were so far ahead of everybody else that it felt like our only focus was ensuring we cemented a place in the play-offs. Now, though, it is a more than realistic target.
With the form we are in at the moment the likes of Oxford United and Plymouth Argyle will be nervously looking over their shoulder at a rampaging Rovers who are now only a few points behind them. I for one think it will be an interesting couple of weeks given the fixtures those of us at the top have.
Whilst the Mansfield Town win on Saturday wouldn't have won any beauty contests, it was a really satisfying victory. It wasn’t free flowing champagne football but it demonstrated exactly the type of battling quality a team seeking promotion needs to have.
Mansfield played a 4-1-4-1 and were set up purely to defend for 90 minutes. Yet, despite not being at our best, we were perseverant and conjured up the one moment of quality we needed in order to score a goal and win the game.
It proved that we could find a breakthrough against a team that had every man behind the ball, which is an encouraging sign as a few teams will attempt the same between now and the end of the season. In the past we would have failed to do so, but there is both the quality and the confidence in the squad now to win a game whatever way we have to.
After the match when I saw that other results had gone our way, I re-evaluated what I thought was possible for us this season. We have to believe we can gatecrash the automatic promotion places now because, well, why not? It gives us something to aim for beyond just settling for consolidation in the top 7, and that can only be a good thing as we approach the next few games.
Our Severnside derby with Newport County tomorrow has a lot riding on it. The Exiles earned an outstanding 3-0 win at Portsmouth last weekend, so it will be yet another very difficult fixture.
Not that we need added motivation, but the fact we were humbled 4-1 by County on our own patch in October will only serve to strengthen our desire to beat Warren Feeney’s side this time. As Chris Lines aptly put it earlier this week: “we owe them one.”
The Rodney Parade pitch is not made for tiki taka football (it looks more like a beach than a football pitch) so we are going to have to mix it up and hurt them as and when we get the chance. They have the advantage of being used to the way the pitch plays, but we have the organisational qualities to ensure we give nothing away in the early stages as we get used to the surface ourselves.
I go into every game these days thinking that we can win and whilst I know County will provide us with a real test of our credentials, there is no reason why we can’t go there and get the job done.
It will once again be a sold out away following and hopefully we can return to Bristol with 3 points ahead of our Easter fixtures against Cambridge United and Carlisle United.
Come on Rovers, come on you blues!