Saturday, January 28, 2012

Rovers Win... Again?!

I'm not used to this. Rovers recorded back-to-back victories today for the first time in God knows how long thanks to goals from Lee Brown and Eliot Richards in a hard-fought 2-1 home win. This is our third win from four games, a reality that didn't seem in any way possible in early January, however a change in management and morale and the lads look confident in every game we play.

Despite the attendance only being 6164, Rovers registered the highest attendance from games in Leagues One and Two this Saturday afternoon, making the relatively small crowd seem respectable. Those who were at The Mem though made a fantastic noise all game and greeted new manager Mark McGhee with a chorus of 'Mark McGhee's Barmy Army' as he entered the pitch from the tunnel pre-match, something that I'm sure pleased him greatly. There was a sense of belief about the place that we could go out and win the game following recent happenings at the club. And why not...? Although, we'd have to do it with a very small squad following the injuries we've sustained recently. Matt Gill started the game in place of Joe Anyinsah in central midfield, whilst Michael Smith replaced Gary Sawyer at left-back, with both playing their first games in months. Ideally neither would have been thrust in to action from the start, but circumstances dictated that McGhee and Shaun North had little choice but to play them from the off.

However, it didn't seem to matter a jot, as Rovers pressed from the off. After a spell of early pressure, it took all of five minutes for us to break the deadlock, when a header in to the Bantams penalty box fell to Lee Brown at the back post, who took a touch before firing home in to the bottom corner. 1 up and the revolution seemed in full-swing! The atmosphere went up a notch and for the first time in a long while, Gasheads had a smile on their faces. The pitch looked as bad as it has done all season and it meant neither side could get the ball down and pass it, although that's not Bradford's game anyway. They threw  a few long balls forward and looked menacing on occasions - ex-Premier League player Craig Fagan looking their most dangerous player - but the solid back-line saw off any of their offensive threats easily enough. The rest of the first half passed with little other action, although young Welshman Eliot Richards appeared to have been fouled inside the penalty area, but referee Chris Sarginson deemed the challenge fair and play continued. Despite being biased, I'm adamant it was a penalty.

The second half started with us in control of proceedings and ten minutes in we doubled our advantage. Bradford centre half Andrew Davies was caught in possession, allowing Richards to run through and slide past Jon MacLaughlin. Cue wholehearted choruses of 'Goodnight Irene' which reverberated around the Blackthorn End - just as I like it. To their credit, the Bradford fans came in decent numbers (just under 500), which is a good following considering the length of the trip, but little noise was created in their section. Well, they hit a drum a few times but that always died out relatively quickly... thankfully. I hate drums. I hate them even more when they're being played inside a football stadium. Can fans not make noise without the aid of an instrument?

Either way, things were made all the worse for the Bantams ten minutes after that, when Rob Kozluk was dismissed for a second bookable offence. The right-back raised his arms on the lively Richards and was subsequently sent off. Numerically that should have made things easier but, as is often the case, teams can become more dangerous with ten men. Bradford were one of those teams, but it was through their decision to commit men forwards and claw back the 2-0 deficit. We didn't need to take any chances and throw too many players forward, so we sat back a little and absorbed everything they threw at us, up until David Syers netted from close range after 72 minutes. They'd rarely threatened Michael Poke in goal, but it was a warning that the game wasn't over.

Fortunately we defended extremely well for the remainder of the game to ensure the 3 points, meaning McGhee maintains his 100% winning record so far. It's a ridiculous stat because it will come to an end at some point, but hopefully not anytime soon. I'm enjoying what I'm seeing at the moment - we're playing well, picking up wins and the atmosphere around the club seems to be picking up - what's not to like? The potential of the stadium edging along nicely off the pitch and things seem in a really decent state at the moment.

A couple of signings are hoped for by McGhee this week and, alongside the returns to training for a number of players including Matt Harrold, we should have a stronger squad next Saturday. Our opponents then are Aldershot Town, a side who beat us 1-0 at The Mem earlier in the season.

I'll enjoy the rest of my weekend now, fingers crossed for some good news with player captures during the week before a big away day at the EBB stadium!

Goodnight Irene...

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