By Nathan BeesNobody needs reminding just how important tomorrow is. We all know it is massive — and that is why I am sure we have all been incredibly nervous this week!
By full time we could either be a League One side or a League Two side ready to do battle against AFC Wimbledon in the play-offs. It is as simple as that.
Whilst the latter option of the two will feel like a consolation prize initially, when you put it in context it is an incredible achievement. Rovers were a Conference side a year ago and when you consider we signed very few players last summer and had a budget much smaller than many of our rivals, finishing in the top seven is a resounding success.
It is natural to be disappointed if we do not earn automatic promotion this weekend given just how close we have come to making it a reality, but I hope nobody loses sight of just how well the lads have done this season. It is worth remembering that our promotion dream is not over if things don’t go our way this weekend — there is still every opportunity for us to ascend into League One later this month.
All we can do is win our game against Dagenham & Redbridge and pray we get the slice of luck we need to get over the line. We have been involved in final day drama in the previous two seasons and neither of them have gone our way (relegation in 2014, missing out on the Conference title in 2015), so hopefully it will be a case of third time lucky this time around.
It is by no means going to be a case of turning up tomorrow and winning at a canter, though. John Still’s Daggers may already be relegated but they have turned in two superb performances recently, defeating Plymouth Argyle 3-2 at Home Park and then dismantling Crawley Town 3-0 last weekend. You can be sure Jamie Cureton and co. will want to do the same to us as we are their final Football League opponents and they will want to go out on a high.
Whilst we will have to be wary of the freedom they are seemingly playing with now their fate has been sealed, we know we have the quality in the team to come out on top. The 4-1 win at York City proved we can handle the challenge of playing a side at the bottom of the table and if we show the same levels of intent this weekend I have every faith we can do the same again.
The Mem is sold out in home areas and it should make for a great atmosphere, which is no less than Darrell Clarke and the lads deserve after their exploits over the last nine months. Everybody will be understandably nervous with so much at stake, but let’s get behind the team from the first minute to the last and see where it takes us.
With a bit of luck it will be our day, but if it is not to be there is no time to feel sorry for ourselves. We will have to dust ourselves off and prepare for a two-legged play-off against Wimbledon where our destiny is in our own hands again.
Until full time tomorrow, though, I am going to believe we can gain automatic promotion and hope that the positivity will help see us through. I know deep down it will make no difference whatsoever, but it is definitely better to be optimistic than pessimistic. Where is the fun in that as a football fan?
Come on Rovers, come on you blues!