February 24, 2019
Today’s column again had to be written before Rovers’ last match, the important visit to Fratton Park last Tuesday, where a very much out-of-form Portsmouth were the hosts. In bad form they may have been, previous time out dropping a three-goal lead at Southend, but Rovers have never travelled well to Royal Navy headquarters, not winning at ‘Pompey’ since 1975! Let’s hope we had more luck there this time.
We are certainly relying on the team’s performances on the road to date as our last home game turned out to be another disappointment by dropping two points in an awful match against Shrewsbury Town who did everything they could to frustrate Rovers and, it has to be said, were aided by a very inexperienced referee who was clearly out of his depth in dealing with the tactics employed.
This afternoon presents another opportunity to improve what is for Rovers an unusually bad home record. Only three League wins and eight defeats here is the poorest I can ever remember but the consolation is of course the improvement under our new management. The defeats have at least been turned into draws and we look a much better outfit away from the ‘Mem’ where Rovers are really getting stuck into home teams. That tactic was first used in Graham Coughlan’s first game in charge which was of course at the Stadium of Light where a revitalised Alex Rodman fired Rovers in front only for us to be pegged back by the then usual goal just before half-time and we narrowly lost, hitting the bar with the last kick of the game to deny a vital point. Sunderland will I’m sure present another very stiff home task today as they have been everyone’s favourites for promotion since falling out of the Championship last season. Like ‘Pompey’ though the ‘Black Cats’ are not finding things easy in League 1 and are struggling to keep pace with Luton and Barnsley in the automatic promotion places. So, a tough but interesting fixture awaits this afternoon and I reckon that with the fantastic and hostile support that this stadium can generate Rovers can come out on top by 5pm. Please give it everything to cheer the ‘Pirates’ home!