There was cause for optimism pre-match as Garry Kenneth made his home debut and following positive reviews midweek Rovers fans were looking forward to seeing him play. He partnered Home Park hero Tom Parkes at centre half and didn't disappoint. He was the stand out player and nullified every attack the Cod Army mustered, whether it be in the air or on the deck. He possessed everything a strong defender needs and could, in time, become a Bristol Rovers captain.
|Garry Kenneth made home debut|
It wasn't just Kenneth that performed well though. The entire team played much more cohesively than in recent weeks and there were notably good performances from Oliver Norburn and Matt Gill in midfield, Joe Anyinsah up front and Fabian Broghammer on the left wing. Neil Etheridge made his debut in goal after joining from Fulham on Thursday and was assured in all his duties, certainly filling the defence with more confidence than Sam Walker ever had done. The makings are there for us to be a force this season but we need everyone fit and out on the pitch at once. The one criticism you could aim at the players was the inability to score one or more of the chances we created. David Clarkson displayed his intelligence and quality yet again but his composure in front of goal wasn't quite sharp enough. He missed two good opportunities in the second half when in and around the penalty box, including one where he had the whole goal to aim for after receiving a cut-back from Broghammer. He'll score goals with the right partner but they need to be a potent finisher for us to score week in week out.
Who would that partner be? It's not someone who's in the squad right now though unfortunately. Anyinsah was great in his return to the team and if he plays like that every game he'll be an asset for us. It seemed as if he realised this was his last chance and he worked his ass off from start to finish for the first time in a Rovers shirt. Disappointingly though he's not a goal-getter. What about Eliot Richards? His inconsistency and failure to apply himself means he's not a guaranteed starter so he clearly isn't deemed ready to be a reliable finisher just yet. Mark McGhee isn't happy with him and because of this and bearing in mind our incapabilities up front, he said post-match that we'll be looking to sign two strikers this week. A poacher is a must, whilst a forward who possesses a bit of pace is essential too. We've been linked with a few good Championship strikers this past week but nothing has materialised as of yet. If we can get them on board before Exeter next week we'll be much better off - it's all we were lacking yesterday.
The support from Gasheads was pleasing yesterday despite the 5000 crowd. It was supportive, positive and exactly what it needs to be every home game. It made the difference in the final minute against Aldershot a fortnight ago and it almost worked in our favour again against Fleetwood. Keep it up Gasheads.
All in all there was plenty to be encouraged with and if we can maintain similar levels each week we will win plenty of matches. I feel we are a top striker away from being a very good team at this level and it's something the club are working hard to address this week. We've held one of the trickiest teams at home and were unlucky not to collect all 3 points from them - we can use this and our draw with Plymouth as a springboard to better things.
Up the Gas!