By Keith Brookman
It’s probably fair to say that the 2012/13 season was endured rather than enjoyed, but sometimes you have to remember the bad times in order to enjoy the good times, so here we go with a look back to September 2012 to see what was happening in BS7.
The month didn’t start well as, on the first day of the new month Rovers were beaten 3-0 by Morecambe at the Memorial Stadium.
A crowd of 5,207, with just 47 travelling down from the Fylde coast, saw Gary McDonald, Nick Fenton and Kevin Ellison all score in the second half.
Manager Mark McGhee wasn’t happy with his side’s performance and refused to let his players leave the ground until they had watched the second half on DVD. He said; ‘I have never done it before in my managerial career, but I don’t want them to go home without seeing what went wrong and taking responsibility for it.’
There was an early opportunity for them to bounce back from that defeat, as on the following Tuesday they entertained Yeovil Town in the first round of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
The manager said; ‘We can’t mess about and think that we can beat Yeovil with a second string team. I watched them against West Brom last week and they were fantastic. They have a bit of everything about them and I’m not surprised they have started the season so well.’
Just 2,810 fans were inside the Mem for this one and once again they saw Rovers ship three goals without scoring themselves. Ed Upson, now a Rovers player of course, scored twice from free kicks that night and Sam Foley scored their other goal.
The Glovers ended the game with ten men after seeing Jamie McAllister sent off on 77 minutes with the score at 1-0, and former Rovers player Dominic Blizzard was in the Yeovil side that night.
In spite of the defeat, McGhee had this to say afterwards; ‘It was 100% better than the performance we put in on Saturday. The whole tempo and determination were first class and we will win football matches if we continue to go out on the field with that attitude.
‘I’m really gutted for the players because it such a scandalous scoreline. We passed the ball brilliantly and their commitment couldn’t be questioned. Their lad scored two fantastic free kicks and you just can’t legislate against that.’
Speaking a day later skipper Matt Gill admitted that the second half display against Morecambe had left him feeling embarrassed though said he felt that there were positives to take from the game against Yeovil; ‘We needed to offer some sort of response to what happened on Saturday and although we might not have got the result we wanted against Yeovil it was important that we reacted in a positive way after what was a very bad defeat.’
Next up was another home game, against Aldershot and striker David Clarkson had this to say ahead of that match; ‘It hasn’t been the start that any of us wanted and I’m not sure why that is. The only thing we can do now is focus on the positives. We are only a few games into the season, and I don’t think there is any reason for anyone to panic.’
Rovers collected just a point from their visitors from Hampshire, playing out a 2-2 draw in front of a crowd of 5,117 though they left it late to claim a point, as Fabian Broghammer’s equaliser was timed at 90 minutes.
David Clarkson had scored his first goal in a Rovers shirt in the 11th minute, but Craig Reid equalised for the Shots just four minutes later and Alex Rodman, another player who is now turning out for us, put his side ahead after 57 minutes.
McGhee felt that it was a point gained for his side; ‘It was important that we didn’t lose another home game. What we have also done is to score two goals in front of our own supporters for the first time this season. That was important, because we’ve proved to ourselves that we can get goals.
‘In the end, it was a point gained. At this stage, the way things are for us, any point is a point gained.’
Broghammer, whose goal was his first for the club, said; ‘I started well when I came on trial in the summer. I needed a bit of time to acclimatise to my new surroundings after that, but I feel I’m starting to get into it now and I’m really enjoying it.’
Manager McGhee, meanwhile, was concerned about the fitness of central defender Garry Kenneth and revealed that he was putting him on an intensive exercise regime. Kenneth had not, at that point, started a competitive match for the club after limping out of the warm up prior to the game against Barnet on 21st August.
McGhee said; ‘I still worry about Garry’s general fitness and his weight. He’s a boy who works so hard in the gym and on the training ground, but I don’t see him reducing his weight or increasing his fitness as quickly as I would like.’
There was bad news for another Rovers central defender as it was revealed that on loan Leicester player Cian Bolger would be missing for three months after sustaining a posterior cruciate ligament injury in the game against Aldershot.
Striker Matt Harrold, meanwhile, spoke about the fact that the club had only picked up one point from a possible nine in their three home games to date; ‘It’s a difficult one to explain. We were very solid at home towards the end of last season and we’ve come back struggling to perform in front of our fans.
‘It’s not a great feeling. There is that added bit of pressure on us because we haven’t started great and we haven’t got as many points as we would have liked.’
Rovers’ next game was a trip to Kent to face league leaders Gillingham at the Priestfield Stadium and Sam Walker, who had yet to keep a clean sheet, was hoping that the club could pull off a surprise win; ‘I’ve come off after every game and felt that I haven’t really had to make many saves. The goals have been flying in all over the place and that has been frustrating for me. Goalkeepers do everything we can to stop the ball going in the net, but there are times when you are beaten by a goal you can’t do much about.
‘What you have to be as a goalkeeper is mentally strong and you have to forget about the ones that have gone in and just focus on keeping them out in the next game.’
Unfortunately, though, the goals continued to fly past him at Gillingham. Four of them to be exact, and Rovers failed to find the net at the other end.
The rot set in as early as the fifth minute when Danny Kedwell scored from the penalty spot after a clumsy challenge on him by Tom Parkes. The same player added a second with 15 minutes on the clock and it was virtually all over by half time as Charlie Lee scored a third on 45 minutes. Chris Whelpdale completed the scoring with eight minutes of the game remaining.
Former Rovers skipper Adam Barrett was in the Gillingham side that afternoon.
‘We are giving away too many soft goals,’ said McGhee afterwards, before adding; ‘but you have to remember that we brought in Cian Bolger and Garry Kenneth for that very reason and we need one of those two back quickly.’
Matt Harrold was injured in the Gillingham game and a subsequent scan revealed that he had sustained a knee ligament injury; ‘We are looking at being without him for quite a lengthy spell,’ said McGhee, ‘and it’s a terrible blow, both for him personally and for us as a club.’
A Tuesday night trip to Home Park, Plymouth, was next up for McGhee’s side and the manager gave Garry Kenneth his league debut, in spite of questioning his fitness only a week earlier.
The gamble, if it was one, paid off as Rovers hit back from being a goal down to equalise through Tom Parkes (his first goal for the club) and claim a point from a 1-1 draw.
That made it six games without a win and McGhee was expected to dip into the loan market to strengthen his squad; ‘We were disappointed to miss out on the striker we tried to get in over the weekend, but it just wasn’t possible to do the deal and now we move on to other targets. The injury to Matt Harrold has forced our hand in terms of adding to our squad and that is my first priority at the moment,’ said the manager.
Nineteen year old Tom Parkes had this to say; ‘I enjoyed scoring that goal. I struck it sweetly and it was all the more pleasing as it was the equalising goal for us.
‘It was certainly a good point to pick up after the disappointment of losing heavily at Gillingham last Saturday.’
Ahead of the game against Fleetwood Town at the Memorial Stadium, manager Mark McGhee signed Fulham goalkeeper Neil Etheridge in a one month loan deal. The 22 year old shot stopper had, at that point in his career, made 37 international appearances for the Philippines.
Sam Walker, signed ahead of the first game of the season, was to return to Chelsea, though he was on the bench for the remaining two games of the month.
It was Fleetwood’s first season as a league club, but they had some experienced players in their side, none more so that striker Jon Parkin and Rovers defender Garry Kenneth was looking forward to the challenge of marking him; ‘I don’t mind playing up against a big lad,’ said Kenneth, who was not exactly small in stature himself!
‘I enjoy that sort of physical battle and the likelihood is that you don’t have to worry about them running in behind. I don’t know that much about Fleetwood, but their results so far suggest that it is going to be a tough game.’
The game saw Rovers extend their run without a win to seven with a goalless draw against their visitors. So, it was a clean sheet on his debut for goalkeeper Neil Etheridge and there was no goal for Fleetwood’s Jon Parkin.
McGhee said, after the game; ‘I’m disappointed not to have won the game because we did enough to take all three points. David Clarkson is the first to admit he should have scored in the second half and I thought Joe Anyinsah might have done better with one of his chances.
‘I was pleased with the performance, but we need to start picking up wins. I am looking to go into the loan market for a couple of strikers.’
Defender Lee Brown felt there were positives to take from the performance; ‘There are a lot of positive signs at the minute. We had chances to win at Plymouth and against Fleetwood, so we are a little disappointed to only get two points from those games.
‘I think it’s good to be disappointed because it shows that we have a belief in ourselves to win games. It was a good confidence boost to keep a clean sheet and if we can add a few goals to our game, then I think we can really kick on from there.’
Midfielder Ollie Norburn, meanwhile, was hoping he had done enough to warrant a run in the side; ‘I am happy to be starting now and I just want to keep my place in the team and, hopefully, kick on with more good performances.
‘It is a team game and I believed I would get my chance. When I got that chance, I thought I would be able to take it and hopefully I am doing that. There are a number pf good midfield players here and I believe that whoever does play will perform, Competition for places is healthy and I am just happy that it’s me in the side at the moment.’
Two days before the final game of the month striker Matt Harrold spoke of the devastating blow of having his season cut short by a long term knee injury; ‘When I first found out the injury was going to keep me put for a while, I probably cried more in an hour than I have in my whole life. I quickly pulled myself together because you soon realise that these things happen in football and you have to get over it and move on. I didn’t think I’d injured myself at all. My knee went from under me when I slid for a ball down by the corner, but it didn’t feel too bad at first. There was a bit of initial pain, but I thought I could run it off.
‘When I returned to the pitch, and went for a header, I felt a bit of a click and a pop in my knee. I knew something was up and the worst was confirmed after some tests. I suppose I am looking at a period of six to nine months out, which is a long time, but when your career is at stake you can’t afford to cut corners.’
Ahead of the game at Exeter City on 29th September, the manager’s promise of two new strikers materialised. Bolton Wanderers striker Tom Eaves agreed to a 93 day emergency loan, while Scottish striker Derek Riordan was offered a short term deal until Christmas.
‘I’m hoping that the arrival of Tom and Derek will fire up the likes of Eliot Richards, Joe Anyinsah and David Clarkson,’ said manager Mark McGhee.
Twenty year old Eaves had yet to start a league game, though he had made 15 appearances from Oldham’s bench the previous season. As for Riordan, who had won three Scottish international caps, McGhee said; ‘He’s a bit of an enigma and some supporters will wonder about him because he is not the most industrious of players.
‘When it comes to creativity, however, he can be brilliant. He has great feet and offers us fantastic shooting, passing and crossing ability.’
It was also revealed that the striker was expected to stand trial after appearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court to face charges of breach of the police and using anti-homophobic sexual language to door staff at a nightclub in the Scottish capital.
Eaves and Riordan were both handed their debuts in the game at Exeter and Rovers recorded their first win of the season, beating the Grecians 2-1 thanks to goals from David Clarkson and Eliot Richards. Former Rovers striker Jamie Cureton scored the Exeter goal.
There were three more former Gas players in the Exeter squad; Danny Coles and Pat Baldwin were in the starting lineup and goalkeeper Rhys Evans was on the bench.
McGhee claimed a little bit of credit for the goal scored by Richards, which proved to be the winner; ‘I had a chat with Eliot during the week and sometimes he has a vacant look on his face. But he reacted in the best possible way, working hard for the team and getting the winning goal.’
So, victory was achieved, for the first time, in the eighth game of the season but it wasn’t really a platform for greater success. McGhee remained in post until 15th December before he was dismissed in a phone call after his side had lost 4-1 at York City.