Recent outings against Tranmere Rovers and Salford City have undoubtedly shown that the Bristol Rovers, despite some positive results, have a lot of work to do if they are to move closer to their promotion goal.
And the 2-0 loss to Ligue 2 leaders Forest Green Rovers on Saturday further signaled that, as Joey Barton put it, the Gas are “miles away” from those who set the tone at the top. the division.
In what was a rough game on an extremely cold new lawn, Forest Green was the team to adapt to the conditions more effectively; playing quick, crisp passes in their dangerman’s feet and getting bodies around Jamille Matt who was a great vocal point all afternoon.
Matt opened the scoring after 20 minutes by hanging on to Ben Stevenson’s ball over Gas’s baseline before calming his shot in the legs of James Belshaw, then he put the game beyond doubt at the 77th. minute from the penalty spot.
Fifteen minutes before Matt’s second of the afternoon, Forest Green was reduced to 10 men after Udoka Godwin-Malife received a second yellow card.
However, the Gas, as has been demonstrated numerous times this season, were unable to take advantage of their male advantage and despite increased pressure in the closing strokes of the game and failed to make it onto the scoresheet. .
Here are a few moments you may have missed …
At 2:15 p.m. on a chilly afternoon at Nailsworth, the Gas took to the field for their usual pre-game warm-ups, but there were a few noticeable changes to the procedure.
The usual Pirates-led passing drill with two squares adjacent to each other initially had an unusual participant.
Perhaps due to an odd number, Kevin Bond was in the action and Gas’s first team coach certainly set the standard.
Bond bounced off his toes throughout and more often than not he passed with ease and released with precision, until a pass from Aaron Collins brought a wandering touch from the 64-year-old that caused ironic smiles from the players who noticed the mistake.
And Joey Barton and Mark Hughes were about five yards inside the center circle and were watching this training exercise intently, but they were joined by a little observer.
Just to the left of Hughes was his son, wrapped in several winter clothes so that only his face could be seen, apparently listening to what Barton and his father were discussing.
And before the players started their warm-up, the father-son duo were pulverizing each other with precise passes, with Hughes Jr possibly claiming a future spot in Gas’s midfield with perfect passes.
It has almost become commonplace that before the game the substitutes participate in a very competitive game of rondo where nutmeg is the ultimate embarrassment, and on Saturday there were two for the price of one.
With Ryan Jones in the middle, Trevor Clarke received the ball on his weaker right foot and initially looked ready to open up his body and aim for Luke Thomas or Luca Hoole, but the winger quickly changed his position. body and rolled the ball to Aaron Collins via the gap left by Jones’ legs.
As expected, this prompted the substitutes to kiss a rather embarrassed Jones with Hoole, in particular, putting himself on his back, but he had no idea he was destined for the same fate.
Clarke was the supplier again, this time piercing a pass through the legs of the unsuspecting Hoole, who didn’t quite get the same reaction, but Jones certainly made it clear that he was glad it wasn’t. not just him who fell victim to Clarke. quick feet.
Joey Barton’s Message
During the first 45 minutes, the Gas were dominated by Forest Green. Rob Edwards’ side were sharper on second balls, stronger in challenges and able to exploit large areas.
But what they’ve done expertly is penned Barton’s players into their own half, which prompted the Pirates boss to continually bar a repeated message to his players.
“Higher, higher, tighter,” was Barton’s constant cry with every goal kick the hosts took. It meant Sam Finley pushed all the way back three FGR and the two midfield duos then canceled each other out and it was a tactic that certainly had mixed results.
The Gas were able to dispossess Forest Green in their own half with Finley donning a delicious pass for Antony Evans and without Bailey Cargill’s outstretched foot, the former Everton Under-23 captain would likely have scored his fourth goal of the season. .
However, on several occasions the hosts beat the high press and due to the position of Paul Coutts and Glenn Whelan, Jack Aitchison was able to drift through space and lead to the backline of Gas.
Tough afternoons for Josh Grant and Harry Anderson
No player in the blue and white quarters would likely have been happy with his performance and Forest Green winger Nicky Cadden made the afternoon very difficult for two Gas players.
Harry Anderson and Josh Grant saw their versatility get in the way at times as they struggled to find form and familiarity in a certain position and were tested by the bustling Cadden on several occasions on Saturday.
The Scot was the outlet for the hosts all afternoon and his pace and quick feet made it nearly impossible for Grant and Anderson to complete a successful challenge.
At one point during the first half, Barton’s instruction was for Grant to push on Cadden who was standing alone on the far sideline due to Anderson being pushed to Bailey Cargill in the edge of the FGR zone.
This subsequently left Grant isolated against Cadden and the latter’s electric pace caused problems for the Chelsea academy graduate.
Anderson not only struggled defensively, but wasted on the other end as well, undoing his hard work of going down the signing line with a bad cross before being hung up in the 75th minute.
As for Grant, his afternoon ended quite suddenly as he injured his hamstring in the far corner of the pitch, offering the ball to Cadden, which ultimately led to the second goal of Forest Green.
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A few familiar faces full time
When referee Simon Mather last whistled on Saturday, there were brief moments where familiar faces were able to catch up.
The obvious storyline came with Aaron Collins leaving Forest Green at the end of his contract this summer to join Gas and he had rushed talks with Jordan Moore-Taylor and Jamille Matt.
However, that wasn’t the only notable conversation as Gloucestershire-born Jack Aitchison and Luke Thomas reunited on the center line as both are on loan to Forest Green and Bristol Rovers from Barnsley respectively.
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