Sunday, October 06, 2013

Bristol Rovers 1-3 Fleetwood Town (League Two)

Fleetwood Town gave Rovers a late lesson in finishing as they undeservedly won by 3 goals to 1 at the Memorial Stadium yesterday afternoon. Jamille Matt's brace and substitute Jon Parkin's stoppage time strike condemned Rovers to defeat but it should have been a victory with the number of goalscoring opportunities that were created in the second half.

JJ grabbed the Rovers goal - Lifted from:
It was an even game in terms of possession throughout the entire 90 minutes. Rovers matched their visitors, who are flying high in the play-offs places right now, and looked the most likely to get their noses in front when the scores were level. It was a goalless first half where both sides had moments of good play but it was a period where both sides were weighing each other up. Returning Jeff Hughes wasn't the threat we all feared he would be on the left flank but Matt was looking a handful up front even though he was their lone forward. He combines pace, mobility and strength and certainly provided Mark McChrystal with an aerial test as long Fleetwood balls were pumped forward. While Macca had his hands full it did allow Tom Parkes to get his foot on the ball a bit more than usual and look for a pass, which he did well on occasions, but there was still a concerning lack of quality in midfield and out wide. This forced our back-line to go long again and it simply didn't play into our hands often enough as Ryan Brunt was isolated up front.

Fortunately the second half exploded into life and it was a much better game. Rovers came out firing and were carving through Fleetwood's defence with confidence. A few shots drew crucial blocks from Ryan Cresswell before a golden opportunity fell the way of loanee Andy Bond. The midfielder was played through with a defence-splitting through ball and baring down on goal he looked up before skying his side-footed effort over the bar when he seemed destined to score. There were gasps around the ground as the reality of the situation hit everyone who were praying for the net to bulge and we had to go again. Still, it offered us confidence that we had the ability to create chances and we continued to enjoy a great deal of possession in the final third.

Fleetwood still had their moments though and Antoni Sarcevic was instrumental in most of their play in the centre of the pitch. He was being kept quiet by the returning Seanan Clucas, who had a great game, but he drifted out wide to find space and it proved beneficial. Our visitors began to send in telling crosses from the flanks but it didn't provide them with a breakthrough, although they did find themselves in front just past the hour. Sarcevic got past Lee Brown down the left hand side and played a low cross towards the front post where Matt flicked home past Steve Mildenhall. It was a real blow as the boys didn't deserve to fall behind and it was going to prove a real test of character given our disgustingly bad record at coming back from losing positions.

It took just 3 minutes for Rovers to find an equaliser though and it came after some terrific play. Brunt played a ball into the path of Bond with the outside of his boot and the Colchester United man delivered a perfectly weighted cross for John-Joe O'Toole to head home. 1-1 and the goal was no less than our play warranted. Surely we could flourish and go on to find a winner?

The team most certainly tried. No more than 5 minutes had passed after the restart when a right wing cross was played in towards Gas scorer O'Toole who saw a header blocked on the line by a Fleetwood body. There were half-hearted appeals for a penalty but the referee waved away the cries and the game continued. Rovers kept up the pressure and Brunt headed against the post from a Brown corner before firing wide after turning 18 yards out. We were coming oh so close to getting our noses in front but you just got a nagging sense that, as always, it wasn't going to happen for us.

While people may have felt resigned to watching us draw the game I'm adamant nobody would have even considered us losing the game. There was no reason to, we were playing so well and nullified most of Fleetwood's attacking players. They had no response until Matt was able to shake off the attentions of McChrystal a little more. Like a dagger through the heart the striker found himself through on goal after playing a one-two with Sarcevic and coolly swept home to win the game after 87 minutes. It killed the atmosphere around the ground and everyone of a Gas persuasion was gobsmacked. It was a cruel twist to a game Rovers had the better of.

If that goal wasn't bad enough Fleetwood sent on Parkin and the big forward saw a cross come his way in stoppage time and simply waited for the ball to fall on to his right foot before venomously striking across Mildenhall into the bottom corner. 3-1. The scoreline was deceptively harsh and, in my opinion, could easily have been the exact opposite if we had luck on our side. We didn't and we can only blame ourselves as we had the chances, we just couldn't take them.

It's better than we have witnessed this season but it's still bot good enough because we aren't picking up wins. I don't care that Fleetwood have good players, we more than matched them and still couldn't score. Something clearly still isn't right in the camp and it needs to be sorted imminently because we are now 20th in the League Two table. 10 league games into the season and John Ward's record is WORSE than both Paul Buckle's and Mark McGhee's 10 game records in the last 2 seasons and that is simply not acceptable.

I feel deflated, annoyed and angry at the same time. I hate being a Gashead sometimes.

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