Monday, April 22, 2013

Bristol Rovers 0-1 Accrington Stanley (League Two)

Player of the Year: Lifted from
Accrington Stanley's Lee Molyneux scored a wonder free-kick to seal an important 3 points for our visitors today in what was a poor game at the Mem. Despite the pre-match excitement and 7600 strong crowd, the Rovers performance was well below par and dampened everybody's spirits. Fortunately the mood lifted at full-time for the awards presentation but Gasheads went home wondering where on earth our attacking desire has gone in the past couple of weeks.

The sun was shining and it the conditions were perfect. Yes, the pitch was dry and there were areas that lacked grass but overall the turf was in great condition. When you consider the state of other pitches, like Blackpool's Bloomfield Road in the Championship, the Mem groundsman have done a terrific job. They've juggled football and rugby in sometimes ridiculous conditions this year and deserve praise for the way in which they have kept the pitch perfectly playable. Unfortunately John Ward's men were never in the game offensively and for that reason alone it was a frustrating afternoon. Accrington were poor and that probably makes it worse because we didn't put them under anywhere near enough pressure all afternoon. After just 2 minutes they had done all the work they needed to do to come away with the victory.

In-form left midfielder Molyneux struck a long-range free-kick that dipped, swerved and spun past Steve Mildenhall, despite the goalie getting a firm hand to it. It truly was a stunning strike and you can't legislate for shooting of that quality from 35 yards out so there was little that could have been done to prevent it. He wheeled away in delight and celebrated with his team-mates in front of the travelling Stanley fans. The intention of Leam Richardson's men was clear from this point: sit back and hit them on the counter. It's the tactic many have deployed against us in Bristol since Ward took over and on this occasion it was working for the Lancashire side. Young midfielder Ollie Clarke was working hard but having little impact, whilst Ellis Harrison and Fabian Broghammer were both ineffective on the wings. It was excruciating to watch as nothing was coming off for the team. Oumare Tounkara didn't get the ball to feet up front and his strike partner Eliot Richards was totally anonymous - we had nothing in the final third.
Lifted from

Accrington weren't creating anything either. Romauld Boco, their talismanic winger, hit a wayward effort in to the Blackthorn End midway through the first half but nothing to trouble Mildenhall. Rovers earned a few corners but as always the deliveries of Broghammer were poor. His best attempt was a mis-hit out-swinger that took a nasty deflection off a red shirt and bounced behind for another corner. Clarke struck a sweet half volley seconds before the interval that struck the net... but it was the roof of it that had rippled, not the inside. It deceived many Gasheads and the small number of visiting supporters took great delight in informing us if has gone over. Bless them. It was a tremendous effort from Clarke, who couldn't have hit it much sweeter, but we still went in 1-0 down at half-time.

The second half was pretty much identical to the first, bar the Accrington goal. There were no real chances of note but plenty of running from both sides. Substitute's Ollie Norburn and Ryan Brunt hit shots that were blocked in and around the penalty area before Broghammer blasted a cross that should have been laid back in to the path of whoever was in support of his run. It was a nightmare to watch. You could tell nothing was going to happen to give us much cheer and time just ticked away. The referee, who had a ridiculously poor game, signalled the end of proceedings and the game was over. Accrington had secured their Football League status and Rovers had enjoyed a phenomenal second half to the season under Ward so had reason to celebrate too.

Lifted from
It wasn't the end to the season that we'd all hoped for at the Mem but there was still plenty to be thankful for. The players did their annual lap of honour and received rapturous applause from all areas of the ground, including the away end to Accrington's credit, and even those who have been injured joined in with the walk. Garry Kenneth, Adam Virgo, Matt Harrold, Matt Gill, David Clarkson and Seanan Clucas joined the playing squad in paying their respects to us and, for a few of them, it may be the last time they ever walk out on the pitch as a Rovers player. There was a feeling of unity and as the awards presentation took place in the corner in front of the Blackthorn End, everybody united in congratulating Accrington on cementing their place in League Two next season. The players were visibly chuffed to receive such a warm reception and joyously showed their appreciation for our support. Michael Smith, Tom Parkes and Ollie Norburn all won their awards (player of the year, young player of the year and goal of the season respectively) before clubman of the year was announced. Announcer Nick Day said it could 'only go to one man' and John Ward was revealed as this year's winner, much to the delight of Gasheads all around the ground. After reciprocated applause the players and management eventually retreated to the changing rooms and another home season was brought to a close.

We still have Torquay United to play next Saturday to fulfil our 46 game marathon and it promises to be a great occasion, particularly if the weather is nice in Devon. Hopefully we can break the 60 point barrier and end the season on a high, it would be great to do so given how much we've achieved since Christmas.

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