Sunday, 22 January 2012

Foot off the Gas

It had to come along eventually, and maybe it was a defeat waiting to happen.
As I have said before, I don't think we have played well since we demolished Southend at home, and despite three wins and two draws since then, we have not looked convincing.
But before the doom-mongers start enjoying their moment, remember that this was our first defeat in 10 league games, and our second in 16, so it's not the end of our promotion challenge.
We were not at the races, that's true, but you also have to give credit to Rovers, and the way they set up to stifle us.
That's a sign of the respect we have got after our good run of form this season, and if teams are going to come and 'park the bus' as Rovers wanted to, then we have to find a way of combating it.
The Gas came with three big centre-halves, so it was hard for Jimmy Spencer or Darryl Duffy to get any joy against them, strung five across the middle which stopped Kaid Mohamed getting any room and also kept our midfield trio pushed back, and two quick men up front.
The first half was attritional and we were not able to create any sort of clear-cut chance, while Scott Brown saved from Chris Zebroski - rumoured to be a target for us earlier this month - and he also shaved the post with a header.
The turning point of the game came arguably in the opening minute of the second half.
Marlon Pack put Darryl Duffy away down the right, and his cross was deflected just out of the reach of Russ Penn, and went for a corner.
I feel that had Penn been able to get on the end of that, we might have gone on to win the game as it would have forced Rovers to open up, and given us more space.
But it wasn't to be and Rovers got the first goal with a good finish from Zebroski, although our defence was caught square by the through ball and there are question marks about Scott Brown's positioning.
Just before that goal, Mark Yates had made a double change, with Jermaine McGlashan coming on for his debut and Jeff Goulding sent on as well.
The system was changed to 4-4-2 and within seconds we were a goal down - coincidence maybe...
But soon after we were two down, and that was utterly avoidable.
We lost the ball in midfield, then Browny made a good save but what Alan Bennett was thinking I don't know as he tried to chest it back and Eliot Richards nipped in to score.
Benno has been brilliant this season, so we will let him off this one - but he nearly did the same again but the ball was headed wide after he and Brown got in another muddle.
I am sure today will re open the Scott Brown debate, but I don't feel he was to blame directly for either goal - and I also saw a tweet saying that people were singing about Jack Butland.
If that is true, then what is the point? Butland is not our player, and most probably will not be coming back, so surely it would be better to get behind the players we do have?
He is our goalkeeper at the moment, and deserves the backing of the fans.
Since he came back into the side, Browny has done very well, and still I am struggling to think of more than one goal which was directly down to Scott (MK Dons, back in August...), or any game this season that we have lost directly because of him.
Basically, people need to get off his back.
Ok, rant over...
The goals meant that the double change we had made a few minutes before the goals was more or less nullified as we were then chasing the game.
Our record buy (let's face it, he is...) McGlashan had a few decent runs, showed his pace a couple of times and could have scored.
I am sure he will be a crowd favourite, but in equal measure he will frustrate and now we have a weapon on the right hand side who will try and beat a man and get crosses in, we need someone on the end of them.
Duffy and Spencer are not that sort of player. They are not target men, and for his extra height, Jeff Goulding is not either - so if we are to bring someone else in this January, a powerful target man is what we need. That is the priority - not a goalkeeper.
As soon as the two goals went in, Rovers dropped even deeper and were able to contain us with ease.
We need to be little cuter when we are trying to break down these blanket defences but we went a little bit too direct and, let's face it, we never looked like scoring one, let alone two goals.
But as I said at the start, let's put this defeat and performance in perspective, take it on the chin and move on.
Some will see it as an opportunity lost as Southend and Crawley dropped points and even a draw would have seen us take over top spot.
That is true, but also maybe this loss will be a blessing in disguise - a little wake-up call for anyone who thought the rest of this season was going to be a procession.
There is still a lot of work to do, starting at Macclesfield next weekend, and this will be another test for Mark Yates and the squad - how will they bounce back?

Player by player
Scott Brown - Maybe a slight question mark over his positioning for the first goal. Good save initially for the second but then he nearly got punished for a poor clearance as Rovers went close to a third.
Sido Jombati - Our best player, despite trying to play in every position bar the one he is picked in, popping up at centre forward at one point in the first half.
Luke Garbutt - Steady enough game, and defended well, but when he got forward his crossing and set-pieces were poor.
Alan Bennett - Has been superb for us this season but a bad mistake for the second goal, and then nearly made another error which could have led to another goal.
Keith Lowe - Was caught out by the through ball for the first goal as Chris Zebroski outpaced him to score, otherwise did okay.
Marlon Pack - Some delicious passes, but also got caught in possession a number of times as he tried to over-elaborate. Set-piece deliveries poor.
Luke Summerfield - Thought this was his poorest game for a while as Rovers did a good job of stopping him having an influence on the game.
Russ Penn - Does not look fit to me. For the second week running, his drive and energy has been lacking and he only seems to be able to last an hour of games at present.
Kaid Mohamed - Started well but faded out of the game as Rovers denied him any space. Tried to take an extra touch a few times, and lost possession which caused problems a few times.
Jimmy Spencer - Cut a frustrated figure all afternoon and was no surprise when he picked up a booking. Usual effort, but got no change from Rovers' three centre-halves.
Darryl Duffy - Also unable to have much of an influence on the game. Looked unhappy at being taken off but could have no complaints.

Substitutes
Jermaine McGlashan (for Russ Penn 58) -
Some decent runs and crosses, and nearly grabbed a goal, showing promise for the future. But we need to get someone on the end of his crosses.
Jeff Goulding (for Darryl Duffy 59)  - Struggled to get into the game. Was meant to give us more height and presence in the box, but it didn't work out like that.
Junior Smikle (for Kaid Mohamed 82) - Was on for less than 10 minutes, and didn't have much impact as we were chasing the game.