"The gas man cometh"
(Flanders & Swann)
After a dreadful performance at Bradford City when most of the team went AWOL, and the subsequent reading of the riot act by Dean Keates, there was a much-improved performance at Peterborough (which was only marred by their keeper’s saving Luke Leahy’s penalty in the dying minutes). So now we entertain Bristol Rovers, whose caretaker manager Graham Coughlan has only been in charge for 2 League One games following the departure of Darrell Clarke earlier this month. Clarke, incidentally, had signed a 5-year contract in 2017 but was evidently unhappy at the direction the club was taking, and left rather than being shown the door.
Although Rovers are in fairly deep doo-doo’s in the bottom four of the League One table, it should be noted that their goal difference is actually better than ours, and they’ve conceded 6 fewer goals than we have…and with their caretaker manager syndrome they won’t be a pushover. They recorded their first League One win at the weekend since November 3rd, overcoming Fleetwood Town’s 10 men 2-1 (Fleetwood had Ched Evans and manager Joey Barton sent off) in a game where 10 yellow cards were shown, most notably to Rovers’ midfielder Chris Lines who only came on as an 89th minute substitute! Current League One form for The Gas:-
17 Nov Scunthorpe United (H) Lost 1-2
24 Nov Charlton Athletic (A) Lost 3-1
27 Nov Gillingham (H) Lost 1-2
8 Dec Doncaster Rovers (H) Lost 0-4
15 Dec Sunderland (A) Lost 2-1
22 Dec Fleetwood Town (H) Won 2-1
We’re only 8 points away from the play-off zone, so 3 points from this match would be most welcome even if Josh Ginnelly is still absent because of possible career progression. There are positive signs in the availability of George Dobson, Zeli Ismail and (maybe) Joe Edwards. The display at Peterborough showed that Russell Martin is not indispensable, and his value to the squad may well be more as a coach and motivator rather than as a player. His top-level footballing mentality showed near the end of the Sunderland game when, from a deeply defensive position he chose to play a Beckham-esque long crossfield ball which impressively went straight to the feet of a grateful Sunderland striker…
(Mini-rant over) … Prediction? Having got three out of our last four fixtures exactly right (why don’t I do that in the Prediction League?) I’ll try to keep the trend going by saying that we can win this one 2-0, with Cook and Gordon netting.