5:41pm Monday 8th April 2013
By John Light
Disbelief and despair. Those two words sum up my feelings at Tamworth.
It was half-time and Rovers had been wretched. A 4-0 scoreline would not have flattered Tamworth - Rovers were that wretched!
For seven minutes manager and coaching staff remained in the dugouts - talking animatedly before they strode to the dressing room.
Substitutions had to be made and were. Surely the second half had to be better? It was, but Rovers were never good enough to grab a victory. Perhaps a draw was deserved but no more.
Never have I seen our talented defence play that badly. Every time a throw in, cross or corner came into the penalty area danger threatened. Tamworth were excellent in delivery, but only Russell could cope.
I was sharing the microphone with BBC Radio Glos/ FGR Radio man Bob Hunt and we were speculating on the need for Jamie Turley after 30 minutes. Inevitable substitutions were made at half-time, Turley and Collins bringing needed determination and height, but the damage had been done.
James Norwood was in the second half his usual exuberant self and could have won the game on his own, but that would have been hard on a determined home team, playing just the right type of game to both upset and defeat Rovers. I started with the words disbelief and despair because we've every right to expect so much more.
Surely the team, having learned from the Telford game would bounce back. They did not; it was more of the same - worse in fact because our defence was so vulnerable. Despite failing form since February I have been supportive of the team, thinking they have made automatic promotion possible and the play-offs probably.
Hoping they could go on and finish the job, this column was properly supportive. Now I wonder if that was the correct way forward? Should a more critical line have been taken several matches ago? Seeing the same mistakes week after week is beginning to anger me.
Poor use of throw-ins, corners, free-kicks, poor finishing is among them, but there is something more. As well as the statistical evidence the team has not been able to deal with play-off pressure and it must be asked are they physically able to hold a high-level league position? I have seen all the top teams twice with the exception of Newport and they are all tougher.
The BSP is a league you do not get out of by being gentle. Anyone remember Crawley? On Saturday the manager stated, with total accuracy that the team was bullied. I suggest it was not just on Saturday.
At a recent game a visiting manager commented on our lack of physicality all over the field. Teams realise if they hustle and harass us they will do more than stop us playing. Victory will be in their grasp.
Certainly we are towards top end of the card count, but these are for injudicious individual fouls (e.g. Norwood Saturday) rather than a general vigorous approach. We have three matches left, two of them without our top scorer, and very soon someone, will say the phrase every soccer supporter dreads - "we are playing for pride". I would not use those words suggesting "playing for our reputation" would be more appropriate.
This column is written not by one of those fans who laughs. They are a very small minority. Rather it is written by one who weeps. Perhaps that is going too far the other way, as after all it is only a game.
My view is that so much is going well at the New Lawn and with progress being made on so many fronts it is a pity that the football could be one area that is holding us back. We need to look accurately at the whole season and try and answer some difficult and pertinent questions.
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