Volume 1: 15/10/2017
J: Hello! and welcome to the first edition of our brand new weekly Bristol Rovers blog ‘The Rovers Report’. Each week will see myself and a guest discuss a number of relevant topics, from off the pitch issues to controversial questions. This week I am joined by fellow TFF Writer and former national news journalist Doug Shields to talk all things Rovers Related. Let’s get into it.
Can Rovers find consistency in October?
D: I’m not a fan of managers using the word ‘inconsistent’. Managers sometimes use it to mask deficiencies and sometimes I feel they use it because some fans will then take the word and run with it. For me there are usually only four or five teams in the league who aren’t ‘inconsistent.’ Those are two or three teams at the top who win most weeks, and two at the bottom who get battered every week and are staring relegation in the face. BUT – I do see where DC is coming from. Rovers are ‘inconsistent’, that’s a fact. But I sometimes feel he describes results as thus with rose tinted specs on. I sometimes look over to the dug-out and expect the Grand Old Duke Of York to be prowling along the touchline because when we are up, we are up, and when we are down, we are really really down.
J: An emphatic away win against Northampton and a narrow 1-0 loss to Oxford at the start of October just about sums up our form so far this season. Despite promising displays, Rovers have struggled with consistency as of late and I unfortunately cannot see this changing any time soon. I hate to be a pessimist but it’s a difficult month of fixtures, two long away trips next week followed by an encounter with a strong MK Dons side at home seems like a tough run on paper, Not to mention the prospect of Billy Bodin being absent for a couple of if not all of these matches. If we are to improve upon last season’s 10th place finish then a steady stream of positive results is required. I would be over the moon if that run comes in October but I can see us continuing our Jekyll and Hyde form away from home in the coming week.
D: I remember thinking at the start of the season that our opening run of games was really tough. I struggled to pinpoint a nailed on win. October I felt slightly better about when I was sitting on a beach in the summer going through the fixtures while my kids were begging me to build a sandcastle. I was sure we’d win at Cobblers, the soles appear to have come off their shoes this season. But I also thought we’d win at home to Oxford. Games against them have always been tight, but I thought we’d have enough. To lose by one goal at home was a real kick in the teeth. Now we have Shrews away, who surrendered top spot at the weekend following a draw at Plymouth. I am not sure we’ll have enough to get a point up there. DC has had to chop and change his side this season, I wouldn’t be surprised if we averaged three or four changes every week. To be fair to him, many have been enforced changes, but I do sometimes wonder if the rotation system or the ‘project by project’ approach he frequently adopts is a sign of weakness rather than strength. Surely if our first eleven was that strong they would play and win most weeks regardless of the opposition? I don’t see the top sides changing one third of their starting 11 every weekend.
Who should our first choice penalty taker be?
J: With a horrendous record from spot-kicks since the departure of you-know-who in January of this year, it seems like a rational decision to settle on one individual to take our penalties in the future. Ellis Harrison and Tom Nichols have both missed from the spot in recent times and with the margin of a single goal often being decisive in games this year, we really need to start making the most of our opportunities from 12 yards. Nichols recent effort in our 6-0 thrashing of Northampton was admittedly tame, but to be expected from a player low on confidence. I truly believe that Nichols will open his account for Rovers in the coming weeks having been desperately unlucky previously, and without straying off topic too much, he has proven a great asset thus far even without showing the type of clinical play he has been capable of in previous seasons. In short, I would have Nichols as our designated penalty taker. Despite his previous failure to convert I am confident once he starts scoring, Gasheads will see another side to Nichols that is likely to bury his chances.
Should Tom Broadbent be given a regular starting place?
J: I’ve been massively impressed with Tom Broadbent whenever he’s played so far this season, despite a slight defensive blip in the lead-up to Oxford’s goal Saturday he has hardly put a foot wrong in his fledgling Rovers career. Ryan Sweeney has struggled to carry over the impressive form of last season and I think the two Toms should be given sufficient time to gel as a duo and gain a better understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Considering this is his first season in professional football, the imposing defender can only get better and with age on his side too I believe that Darrell Clarke could well have unearthed a gem. Taking into account the fact that Ryan Sweeney is still technically a Stoke City player, I see it as a worthwhile gamble to throw Broadbent in at the deep end for our next two away games, especially considering just how well himself and Rollin Menayese performed in our annihilation of Northampton. As our club captain, I would expect Tom Lockyer to be the perfect figure to help accommodate our new signing in the heart of defence, and hopefully in time the partnership can help to stem the steady flow of goals we seem to be conceding in 2017.
Vs Shrewsbury (A)
J: I predict a narrow loss against the surprise table toppers, 2-1 Shrewsbury
D: I think we will struggle at Shrews, I think 2-1 0r 2-0 to the home side
Vs Rochdale (A)
J: I predict we will outclass an underperforming Rochdale side, 1-0
D: I fancy us to get a point at Dale with a hard-fought 1-1
Any questions you would like us to discuss? Disagree with our opinions? Tweet us at @TFFBristolRov