Sunday, February 17, 2013

Bristol Rovers 1-0 Wycombe Wanderers (League Two)

Rovers made it back to back victories to continue their wonderful form under John Ward as they defeated Wycombe Wanderers 1-0 at the Mem. It was a clash between 2 of the leagues in-form sides and for much of the contest they cancelled each other out. For all Wycombe's possession they rarely tested Steve Mildenhall and whilst Rovers only fielded one up front again, they still had opportunities to score. The all-important goal came courtesy of the impressive Ryan Brunt, who expertly volleyed a Joe Anyinsah cross in to the bottom right hand corner beyond a helpless Jordan Archer.

Brunt firing in the only goal of the game
There was a healthy 7300 crowd inside the ground and there was a loud roar as the two teams emerged from the tunnel at 2.55pm, accompanied by the Football League Show's Mark Clemmit, who was presenting a feature on manager John Ward. So, there was a hopeful crowd and the TV cameras for the players to deal with and perhaps that played a part in the Chairboys' dominance in the opening exchanges. Sam Wood looked lively on the left wing whilst strikers Matt McClure and Jo Kuffour, playing against Rovers for the first time since he left, were keeping Tom Parkes and Mark McChrystal on their toes. Other than a few corners there were few efforts on goal from the visitors and slowly Rovers worked their way in to the game. Fabian Broghammer, who is still lacking in the defensive side of his game, produced a low cut-back from the left for Brunt to shoot but it was a tame effort straight at Archer. It wasn't too long after that Gasheads were left waiting for the breakthrough and when the ball did hit the net the Mem erupted. It was a classy finish from Brunt and it was his second goal for the club, both of them coming at home in front of the South Stand.

The following 10 minutes before half-time saw Lee Brown send a rising effort towards goal which Archer saved but aside from that there was little action. Half-time passed and the Gas began the second period with more purpose and put the Wycombe defence under pressure. Broghammer whipped in a number of corners that just evaded a Rovers head, whilst Brunt displayed his Stoke City upbringing with a number of long Delap-like throws. Unfortunately with him taking them we lacked the presence in the penalty area to take advantage. Our best chance fell to Oliver Norburn who was set up by Broghammer on the edge of the box but he fired his shot wide when really he should have hit the target. Wycombe then had a dominant period where Kuffour threw himself to ground a couple of times in the penalty area but the referee waved his protests away, much to the dismay of the travelling supporters. A couple of long range strikes flew wide of Mildenhall's goal but for all their territorial advantage they had little to show for their efforts. John-Joe O'Toole almost capitalised on a misplaced header but dragged his left footed volley wide of goal from 18 yards, whilst substitute Eliot Richards was halted when running from the right wing in to the penalty area.

As stoppage time approached Gareth Ainsworth's charges continued to put balls in to our penalty box but all 4 of our defence stood firm and limited the space Kuffour and their other attacking players had. Charles Dunne, their left back, hit a powerful effort in to the side netting from a tight angle as Gasheads began to bite their nails. 3 minutes were added on and the Chairboys had a number of corner kicks. The last of which saw an almighty goalmouth scramble take place where it looked for all the world that Wycombe would poke the ball home but some flying blocks and a diving header from O'Toole preserved our precious lead. As Wood fired high from the resulting clearance the players leapt up and celebrated their bravery and strength as if we'd scored a second goal - it was a delight to see. We'd managed to keep consecutive clean sheets and that's worth celebrating! It was no less than the lads deserved and when the referee finally blew the final whistle we all breathed a collective sigh of relief and enjoyed yet another 3 points.

It was another brilliant day to be a Gashead and our usual post-match 'Goodnight Irene' chant was followed by a vociferous rendition of 'Johnny Ward's Barmy Army' as he walked across the pitch talking to Mark Clemmit. He shook the hands of his players before revelling in the celebrations of the Blackthorn End. He'll have enjoyed that moment but as soon as the club's Valentine's Ball had ended that night, attentions will have turned to Tuesday's match against Rotherham United. The same ticket offers from the original game pre-Christmas are still place where tickets cost £10 or £1 across all areas of the ground and season ticket holders can bring a friend for free using Voucher R in their book. We need to pack out the Mem again, create a bouncing atmosphere and intimidate the Millers. That way we give our lads a great chance.

Up the Gas!

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