By Simon ‘Sprout` Phillips
Hi and welcome to this weeks something for the weekend. Unfortunately (or not) work pressures prevented from doing a column last week, but I am back and ready to talk Rovers again.
The cup game against Totton went almost as well as you could have hoped as we ran out 6-1 winners and put the game to bed early with three wonderful strikes in the opening 20 minutes. There was some fine attacking play and finishing from the boys against the non-league team, something that we have threatened in league games but not quite delivered. In spite of the good attacking play, there was some also poor defending throughout the game by the team and Totton could easily have scored three or four themselves. Some of that may have been down to taking our foot of the Gas after the early goals and letting Totton back in, but the goal we did concede was particular poor with the Totton player finding space easily and getting a free run for his header.
I have often been critical of the way Paul Buckle has come across in the media, however during ITV`s in game interviews amongst there normal rubbish sport coverage he came across as quite humble given our position at the time and I was pleased to hear him not satisfied with our defending, as it could have been easy to brush aside with the good attacking play. That said I was not as impressed with his comments regarding Ben Swallow after the game regarding his red card. Firstly, no arguments from me on the decision. Secondly, nor problem criticising the tackle and saying it was a correct decision. However I don`t think it is fair to single Ben Swallow out in the media for the problems he would be causing in selection due to injuries and suspension. I didn`t disagree much with what Buckle actually said, but in terms of man management there is a time and a place and I don`t think that was it. In times of trouble/adversity you want to pull together and ‘naming and shaming` Ben Swallow probably doesn`t do much for him and his role in the squad. It`s not the first time he has singled a player out for criticism after a match, so I guess it won`t be the last.
On a positive note it was good to see Eliot Richards come on and bag a couple of goals. Yes it was late and against tiring part-time opposition, but he does look to have something about him and knows where the goal is. In some ways he is a younger Scott McGleish and now at 20 and with Scotty injured if he is going to get a chance then surely now is the time. I`d like to see him start with Harrold and I would keep the nuisance value of Zebroski on the bench. Zebroski can certainly be a handful , but often has some of the worst touch I think I have seen from a professional and lets be honest if we are going to conceed goals we need some quality at the other end and Richards seems to have an edge on Zebs there in my opinion.
The Cup draw was kind and we will host Aston Villa in the Third round proper, with the added cash bonus of ESPN showing the game to boost the income. I am sure it is a game most of us will be looking forward to even if we do eventually get knocked out. I will be making sure I get my ticket early and if my dad is lucky I might spend the £20 quid on him for Christmas for his. I am sure he will appreciate that better than pants.
However this weekend we have a tough and important game versus Swindle. We need to win in the league and not pull out the sort of performances we have. One reason for highlighting the defending in the Totton game is that we must (once again) to better against Swindon. If we defend like that we will certainly concede our average two goals a game and no matter how much we ‘dominate` or how many shots we have we are always given the opposition the chance to get something from us. I know it`s coming up to Christmas, but hopefully there will be a decent crowd with Swindon bringing a few and with the lure of vouchers for a potential Villa match ticket a few extra Gasheads will be out to spur us on.
Anyway I hope you all have a good weekend and are not rushing around for Christmas presents. I have managed to keep on top of mine and it just a case of doing the annoying wrapping. How do you wrap a gift card anyway?
Simon ‘Sprout` Phillips