Total Pageviews

Monday, February 15, 2010

Bristol Rovers Preview

Well, we all knew that Swindon have a soft centre late in games and so it proved again but we did leave it rather late with Captain Fantasic doing the business yet again. But it does make Richard Murrays remarks about promotion being a requirement not an aim, seem a bit mistimed. Its one thing to tell the manager in private but a public airing can only serve to make people nervous and prepare the bigger clubs for a likely bargain.
And so it proved, with Parky appearing a little on the desperate side in the attempt to counter Swindon's style, and making more changes in fielding a brand new 4-2-3-1 formation which of course had to be changed at half-time. But we didn't lose - although a missed open goal by Swindon did help along the way - and our fighting spirit came through again.
So being positive, the prime requirement in the sporting world, we may bemoan the lack of a goalscorer but with Bailey around we are still second highest scorers in this League ( 14 behind Norwich, 1 in front of Huddersfield) and with the third highest goal difference.
And despite all our nervous nail-bitting and looking our shoulder we're still in 3rd place although Millwall's form is starting to worry a few people. Only 4 weeks now separate us from the visit to the den and the third of our truly wish-we-could-play-someone-else-today-games (the games against the spanners and Colchester are for me the most awkward of them all, the pity being that both are in Play-off positions) and its currently 5 wins on the spin for the spanners.
So its on to those peps with the strange old-fashoned quartered shirts. Player-Manager at Rovers is 37 year old Paul Trollope, another man in his first job but at Rovers since 2005. Eleventh last season in their second year back in Tier Three they have, of course, our old Lennie as Director of football.

And as we tie with the spanners in the chase to be the highest fouling team in the division ( Ince's MK are clear leaders, no surprise there), little old Bristol are nice and clean and are in the relegation zone of the dirty-boys table with nearly a hundred less fouls committed than us and 18 less yellows - and the distinct bonus ( is there a FairPlay prize down here) as far as suspensions are concerned with no red cards at all.


Rovers are currently in 9th place, their lowest placing of the season and have dropped down quite a bit since their good start to the season when they won 7 of the first 10 games and were up there in 3rd. The kiss of death then arrived from the Football League with Trollope being awarded Manager of the Month for September and inevitably October turned into a disaster with 5 straight defeats including a 0-4 home loss to Leeds.

Since then however, its been their home form which has kept them from really heading towards the relegation zone. Their last 10 away games have seen 8 defeats ( including that 4-2 loss at the Valley) and only 2 draws but at home its been a lot better.

Since the 0-4 Leeds defeat at the end of October they have had 5 straight home wins terminating with a thumping 3-0 win over Swindon - although since that win its been another bleak period with only 1 win ( home to Hartlepool ) in their last 8 games and most recently two home defeats in a row firstly 2-3 against improving Wycombe, after leading 2-1 at half-time, and last week a 1-0 defeat to Walsall.
And the goals have dried up as well with 6 non-scoring games in that eight-match sequence.

The Opposition
A rather odd team where the number one, goalkeeper Steve Phillips is on loan at Crewe, while number 12 is worn by the supporters and are known as the Gasheads, in apparent recognition of the smell from the adjacent gas works. The goalkeeper, therefore is the giant 6' 5, 21 year old dane from Copenhagan, Mikkel Andersen wearing number 27 and on-loan from Reading.


After losing Ricky Lambert during the summer to Southampton, Rovers have struggled to find a replacement and current top scorers are left-winger number 11 ex-palarse Jeff Hughes, currently playing left-back, and midfielder Chris Lines with 8 each. Chris Lines is Rovers' own version of Nicky Bailey and has scored three of their last four goals but luck is against Rovers as he's currently out injured. And Hughes is currently on a run of 8 games without scoring and missed a penalty last week against Walsall.

So to fill in the gaps Trollope has secured loanee striker from Doncaster Paul Heffernan, famous for his head-butt on Charlie Mulgrew in the 88th minute of Play-off semi against Southend in 2008. He therefore missed the Dons moment of glory when they beat Leeds 1-0 in the final and made his Rovers debut last week against Walsall. And Trollope also wants to bring in another loan striker before tonight.

Whats Their Secret?

A bizarre team that have had more clean sheets than we have but then again only 6 teams in Tier 3 have conceded more goals. The only team in the top half of the table with a minus goal difference and although they have scored 3 on 4 occasions they have also conceded 5 twice ( Orient and Norwich) and 4 twice ( Leeds and the Addicks).

After reminding everyone that we usually do well at Swindon, which we did, its on to Bristol where our record really isn't very good. In fact, giving it to you straight, we have an even worse record at Bristol than we do at the den, old or new.
OK, we did the double over them in 1993/4 and won at the Valley in December making it three wins in the last three games but before that 2-0 away win in January 1993 we'd gone 15 games without a win at their place dating back 34 years to a 4-0 cup win there in 1959. And the only other time we've won there was a 5-2 Third Division South League win in 1933.
Oddly enough we've played both Bristol clubs 29 times in Bristol but whereas we've won 11 times against City its a sorry total of only 3 wins in that total of 29 away games at Rovers and its our first game at the Memorial Ground where Rovers have played since 1996.

The Team
After last weekends surprises its anyones guess what formation Parky will choose against Rovers although it must be said that his new 4-2-3-1 failed to impress anyone watching. He seemed pretty upbeat going into the game but perhaps he shot himself in the foot by trying to play to counter the opposition to avoid defeat. This week, I suspect, it'll be back to a more obvious selection with two forwards.
Scott Wagstaff, with his 5 goals, was flavor of the month and has now taken part in 12 out of the last 13 games, starting in seven of them although what his thoughts were when he was replaced at half-time at Swindon by Jose Semedo haven't been reported.
Another one perhaps grinding his teeth is Leon McKenzie, who, just when he must have thought he was due a start, has seen his prospects slip somewhat with the return of the much-liked Akpo and had to stay on the bench against Swindon after coming on in the previous eight.

Meanwhile there's strange goings-on as far as Lloyd Sam is concerned. Last week he missed his first League game of the season - apart from his one game suspension - and that was after only appearing for 10 minutes the week before against Walsall. And then there's the private meeting he had this week with Murray and Parky to discuss his contract which expires in the summer and the latest news that he has shaken off the bug that apparently stopped him playing last week.

And then what of Therry? After starting for the first time in eight games against Walsall he must have been cursing his luck when he had to go off after 52 minutes against Swindon with a head injury and didn't return.

But Parky needs to get it right this week and will revert to a 4-4-2 and after last weeks surprises the team would seem to pick itself.

Elliot; Richardson, Dailly, Sam Sodje, Basey; Sam, Bailey, Semedo, Reid; Akpo Sodje and Burton.

Our record away at Rovers is terrible and clearly the 37 punters on CAFC Picks knew all about it as only 4 of them saw a win back in the summer and even some of those may have changed their minds by now. Rovers home form, until recently, is also quite good but they have loads of injury problems and two home defeats in a row and as Ketts has pointed out have gone 300 minutes without scoring. Meanwhile the Addicks are on 4 games without a win and 3 consecutive TV defeats in a row.
So Parky, with Richard's words still ringing in his ears, needs a win badly but if it comes it won't be easy on our current form but if Yeovil, Orient, Wycombe and Walsall can win there, there should be no excuses if we can't do the same. And perhaps we can even get a run going with Yeovil, Brighton, Southend and Stockport the next 4 teams.
So the Verdict has to be a win to the Addicks, 2-0

No comments: