Thanks to Bristol Rovers fan Ben Rogers, @TheRogers86 on Twitter, for his insights into a tough few months for the Gas.
How has the season gone so far?
Awfully. Despite the pre-season optimism shared by most the fans, everything that could go wrong, has gone wrong so far. We lost our talisman Ellis Harrison to Ipswich in the Summer, and the new signings haven’t worked at all. Our usual solid home form has deserted us and our normal poor away record has continued. The FA Cup saw us beat by National League Barnet, a game we were hoping would kick off a run of a good form heading into December. Some fans have now started to call for Darryl Clarke’s head, and questions over the Jordanian owners ambitions have been asked as talks over a new training ground and stadium have gone silent. All in all, worrying.
Who has been your key player and why?
Jack Bonham. Signed on loan from Brentford early in the season, our goalkeeper has won the MOTM award on pretty much every game he has played. Not only has he been the main reason we have picked up any points, he’s also has helped keep the score down in some of our many defeats. Outpitch, Ollie Clarke has been the shining light. He’s finally becoming the consistent box to box centre midfielder he’s been threatening to be for the last few seasons.
Which player has disappointed most this season and why?
Plenty to pick from here, but Stefan Payne wins it for me. Bought in from last seasons surprise package Shrewsbury, Payne was billed as our big, strong, goalscoring striker we’d been longing for. After a debut goal, Payne has struggled to say the least, with only another penalty to his name. He genuinely looks as though he is playing 1 or maybe 2 leagues above his station. Added to all of this, two altercations with fans have really not helped his cause.
Which game have you enjoyed the most to date and why?
This might come as a surprise, but a 2-1 home defeat to Portsmouth in August. We dominated most of the match and created numerous chances against one of the promotion favourites. We played some really good football and were a joy to watch that night, which gave us all hope of a successful season ahead, sadly this has not come to frution.
What has been your lowest point of the season?
Losing to Barnet at home in the FA Cup. As previously mentioned, this was billed as our chance to put a win on the board against a team 2 leagues below and spark a run of good form. It turned out to be our most embarrassing defeat and turned a large portion of the fans against the manager.
How do you think the second half of the season will go for you?
In all honesty, I don’t hold out much hope. Scoring goals has been our biggest problem all season, our top scorer is Tom Lockyer who is our centre back, which tells you all you need to know about the strikers we have at our disposal. Under Darrell Clarke we have always been strong in the 2nd half of the season, so there is that little glimpse of optimism, but it will take a massive change of personnel and quality if we will see that again. I would take a 20th place finish.
What will you be hoping to see happen at your club in the transfer window?
The thing all of us Gasheads want, some top quality strikers and some creativity. With this we’d be comfortably mid table and cruising. But after a recent radio Q&A with our chairman Steve Hamer, he all but confirmed there is little to no money to spend, and any that do come in will be on a one out, one in basis. Darrell Clarke has also warned fans not to expect too much.
Which other L1 players would you like to see your side sign?
In a dream world….Jamal Lowe from Portsmouth, Marcus Maddison from Peterboro, John Marquis from Doncaster & Kieffer Moore of Barnsley.
Realistically we will not be shopping in League 1 and inevitably will be looking at the lower leagues.
Despite our woeful start, and doom and gloom surroundingthe club, I still believe Darrell Clarke is the right man for the job. He has given us some of the best seasons in our history after our back to back promotions and until this season had turned us into a good L1 side.