Saturday, March 24, 2012

Shrimpers Gassed Out!

Rovers returned to winning ways this afternoon with a superb victory over promotion hopefuls Southend United at the Memorial Stadium. Former Shrimper Matt Harrold scored the all important goal in the 86th minute as he expertly converted a penalty after Muzzy Carayol was fouled by Michael Timlin. It was a thoroughly deserved Rovers win against a side who were simply unable to break down a strong and composed defence, lead superbly by Cian Bolger and Tom Parkes.

Danny Woodards and Jim Paterson had the measure of the Southend wide men and prevented them from really testing Scott Bevan, who was clearly carrying some sort of injury. Parkes was enlisted to take goal-kicks due to Bevan's injury, something I've not seen happen very often at the Mem over the years. Freddy Eastwood made a stating return following his loan move to out visitors and looked well off the pace for most of the game. He was carrying much more timber than he had done in his prime a few years back and looked very sluggish. He had one real effort of note during the game as a deflected strike flew just over the crossbar and behind for a corner, other than that he was marked out of the game.
Bolger contesting with Eastwood for a high ball

Rovers more than matched out 4th placed guests and were well on top throughout the game. Chris Zebroski, Matt Harrold and Mustapha Carayol were looking lively and kept Chris Barker and Mark Phillips busy in the middle. The best efforts of the opening period came when Craig Stanley unleashed a powerful 25 yarder that went just inches over the top of Cameron Belford's goal and when Matty Lund hit a half volley that needed tipping around the post. Aside from that and we went in at half-time goalless but set for a second period in front of the Blackthorn End.

We came out in the same vain as we ended the first 45 minutes and took the game to Southend, even though they are the ones flying high and needing to win. It showed just how far we've come under Mark McGhee. Zebroski and Carayol twice sent inviting balls across the face of goal, but Matt Harrold just couldn't quite reach either of them. It was beginning to get frustrating as time was running out and we weren't making our dominance count. Southend fired a warning when Elliot Benyon tested Bevan, but we quickly reasserted our pressure on their back-line to try and win the game.

Our big break came with less than 5 minutes left when Carayol began running in to the box, drawing the attention of two defenders, and as he struck towards goal he was fouled by Timlin and the referee, who had a poor game, awarded a penalty. The stadium erupted and our fate was in the hands of Harrold. Looking to notch his 14th goal of the season, the tall forward pelted home the spot-kick past a diving Belford to give us the win. The celebrations were long and loud - just how I like it. Southend gave one final scare when they were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the box, but it was fired straight in to the wall and we cleared it to safety. Phew.

The final whistle sounded and we'd won the game. It truly is a massive 3 points and as McGhee stated post-match, it's probably 'the best we've had'. We've matched yet another side pushing at the top end of the table and we've deservedly beaten them. Confidence will be sky high heading in to an away double header with Aldershot on Tuesday and Swindon next Saturday, hopefully enabling us to record further victories.

The atmosphere was electric at the end and there were several choruses of 'Mark McGhee's barmy army', along with the individual songs for each player as they went off down the tunnel, visibly pleased with their efforts. It really is onwards and upwards... about time too!

Up the Gas!

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