By Simon ‘Sprout` Phillips
Well it`s not been a great week since my last column, getting thumped by Crawley and crashing out of the JPT against Wycombe. Once again defensive frailties have reared their ugly head and need to be addressed. It hasn`t helped that we have been unable to settle on a defence either through injury or Paul Buckle making a change to it. Personally I think we have missed Cian Bolger, but it seems there are quite a few people not sold on him, although Bolger alongside Virgo has given us our best defensive displays. If he hadn`t of been injured I am sure those two would have started to develop a partnership. As it is we have had to chop and change and even Virgo missed the last game with a knock.
The result against Crawley and by all accounts poor performance did appear to bring out a few people questioning Paul Buckle`s position already, but we cannot forget this is just the start of a big rebuilding process from the mess we found ourselves in at the end of last season. As I said in some of my earliest columns this is not merely a one season job however much we all want to get out of this division at the first attempt. It may take longer and it requires some patience. At the moment our league record is Won 2, Drawn 2, Lost 2, this is hardly a record to cause panic in the ranks. There will be some frustrating displays along the way and we as fans and a club will have to ride with it.
In general and from reading the forums I think most people realise the need to be patient and the size of the job at hand. It has also brought up some interesting and constructive opinions (and some not so constructive ones) about the set-up of the team. Again a lot of attention has been paid to the defence and the merits of certain players. Scott Bevan and Byron Anthony namely have come under some criticism. As I said above I would plump for Bolger ahead of Byron whose effort I can`t fault, but he doesn`t inspire me with confidence. People seem high on Lee Brown (as am I) who has arguably been our best player of this early part of the season so far. Again with the defence we need to get a settled line-up and I think our ‘Keeper is more than adequate. Let us not forget Bevan kept something like 20 clean sheets last season, in front of a defence that Paul Buckle and Shaun North worked with, so surely that is a sign of hope that our problems can be rectified.
A lot of people seem to like Mustapha Carayol and you can see why with how he takes on a full-back and how he can cause havoc, and many people see to wonder what he has to do to get a start or why he was taken off the other day. However you look at it, he is very attacking, but doesn`t do a lot of tracking back. With Carayol on the left with Lee Brown behind him that is a very adventurous side to the team, but also vulnerable. If Carayol didn`t have such an attacking player behind him, his lack of defensive qualities might not be such as issue.
With the injuries and players we have, the armchair manager in me says give a 3-5-2/5-3-2 formation ago. We have two attacking full-backs in Michael Smith and Lee Brown and it would allow us to have an extra man at the back to cover/sweep. You could put two of Gill/Stanley/Campbell in midfield alongside Waye Brown, which may allow him some more freedom with Harrold and one other upfront. It`s certainly something I will try out when Football manager 2012 comes out anyway.
This weekend sees us travel to Valley Parade to take on Bradford City. A ground and game I would very much like to have gone to, but finances (and the girlfriend) dictate otherwise. After the past couple of results I think most of us would happily take a point at Bradford (hopefully not concede any silly goals) before returning to The Mem on Tuesday to take on Shrewsbury and get three points. If we can take a return of four points from these next two games, then things may not look to gloomy to the few people who have been downbeat the last week or so. Talking of gloomy the weather outlook this weekend doesn`t appear too great so it really is up to Rovers to brighten it up for us.
If you can`t make the Bradford game, are a BRFC season ticket holder and fancy catching a game of footie, then if you get along to Cosham Street with your season ticket in hand you can get £2 of the admission to watch Mangotsfield United.
Whatever you are up to have a good weekend and up the Gas!
Simon ‘Sprout` Phillips