November 19, 2018
Today’s column was written before last Tuesday’s Chekatrade match at Exeter where both teams had already qualified for the knock-out rounds and were competing for the reward of a home tie for the winners. Let’s hope we have another game to fit in under the floodlights after already securing one by virtue of an F.A. Cup replay against Barnet. More of that later as the game at St. James’ Park completed an unusual quartet of four successive games on the road that stretched the financial resources of the travelling ‘Gas’ to the limit – no doubt the Football Club too as no income is received until the Cup monies are divided out!
The first of those four games since we last met here was a long and difficult trip to high-flying Barnsley where I thought the lads deserved something from the game but our lack of firepower cost us dearly yet again – six away matches without a goal! So another long trip north the following Saturday against a Blackpool team that had been very good on their own patch was not much of a propect for the fans. However, the ‘Gas’ have happy memories of Bloomfield Road thanks to that incredible afternoon there back in May 1990 when the 3rd Division Championship was claimed at the expense of another local team. Well there was another excellent turnout this time round and who would have guessed at a repeat scoreline with the current Rovers sweeping to another excellent 3-0 victory in sight of the famous tower. Still no goal from a forward but a brace from new leading scorer Ollie Clarke and a stunning volley from Tony Craig sent us all back down the M6 and M5 in a happy frame of mind for a change.
So to last Sunday, Armistice Day thanks to the B.B.C., and another return visit – to The Hive where both previous trips in the National League and in League 2 ended in narrow defeats. It looked like the same outcome this time after Stuart Sinclair’s return to first team action was curtailed by a two-footed tackle just seven minutes in. The ‘Beard’s challenge was hardly a ‘leg-breaker’ but I suppose the Ref’s decision was dictated by the laws of the game and the ‘walk of shame’ was soon followed by a Barnet goal as the ‘Bees’ took advantage of a strong diagonal wind in their favour. Adam Smith was in danger of being named ‘man of the match’ on his return to duty but the Manager’s early double substituion soon changed everything. When Chris Lines joined Sam Mathews and Kyle Bennett at half-time there was only going to be one winner with the wind at Rovers’ backs and a penalty equaliser by ‘Linesy’ was a poor reward I thought as the lads went on to smash the woodwork three times to ‘earn’ a replay. Anyway, we were in the hat last Monday evening so you will all know who Rovers face if we are successful next Wednesday. Great support on the road over the last month and I hope you will all get behind the boys in what is a very important match this afternoon. Let’s hear it for the boys in blue!