It is back to back home games for The Gas as we welcome Carlisle United to The Mem on Saturday.
Last Saturday was a horrible experience where we got played off the park by Swindon Town. We played awful and deserved to lose. Hopefully this Saturday will be a better experience. A repeat performance may cost Joey Barton his job as Bristol Rovers manager.
On paper this game would appear to be win-able (or at least not lose-able), with Carlisle one place above Rovers in the League Two table. Carlisle have played the same number of games, have the same points and a marginally better goal difference that Rovers.
It is a game between two relegation candidates on a poor run of form. The Rovers away win at Walsall being the only exception to the poor form table. Both teams have only scored nine goals all season, so this quite possibly has 0-0 written all over it!
Lovely sunny day at The Mem.
Some brave souls made the long trip from Carlisle. Fair play to them, impressive commitment to their club.
This week it is the turn of the officials to wear pink. very nice. That was just about the only nice thing that I will say about the officials. The referee was extremely fussy, stopping play at every opportunity.
The game started with a positive, high tempo from the home team. The Gas attacking with energy.
Rovers have switched to 4 at the back, and first impressions are that it looks a better fit for our style of play (which is hoofing it up to Anderson whenever possible). With Saunders and Collins on the pitch, we have some pace up front. Looks a much more balanced team.
Strange to see a number of Bristol Rovers players slipping over in the first half. Wrong studs maybe?
Hoole playing well early on, a strong aerial presence on the right side of our back four. He had a good game I thought, along with Taylor who always puts in a committed performance for us.
During the first half, we had lots of possession without troubling Carlisle very much. Very little chances created. Any set pieces we created we generally wasted with poor execution, which is a shame as we had them in a number of really good positions. We must improve in this area.
Up to the half hour mark, The Mem is very quiet. Literally nothing on the pitch to shout about. No chances created. Very poor. Carlisle then come to life briefly and only an excellent double save from James Belshaw kept the score at 0-0. He has become a really good goalkeeper for us, definitely our number one for me.
The early attacking energy has now gone, with The Gas largely content with sideways passes and hopeful long balls up to Anderson. My limited tactical knowledge is struggling to work out what our tactics are. Whatever they are, they are not proving effective.
Goal! The deadlock is broken on thirty four minutes with a superb Anthony Evans. Lovely work by Anderson and Collins in the build to set up Evans, who executed a lovely dropped shoulder to beat the defender and charge into the box. Lovely finish to the bottom left corner. Evans, along with Belshaw, look like really good players.
Can we hang on?
Half time 1-0.
The Gas just about deserve to be in the lead. In fairness, the goal was a bright spark in an otherwise dull first half. The football under JB is not pretty or exciting.
We just need to be defensively tight and not concede and three points are there for the taking.
Another good save by Belshaw on the edge of box, in a one-on-one situation. It could easily have looped over him and into the goal.
The midfield appear to be functioning better in this new formation. Whelen is not a very exciting midfielder, but he is doing the basics well. Breaking up play, laying the ball off. Simple stuff but important. Still not sure what Coutts brings to the team though…
As the second half progresses, Carlisle are attacking with more intent higher up the pitch now. they look more dangerous. The Mem is flat as a pancake as we all are waiting for the sucker punch of a Carlisle equaliser.
A funny moment in an otherwise extremely dull game was provided by the North Terrace, singing the longest “Shit Goalkeeper / It’s all your fault” song I can remember. Good stuff.
As the game approached the eightieth minute, we have reverted to form and started to sit deep, inviting pressure from the visitors.
Completely out of the blue, the game was put to bed by an eighty fifth minute goal by Sam Nicholson, followed a few minutes later by a third goal scored by Harvey Saunders. Saunders, in particular ran his socks off all game so it was good to see him get some rewards for all this efforts.
A really good win albeit against a very poor Carlisle side. Wonderful to see some goals at The Mem and a very welcome three points, which now sees us in the much more healthy position of 16th in League Two.
This was a very poor game of football though, and the scoreline flattered us in the end. We have lots of problems and will for sure struggle against better sides, but you have to take things one game at a time so today is job done.
Next up in the league is Bradford City away.