Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Bristol Rovers 2-1 Plymouth Argyle

What a feeling that is! It's a rather enjoyable evening for Gasheads tonight as Rovers made it a winning start to 2013 with a morale-boosting 2-1 win over west country rivals Plymouth Argyle. Our 3 new signings made their debuts and contributed massively in a battling Rovers performance that evoked tremendous support from Gasheads. Superb finishes from Joe Anyinsah and Matt Lund put Rovers in control before Conor Hourihane pulled a goal back for the Pilgrims in the second half. It stayed at 2-1 though until the final whistle and signalled a winning return to the Memorial Stadium for the team under John Ward.

Matt Lund scored Rovers second - ultimately the winning goal
There was a much improved attendance inside the ground in anticipation for the welcome return of Ward and there was a real sense of unity as the players walked out of the tunnel pre-match. They were closely followed by the new manager and he received a tremendous reintroduction to life at Bristol Rovers with all 4 corners of the Mem giving a standing ovation. The chant of 'John Ward's barmy army' was loud and proud and it really energised the team. The new players; Steve Mildenhall, John-Joe O'Toole and Tom Hitchcock were presented to the crowd by Nick Day as he read the line-ups and they all enjoyed great Gas welcomes. For the first time in a long while it felt as though we were a team.

The game kicked off brightly for Rovers with Michael Smith offering good attacking support down the right hand side with Fabian Broghammer doing likewise on the left. The latter fired a wild effort wide in the first real effort of the game before the visitors began to involve themselves a little bit more. In truth though they rarely threatened as every forward ball they played was dealt with by the impressive centre back pairing of Tom Parkes and Cian Bolger. It was Parkes who was made captain today and he lead by example throughout, guided brilliantly by the experienced Mildenhall in goal who put the young defence at ease. Bolger won his battle against Northern Ireland international Warren Feeney and Argyle offered little else in offensive areas. Rovers then won themselves a corner 20 minutes in that would lead to their opening goal. Broghammer delivered a great cross that wasn't dealt with at all well by visiting goalkeeper Rene Gilmartin and his spill allowed Anyinsah to fire a great volley in to the roof of the net. This sparked Gasheads back in to life and you could feel the relief of everyone in the stadium - bar the Pilgrims fans of course - resulting in jubilant cheers of 'we are staying up'.

It may be premature and it does feel too early to be singing such a song but it's a sign of just how poor we were before Ward was appointed. We didn't have to wait too much longer before doubling the advantage either - 6 minutes to be precise. It was another Broghammer corner that found its way to Lund who smashed home a volley in to the top corner. The noise level jumped up a couple more decibels and for the first time in too long there were smiling Rovers fans. There was still work to do though as Plymouth had nothing to lose at this point and it was inevitable that they'd try to impose themselves on us a little bit more. Whilst they did see a lot more of the ball they rarely tested Mildenhall although a Nick Chadwick header did land on the roof of the net following a cross from the right. O'Toole ran through the midfield and fired a great shot just wide of Gilmartin's goal in the last meaningful attempt of the first half.

Half-time came and went and the second period was to prove a real test. Plymouth threw men forward in a desperate attempt to get back in the game, with Carl Fletcher's job hanging in the balance. Rovers were dealing quite comfortably with what was going on but somehow Argyle pulled a goal back through captain Hourihane who hit a half-volley beyond Mildenhall when unmarked at the far post. He wasn't tracked by anyone and he had all the time in the world to finish smartly in front the travelling supporters. Then, minutes later, the same man hit a shot against the outside of the post to offer a final warning to Rovers that they could lose the lead they had worked so hard to get. Our defending then improved again and the back four worked tirelessly to shut out the attacks that our visitors mustered. There were a number of substitutions after this and it was one of Rovers', Seanan Clucas, who came in and added further bite to our midfield. The battle was being won by the boys in blue and white at this point and despite a couple of nervy moments, both on the pitch and off it, we saw out the rest of the game. The vocal delight at full-time was incredible and you could see just how much this win meant to everyone involved. Ward instigated a team huddle on the half-way line before the boys turned away and soaked up the atmosphere and praise of Gasheads around the ground.

That would have meant a lot to them to win the game and for the new boys they'd have been very happy to impress on their debuts. There was plenty to be encouraged by and although there is still plenty of work to be done in improving the side, we look a much stronger outfit now than we have done at any other time this season. I for one am very proud to be a Gashead tonight and I'd like to thank John Ward, his coaches and the team for giving us something to smile about again. There's a long way to go but committed performances like this week in week out will see us head in the right direction.

Gillingham at home next on Saturday.

Up the Gas!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Leave your thoughts...