It would be churlish in the extreme to find fault after two more Rovers victories making it four in a row overall but fear of coming over as an old curmudgeon has never stopped me before and you guys seem to enjoy a bit of levity at times.
I recall a little spell during the 2009-10 season, around when Sam Allardyce’s side looked to be heading for a bit of bother after a 4-1 defeat at The Etihad and I looked at our fixtures and thought: “if we don’t win our next four at home we can get dragged into it here.”
We had Fulham, Wigan, Hull and Bolton at home amid a series of difficult aways and we won them all. Without being anywhere near the best side in any of the four games.
I knew at that point that we were blessed in having Sam, not because I particularly admired his management or football style.
I knew he was a lucky general. But lucky so often in the same types of situations that it couldn’t actually just be luck.
Similarly, Tony Mowbray has piloted Rovers to the very cusp of the top two – always an achievable target in my view despite the fits of vapours thrown by those who considered the gap between us and Wigan and Shrewsbury unassailable – on the back of two of the strangest matches I’ve seen in a while.
Enough’s been said about Bury and Oxford so my starting point is the Bristol Rovers game.
Let’s be honest a draw would have flattered us, we got the benefit of decisions which would have caused utter outrage had they been given at the opposite ends and for large segments of proceedings the visitors, well backed by a creditable volume of support, moved themselves and the ball around with a fluidity we seldom find.
The substitutions were inarguably successful however and Danny Graham’s decisive cameo was his most positive contribution for some months. Samuel took his goal superbly – a rare sand-wedge of a cross from Williams who usually favours a flat one iron into thickets of bodies – but I’d have given the veteran the MOTM award for turning a soporific display into a “how the hell did we win that?” rumble of post-match conversation.
If that was a rather odd game, Blackpool was almost hallucogenic watching at times.
Gary Bowyer’s side were by far the more enterprising and threatening and it was almost embarrassing to go one up when we had barely put two passes together, never mind look like scoring.
It almost seemed like one of those goals you give the oppo because you’ve been given a freak one by the officials when Blackpool equalised with an unchallenged header:”There you go, chaps, sorry about the misunderstanding, let’s start again with a centre.”
To give one howler away is unfortunate, but Blackpool duly obliged again after another 15 minutes of home domination so nobody in another big Rovers following was complaining about a second free gift.
It really is pitiful to see what I’m pretty sure was a sub-2000 home contingent in Bloomfield Road and there seemed an inevitability that, with noses in front, Rovers would improve kicking towards their own fans.
However well or badly you think the team have played in recent weeks, there’s no denying that the relatively superb away form in a sequence of games which have seen big travelling support – not just the five Lancashire derbies but other handy games like Bradford and Shrewsbury – has engendered a connection and bond of trust between team and fans which was only briefly breached at Oldham.
They came out looking a different side second half and it was a surprise they didn’t add to the two goals just after the hour. Nobody in that end doubted for a second that Charlie Mulgrew was putting that free kick away and as it became evident that Blackpool simply couldn’t cope (another Bowyer side with stamina deficit syndrome?) the only disappointment for the 2,215 away fans, besides me and my pal Steve who weekly back us to win 4-2, was conceding another dopey consolation.
I loved seeing our girls celebrate the goals and the sheer joy of Rovers winning away. If I’m honest, I’ve probably deposited the best Rovers experiences of my lifetime in the memory bank so it means more to me that they get something to celebrate this season and something to pin future hopes on.
Fourth, three points off second with a (home) game in hand and Shrewsbury to play at home looked a long shot a month ago.
If we beat Crewe in the FA Cup on Sunday another fixture, Wimbledon away, will have to be rescheduled but I really do hope we progress. I know we aren’t going to win it this year but an attractive home Third round tie can never be a bad thing for someone who loves the ancient competition as much as i do.
As I exclusively revealed on Saturday lunchtime – with a few local and national journos and former Rovers directors following up hours later – I understand the club is shortly to appoint a CEO. I gave a name but that was my surmisation as I was told by my (excellent) source the person has Coventry City connections.
It can’t be a bad thing for me if an able body comes in to help the beleaguered and, in my opinion, wrongly vilified Mike Cheston.
We’ll see about that.
For the weekend let’s just enjoy the table looking healthier and a free-hit cup tie.
Save a bit of that luck for the Posh trip, Tony.
BLUE EYED BOY