Saturday, August 04, 2012

Derby Day Blues

Rovers crashed to a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Bristol City at Ashton Gate this afternoon courtesy of goals from Martyn Woolford, Albert Adomah and Stephen Pearson. In truth Rovers never really threatened and despite huffing and puffing we were unable to test City goalie Tom Heaton.

Mark McGhee chose to play trialist Iain Turner in goal, a back four of Michael Smith, Garry Kenneth, Adam Virgo and Jim Paterson, a midfield quartet of Fabian Broghammer, Oli Norburn, Seanan Clucas and Fabian Broghammer, with Matt Harrold and David Clarkson up front. Matt Gill was due to start but his injury flared up after the warm up and Norburn was called in to replace him. As a result Virgo captained the side and entered the field of play to rapturous applause and a chorus of Goodnight Irene from the 1400 Rovers fans in the East End. We were loud, proud and out-sung our City counterparts for most of the game which, to be honest, we all expected.

Captain Virgo
Our performance was something of an anti-climax. As I do typically at the beginning of each season I lead an exaggerated belief that Rovers will outplay any team they come up against, regardless of stature and quality. Today I was very wrong. We're clearly nowhere near having a full-strength squad and that was evident with our lethargic performance. Kenneth went off due to injury 20 minutes in and although it didn't look serious it was a blow to see our new signing leave the pitch so early on. Up stepped fellow new boy Rogvi Baldvinsson to take his place and before too long City took the lead in poor circumstances. Woolford was able to get a shot away from the edge of the box and Turner got a fist to it but punched it downwards and the ball bounced over the line. Cue the first bit of noise from home supporters. Don't worry though, normal service was resumed within seconds and they fell silent again.

Harrold and Clarkson both had decent opportunities to test Heaton but drilled low efforts across the face of goal and behind for a goal kick. We failed to build on these half-chances and City cruised to half-time at 1-0. Whilst they were able to replace first team players with fellow first team professionals we didn't have the same strength in depth and reverted to a few youth players. We failed to trouble the home defence in the second half bar a Harrold flick from a Brown free-kick and eventually City made it 2. Adomah netted before they scored again through Pearson just before full-time. Louis Carey's testimonial was the perfect occasion for his club and not a great confidence booster for Rovers but it will have opened McGhee's eyes to the obvious deficiencies within the squad.

The support from Gasheads was tremendous and has seen players like Smith, Baldvinsson, Norburn and Harrold take to Twitter to thank us - they seem to appreciate the backing. All the players and coaches applauded the supporters at the end before trudging off down the tunnel and facing the press that had congregated outside the dressing rooms. McGhee confirmed he still retains an interest in James Constable which has triggered more substantiated rumours that a bid will be lodged imminently to League Two rivals Oxford United. The game proved we still lack in wide areas and have a problem with the goalkeeping situation - whether Turner is the answer is for McGhee to decide over the next coupe of days. Potentially a centre half may also need to be drafted in should Kenneth's injury restrict him from training for the next couple of weeks. It's a difficult period for Rovers heading in to the final week of pre-season.

Whilst I'm not going to overreact to a poor performance in the derby I still think it's fair to say things aren't quite there for us yet. We won't get promotion with the squad in its current state but with the right additions and further fitness work completed I think we can become the team the fans so desperately want us to be.

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