Saturday, March 17, 2012

Rovers Topple The Wombles

Rovers got back to winning ways in League Two today defeating AFC Wimbledon at the Memorial Stadium by a goal to nil. It was a thoroughly deserved 3 point haul, although awful weather conditions ensured the game wasn't the best spectacle on the eye, particularly for travelling Dons fans. Our pitch, already destroyed by rugby played on it in December, became saturated as the heavens opened just after 3 o'clock and is in absolutely no fit state to host professional football as things stand. But that's not the important thing tonight - all that matters is the victory and leaping up to 14th in the table.

Muzzy Carayol shrugging off Damon Lathrope of Torquay last week
The only change to the side saw Lee Brown come in to the midfield in place of Andy Dorman and the former QPR youth player was introduced to yet another new position in right midfield. Rovers started brightly and shortly after Chris Zebroski struck wide from 20 yards we broke the deadlock. Wing wizard Mustapha Carayol nicked the ball in the midfield before running forward and unleashing a stunning strike beyond the dive of keeper Seb Brown and in to the far right hand corner. The Gambian could not have hit the ball any better and for the second week in a row, Rovers had produced a top quality goal.

This appeared to help settle any pre-match nerves on the pitch and our foothold on the game began to increase with each passing minute. A few more efforts were sent goal-wards but never really threatened the Dons custodian, although the lead should really have been doubled as we approached half-time. In cruise control all over the park the ball fell for Gill in the penalty box and he managed to nick the ball beyond Brown and towards the unguarded far post. Carayol attempted to divert the ball home but was just millimetres away from the ball and the Dons escaped.

Prior to the second half, with weather conditions worsening, Premier League referee Mike Dean felt it necessary to test the pitch and discover if the ball could run smoothly over the surface. With water lying over some areas of the pitch it was clear conditions weren't perfect, but it was still safe for the players to continue the game. Dean had an average game and I can only assume was assigned our game as a punishment for bad decisions last weekend - harsh isn't the word, it's a pleasure to watch us nowadays! Terry Brown's AFC side became much more competitive in the second period and put up much more of a fight. They came forward a few times and really tested Bevan, who stood up well to deny Jack Midson, one of the league's top scorers. Bevan saved another good effort moments later before Rovers pushed forward themselves with Zebroski, who saw his close range effort rebound of the keeper and then his face before drifting harmlessly wide.

In truth, the rest of the game saw few goalscoring opportunities for either side as the rain really began to take its toll. Muzzy was substituted to avoid fatigue in preparation for Tuesday's trip to Plymouth Argyle and received a very warm standing ovation from all Gasheads for another match-winning performance on the wing. Gill and Craig Stanley were getting stuck in to their central midfield battles with Rashid Yussuf and TJ Moncur and ultimately ensured the points were ours at the final whistle. Mike Dean called an end to proceedings following 3 minutes of stoppage time and the players were visibly delighted with their afternoon's work, manager Mark McGhee certainly agreed with them judging by his smile as he walked across the pitch and in to the tunnel. Wimbledon fans, to their credit, remained behind to applaud their team off and can be proud with how they performed in the second half especially.

It was a big win for us today and propels us above our visitors and in to 14th ahead of another hectic 2 week period in League Two. The lads seemed to come through the game unscathed and that's a positive ahead of the West Country clash with Argyle at Home Park this midweek, where 3 points would surely guarantee survival. Not that anyone's worried. We're certainly on the up and in his post-match interview Mark McGhee is setting his sights firmly on the top 10, a realistic target with our form since his appointment.

Onwards and upwards Gas!

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