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Sunday, 15 January 2012

Toothless Reds Lack Cutting Edge Against Pirates

Bristol Rovers away was a game I had highlighted when the fixtures came out due to the close proximity to my flat in Southampton.

After a brisk yet chilly twenty minute or so walk to Southampton Central Railway Station, me and three others were kindly greeted to the £14.00 return with the Groupsave - On some of that.

The 11.10 train to Bristol Meads station soon arrived, we hopped on and around an hour and a half later we changed and boarded another train that would shortly lead us to the exotically French sounding Montpelier station.

MONTPELIER: Tattoo-ed in graffiti and not as nice as it sounded!
We were here. 13.24 was the time as we exited the station and, if anyone reading this has watched the film Green Street, the station was pretty much the same as the Macclesfield station in the movie (Where the West Ham fans go to Manchester and get off at Macc before moaning about the lack of taxis and jumping into a removal van.)

Instead of me waffling on about the high number of kebab, KFC-esque chicken and chip shops we passed on the long walk up to the Memorial Stadium, onto the game....

They hadn't had a clean sheet since October and we hadn't failed to score in a game since September so there was always going to be goals wasn't there?

Just looking at the churned up pitch you could tell it was not going to be a pleasant game.

We played the formidable diamond that seemed to work so well last week against the other side from Bristol; Bristol City.

A boring first twenty minutes occurred where, apart from a succession of corners from the away team and a Joe Anyinsah effort for the Pirates that sailed just over the bar, not a lot happened and the next twenty five were bare of chances too. Entertainment?

A second half change for Crawley at half time and Scott Neilson came on for the unusually in-affective Sergio Torres, who during the first half was elbowed in the face (Robbie Savage style) by the referee after a quick free kick;  Steve Evans seemingly desperate for a little more pace in the side.

We were beginning to up the tempo a little bit more and Matt Tubbs had the first real chance of the game when his effort was kept out by Gas' loanee Michael Poke, before bouncing back to the Reds top scorer only to see his scuffed second effort unbelievably stopped by the goalkeeper.

PUT IT IN THE POKEY!: Pirates 'keeper kept Reds at bay
It wasn't soon after when boss Steve Evans was forced to make another change; an aerial battle between Kyle McFadzean and Rovers' Irish defender Cian Bolger saw McFadzean with a bloodied head needing stitches and Bolger with less teeth than he had at the beginning of the game;  Hope Akpan replacing Bolton Wanderers target McFadzean.

BLOODBATH: McFadzean needed stiches
Minutes after McFadzean's departure, Crawley had their best chance to snatch a goal when, after a Rovers attack Dannie Bulman fed team-mate Neilson but, with Bolger and fellow centre back Aaron Downes pleading with the linesman to put his flag up, the Crawley wideman clipped the ball over Poke only to see his effort creep wide of the left hand post.

Neilson was beginning to menace the Rovers back four; acting in a position just behind the Reds front two of Tubbs and Tyrone Barnett and it was the substitute again that set up a chance for Barnett who could only blaze one over the bar and minutes later snatch another shot wide of the target.

Strike-partner Tubbs was next in the queue of Crawley players having a pop at goal; but his goalbound strike from twenty yards was pushed wide from Poke.

Matt Tubbs failed to find the net... for once!
It was the home side's turn to finally test Scott Shearer in the Crawley goal but Craig Stanley's effort went well wide.

It was soon back up the other end of the pitch as the scheming Neilson had another chance; after beating both Bolger and Downes, the pacy midfielder tested Poke from twenty yards, only to see his strike that was sneaking into the corner of the net acrobatically finger-tipped out for a corner from the former Torquay and Southampton custodian Poke.

Scott Neilson was a constant thorn in the Rovers side 
As the game was fizzling out, one last chance fell to the visitors but Barnett could only skim his header out for a throw in from Dean Howell's deep cross - An effort that really summed up a frustrating afternoon for the away side after a result that saw us slip from first to third.

To sum the game up, as I've said, "Frustrating" would have to be the word.  Lots of possession (67%) but if you don't have a man to put the ball in the net it means little. Little or no creativity (Its no use pumping the ball up to little Tubbs when he's up against the giant Bolger (Or should that be Boulder?).

IMPRESSIVE: On loan Leicester youngster Bolger was solid for the Pirates
After having time to contemplate the (Poor) game on the train back if you get a point away from home and win your home games you will be there or there abouts.  Manager-less Rovers were a poor side though, in truth I was expecting a little better (Trying to impress the possible new manager watching in the stand etc) - Danny Woodards at right back has an excellent game though, as did the brick wall that was Bolger.

Next up is Plymouth away.  Another local-ish one for me I suppose (3.5 hours!) The table doesn't lie so I'm expecting a win against a, it has to be said "Rejuvenated" Pilgrims.

GREEN ARMY!: Next stop.... Plymouth!


Photos courtesy of 

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