We earned ourselves a good, maybe valuable point against one of the form sides of the division tonight.
Bristol Rovers are right up there with us in the form table and came off the back of a 5-0 win at Walsall on Saturday; a 1-1 draw tonight is a good return and I think both sides will have gone home reasonably happy.
It wasn’t our most finely tuned of performances either. The defence at times looked a little shaky, and the Rovers equaliser just a couple of minutes after our goal leaves a few question marks. Mostly though the job was done, if not a little hashed. Having said that, a defensive performance like that under Steve Holland would have been considered world class so we have no right to moan.
Up front also requires a bit of attention; due to Zola’s injury mid-way through the first half we were effectively left with three wingers up front [Moore, Donaldson, Grant]. With Donaldson dropping deeper than he should have been doing in that target man role it was clear we were struggling to get in behind them.
Post-match Gudjon confirmed that Tom Pope will probably be back for Saturday [home to Leeds] which should with more of a balance up front than the post-Zola strike force tonight.
Bristol Rovers offered some good passing movements, at times carving us open only to lack that final ball to finish it off, but over the 90 minutes I would have to say we were the stronger side. Dominating the midfield, we took the game to Rovers for large periods without creating too much in the way of chances.
We could, maybe should have had the lead moments before half time. Joel Grant converting at the far post after a mini-goalmouth-scramble, but it was flagged offside. At the time I assumed it was due to a foul in the box, certainly didn’t look offside!
Hey ho. We’d soon find out it wasn’t a one-off mistake by the officials. The inconsistency from the trial was glaring. One shirt pull penalised, several others let go. There were also a few crazy offside decisions and a moment when the referee blocked a shot on the edge of the six yard area. As Gudjon said, what on earth was he doing in that position whilst we were attacking?
Our goal came with 20 minutes remaining. A Billy Jones free kick was headed down to Donaldson who smashed a shot onto the crossbar, luckily the ball fell to Dennis Lawrence’s feet and he poked it home. We should have seen the match out after that and to concede so quickly afterwards was amateurish.
Maybe the highlights will suggest differently but the defending for Rovers’s equaliser was worrying. Sub Jo Kuffour was allowed time and space to turn and get a shot in, it hit the post but Daryl Duffy was quickest to react to stroke home.
Either side could have gone on to won it at that point. Ruddy making a couple of good stops and Rovers hitting the crossbar left your heart in your mouth but had chances too from Byron Moore and Donaldson, and maybe had it not been for the referee the story may have been different.
Truthfully though the only real disappointment from tonight is that we could have gone 15th with a win, it would have been a real big confidence booster. As it is though we join Leyton Orient and Carlisle on 42 points with Hartlepool in 15th on 43 points.
The gap between us and the bottom four also closed to four points with Swindon’s impressive win over Southend.
We now focus on Saturday’s home game to Leeds. It’s going to be a tough one; they’re in the play-off zone and unbeaten in six but with one defeat in nine who should we fear?
John Ruddy – Steady when called up, don’t think he did anything wrong. 7/10
John Brayford – Consistent as ever. Attacked brilliantly and defended as well as ever. 7/10
Marlon Broomes – Shaky first half but improved as the game went on. Can’t fault his second half performance. 6/10
Dennis Lawrence – Kept one of the top scorers in the league in Ricky Lambert silent. Top draw. 8/10.
Julien Baudet – A steady game from Baudet, did his job. 6/10
Billy Jones – Pretty poor game from Billy. Everything he hit in the first half seemed to go out of play and he couldn’t seem to get out of second gear, beaten too easily on a couple of occasions. 5/10
Steven Schumacher – A real proper midfield performance from Schumacher. Won the ball, made space, got forward, tracked back. Contender for man of the match. 8/10
Gylfi Sigurdsson – I’m really starting to like this guy. Seems to get everywhere in that midfield and gets stuck in. Not a polished player by any means but you can see he’s becoming a classy player. 7/10
Joel Grant – Not showing enough. Couldn’t beat his man all night long, struggled to keep the ball in the first half and did very little with it in the second half. For all his pace and ‘flair’ he’s not very effective. 6/10
Clayton Donaldson – I think it’s conclusive that he cannot play in that target man role. He was doing alright until Zola went off, but couldn’t do the job required afterwards. 6/10
Byron Moore – Good at times, shoddy at others. He was probably our most effective attacking player though. 6.5/10.
Calvin Zola – Doing well…. then he pulled a hamstring.
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