Saturday, December 08, 2012

Rovers Face Daggers

Rovers return to home league action on Saturday afternoon as they take on Dagenham & Redbridge at the Mem. Following last weekend's disappointing 2-0 defeat to Wycombe Wanderers, Rovers go in to the game in very poor form and know full well that anything other than a win will increase the pressure on manager Mark McGhee.

Richards and Norburn are available again after suspension
The positives? Well we seem to have overcome the ridiculous injury/suspension situation we've had since the season began as we can welcome back Fabian Broghammer, Eliot Richards, Wayne Brown, Joe Anyinsah and Oliver Norburn to the squad. They rejoin the likes of Tom Parkes and David Clarkson who returned from injury themselves at Wycombe. This, in the manager's opinion, means we have arguably our 'strongest' eleven players available to play - surely there can be no excuses now. There's surely no reason or no need to play players out of position - we don't want to see Parkes or Derek Riordan on the left wing, we want to see them play in their natural areas. Having said that, I would be interested to see how Parkes fares at left back because that may be a good way of incorporating him, Guy Branston and Garry Kenneth in to our defensive four alongside Danny Woodards. Neither Jim Paterson or Lee Brown have impressed this season and it may be time to experiment with young TP on the left. Aside from that, and potentially Clarkson in centre midfield, there is no need to continually play players out of position. We won't get the best out of them as individuals or the team if we don't play them in their normal positions. It's simple.

Dagenham come in to the game confident and in decent form, although they did lose last time our by the odd goal in three against Torquay United at Plainmoor. Star striker Dwight Gayle was in tremendous form for the Daggers but his consistent performances attracted the attentions of Peterborough United. The Posh plucked him from John Still's squad on loan with a full-time move agreed in preparation for the summer. He will be a big loss for them but we can still expect them to pose problems when they attack. Sam Williams is a big unit and leads the line for them, whilst Brian Woodall is a clinical finisher as we witnessed first hand on the final day of last season. Still's men are always well drilled and never seem to let Rovers build up any head of steam, particularly in clashes at the Mem. As all well-scouted teams realise about us, if you can quieten Gasheads early on we're always susceptible to conceding from set-pieces - boosting their chances of winning the game if they can shut up shop. Dagenham will be well accustomed to these sorts of tactics as that's how they base their away performances usually, so they'll anticipate what we're set to throw at them.

That doesn't mean though that we can't take the initiative though. If we attack we need to do so ruthlessly by being clinical and decisive in the final third. The players need to have that understanding of what to do around the edge of the penalty box in order to fashion a goalscoring opportunity. If we can do that and score goals we'll put ourselves in a good position. But as we know, you need to be able to keep them out at the other end too in order to be successful. Kenneth needs to recapture that confidence and performance level that earned him rave reviews in the SPL a couple of years ago - if he can do that he'd be the best defender in this division by far. At the moment he is too busy covering for our lack of midfield and as a result is left exposed on counter attacks. In a confident, more fluent passing team, I firmly believe our Scottish international will rediscover the form that lead Dundee United to price him at £2 million. Parkes needs to find some consistency too because he doesn't appear to be the same player we saw on loan last season. Since signing his permanent 3 year deal in August, the former Leicester defender has failed to recapture the form that prompted McGhee to splash out a transfer fee for his signature. Granted he's not been playing alongside the injured Cian Bolger this season but he should find Kenneth to be a fantastic centre half partner (in the future). Hopefully with Branston's presence he can keep the young lads in line and ensure they remain disciplined from the first minute to the last. That's our best chance of winning football matches at the moment.

It was reassuring to hear McGhee state that the signing of a solid central midfielder is on the top of his list of January priorities - God knows we need one. It emerged on Wednesday that Notts County midfielder Gavin Mahon turned down a loan move to Rovers in order to fight for a starting spot with the Magpies in League One. He also rejected the chance to join Port Vale. He'd add a bit of bite and steel to our midfield but he isn't the player I'd have attempted to sign. We need an anchor, a genuine presence in the middle of the park. Here's hoping McGhee can identify a player that suits these requirements because it'll improve our team no end.

Tomorrow will be a difficult afternoon of football for both the Rovers team and supporters around the ground. Dagenham won't make it pretty and Rovers will likely be conservative to prevent being suckerpunched on the counter attack. If we can take the lead and show the defensive qualities we're capable of, 3 points can be ours. Anything less than that and it'll be another loss and potentially the sack for McGhee.

Up the Gas.

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