Monday, September 02, 2013

Bristol Rovers 1-0 Northampton Town (League Two)

Teenager Tom Lockyer was the Rovers matchwinner against Northampton Town yesterday afternoon after scoring the only goal of the game and clearing what looked like a certain equaliser from underneath his own crossbar. He has impressed in all of his outings so far, displaying his versatility with stellar performances in central midfield, central defence and right midfield and he continued that trend with a man of the match performance against the Cobblers.

Lockyer On Target - Lifted from: 
It was a strong Rovers squad with senior players like Garry Kenneth, Matt Gill, Matt Harrold and Eliot Richards all named on the substitutes bench to supplement our ever-improving first eleven. I was confident that we would see a more assured team performance on the back of last week's victory over York City and that's exactly what we got. Throughout 90 minutes of hoofball from our opponents Rovers held firm and defended resolutely, standing up to the physical challenge that every Aidy Boothroyd team will inevitably provide. Alongside this defensive solidity was a pleasing quality to our attacking and within just 2 minutes of kick-off we produced a superb move that resulted in the only goal of the game. Ellis Harrison, restored to the team in place of Alefe Santos, fed the superb David Clarkson midway inside the Northampton half and the striker then laid a pass into the path of the overlapping Lee Brown down the left with the outside of his foot. The full-back hit a first time cross to the back post where Lockyer was on hand to gleefully head across goalkeeper Matt Duke for 1-0. He was understandably thrilled to have scored and was mobbed by his team-mates who were visibly chuffed for their new star man. With contributions like this on a regular basis we'll have ourselves a star.

The rest of the game consisted of flashes of good football but predominantly dirty play from our visitors as well as underhand tactics in regards to the officials. Boothroyd's men dived, appealed, gesticulated, elbowed, kicked and hoofed their way through the match in a desperate attempt to get themselves back into it. I never like to see cheats prosper and thankfully they didn't. In truth they didn't even come close until 2 minutes into stoppage time. Before that the lively Clarkson hit the side netting with a second half shot while 6 Northampton players were booked as a result of their misconduct, with Roy O'Donovan being sent off. He should have been given his marching orders earlier for an elbow on Michael Smith that went unpunished by a disgustingly poor referee but was given a second yellow card late on. The forward leapt in front of Brown twice as the left back attempted to take a throw-in and was rightly shown a second yellow. Boothroyd complained post-match that it was a bad decision, just as his players argued every single decision the officials made, but he clearly doesn't understand the rules of football. Oh the irony of his claim that it was unprofessional of Brown to take so long over the throw-in that led to O'Donovan's red card!

Our visitor's best chance came in stoppage time after they were awarded a controversial late free-kick 20 yards out. It was controversial as it should have been a penalty but the inept ref maintained his shocking performance by wrongly awarding a free-kick... thank god. Karma for their constant moaning and cheating in my book. Their best player, winger Chris Hackett, struck a sublime curling effort against Steve Mildenhall's upright and into the danger zone but fortunately a Gas defender was on hand to smash to safety. It would have been a thoroughly undeserved equaliser for a team of thugs but it does go to show that we need to kill teams off as 1-0 leads are indescribably fragile.

The match ended to sighs of relief and roars of delight as it ensured back-to-back league victories at the Mem. It was a battling performance of the highest regard and was exactly the sort of test we needed heading into the Bristol derby on Wednesday. It will be a slog at Ashton Gate and their fans won't make it easy for us to play our football but we've shown that we are just as adept with the physical side of the game as we are with the technical side. Key players are starting to hit some form and it all bodes well for us heading into the match. Mark McChrystal was exceptional alongside Tom Parkes at the heart of our defence and it means Garry Kenneth will have to wait a while longer for his return to competitive action with the team. Perhaps Plymouth Argyle on Saturday will provide him with an opportunity given that it takes place just 72 hours after our meeting with Bristol City.

We've all been thinking about this meeting with the 82ers since the draw was made a fortnight ago and now is the time where the players and supporters will eat, drink and sleep it. If the players don't realise how big, important or passionate this fixture is then they soon will as soon as they step out on to the pitch to warm up on Wednesday evening. It will be a red hot atmosphere and the country will be watching the first Bristol derby for 6 and a half years on Sky Sports hoping for an entertaining game. I think they'll get it but I would be just as buzzed with a scrappy 1-0 win than I would a 6-5 thriller.

Begin clearing your throats Gas, we need to make non-stop noise from the minute we step inside the ground to the minute we leave. Stay safe, of course, but make sure you are stood up and counted, there's nothing to be intimidated by.

Goodnight Irene.

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