Home Sports Rovers verdict after Burton defeat as similar issues continue to arise

Rovers verdict after Burton defeat as similar issues continue to arise

Rovers verdict after Burton defeat as similar issues continue to arise

Bristol Rovers’ season is in limbo. It’s by no means a surprise given that we’ve used that terminology for the past couple of weeks but the campaign is at that stage where both sides of the extreme are incredibly unlikely and so the Gas are in that awkward middle phase after Saturday’s 2-1 home defeat to Burton Albion.

With 15 games still left, 32.6 per cent of the season, there’s still plenty of time for the season for the Gas to climb the table, or slip down it. The latter would be a serious shame given how bright the path the team looked to be headed down going into the new year.

It would be a different story if after these defeats we were discussing how unlucky Rovers had been where they had been the better side but just not stuck their chances away, a familiar tale earlier on in the campaign. However, not just against Burton or Fleetwood but probably in all of the losses lately bar Barnsley, they’ve been second best.

There are numerous factors that have contributed to this run of six defeats in eight in the league, all of which we’ve mentioned frequently over the past month, but ultimately everything about the Gas at the moment is pointing towards what happens in the summer ahead of next season as opposed to the remainder of this campaign which reflects where things are at right now.

Taylor was quite possibly the most visibly frustrated and angry post-match he has been since taking over at Rovers on Saturday. The manager is never invincible from criticism and will always be seen as the obvious scapegoat when things aren’t going right but he has walked into this situation, not created it, and it’s important to remember that even when frustrations are high in the immediate aftermath of a defeat.

The positivity that followed up the two wins on the bounce seems to have disintegrated and, once again, we’re left concerned that the campaign is headed in the wrong direction.

Admittedly it’s tough to find fresh angles when the same issues continue to arise but here are some of the talking points after the Burton defeat.

Nothing about Saturday was a surprise

A stark statement in itself. Quite possibly the worst part of Saturday was that it wasn’t surprising. As Matt Taylor highlighted in his post-match press conference, the same issues are reoccurring, especially against teams of this elk. Bristol Rovers didn’t cover themselves in any sorts of glory defending both goals but a major contribution to Taylor’s frustrations post-match was the fact that a goal kick was enough to give the opposition an opening which they converted.

The Rovers boss warned ahead of the match on Thursday that the game was going to have similarities to Tuesday night, calling that “not an attractive thing to say.” Yet, the same mistakes occurred and it’s now gotten to the point where, actually, some of these games are getting quite predictable.

On the flip side though, it also wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Gas go to Stevenage on Tuesday night and get something. Their performances against sides situated at the upper end of the league table have largely been excellent. It’s getting up for the more gritty, physical, rough games against sides fighting for their lives that are proving the problem and it doesn’t seem to be a quick fix.

Between now and the end of the season, the Pirates still have to play each team that currently makes up the bottom four as well as 19th place Shrewsbury Town and 18th place Reading. You can also throw Cambridge United into the mix too. What should be seen as an exciting opportunity to pick up a decent overhaul of points actually feels like a slightly daunting prospect at this moment in time.

There’s always something to play for

Although it might cause backlash from supporters, the manager nor any of his players are going to say that the play offs are out of reach until it’s mathematically impossible and that’s fine. Coming out and saying publicly that the pre-season target is now out of reach wouldn’t do anyone any favours. However, Taylor made a decent point in another interview full of home truths that there is still pride to play for even though those elite positions seem out of reach.

“How about personal pride?,” the 42-year-old exclaimed when referencing what’s there to play for. “How about understanding what the shirt means and people put a lot into a statement like that but you take that to one side, when the ball is there you have to challenge.”

To sit and say that the season is effectively over with just under a third of the campaign still left to play would cause significant issues. Not to use the r-word at all but Rovers still aren’t over the line with teams below them picking up form and seemingly enjoying the prospect of a game against them at the moment.

Ifs, buts and maybes have been the story of the season but while the Gas have been struggling for points, Stevenage haven’t been on the best run either and there has been a stellar opportunity there to significantly close a major gap on the top six not taken. The fact that after six points in eight games the gap hasn’t extended further reflects that.

Five changes doesn’t prevent the same outcome

A lack of creativity with that subheading, I know, but it’s a pretty simple statement. Chances were handed to players whose game time has been limited lately, most notably John Marquis and Lewis Gordon, but that couldn’t prevent the same stories reoccurring.

In fairness, Gordon showed his qualities in spells, particularly with some dangerous deliveries but there was still not enough service for Marquis to capitalise on from his teammates.

As Taylor stated, despite changing personnel, the outcome was still the same and now that points towards potentially a system or formation change which really shouldn’t be the case given how effective it has been for a decent proportion of the Rovers boss’ reign.

Shouts of the Mem being a fortress have been silenced

The change in home form over the past month has been quite something. Rovers hadn’t lost a league game at the Mem since August before losing 2-1 to Blackpool last month. In fact, their 3-1 defeat in the FA Cup to Norwich City was their first in BS7 since losing to West Ham United’s under-21s in the EFL Trophy in September. In 2024, it’s been one win and five defeats on their own turf with a considerable amount of those fixtures seen prior as good chances to pick up points.

Going into the season, home form had been a priority area highlighted for necessary improvement and it certainly did. It’s actually been quite an underrated achievement whether you want to hand something that should be the case high praise.

Teams should be at their best on their own patch, in front of their own fans and it shouldn’t be an away day teams look forward to. For a long spell this term, that was the case. Admittedly, there were a handful of draws in that unbeaten run but currently that would be a welcome improvement on current affairs.

The second half of the season was anticipated with plenty of excitement going into it given that more matches would be at home than away which posed an excellent opportunity to gather a strong points return and climb up the table. That hasn’t happened which again acts as another opportunity wasted.

Alas, there are still seven matches left to play at the Mem this season, eight away, but we keep going into games thinking this one will be the one where a run kicks into motion and it doesn’t which has now created the feeling that matches could well end up being a slog.

We’ll continue to keep saying there’s still time, because there is, but the likeliness of now going on a run that would see a points tally collected to lead to a considerable climb up the table is slim to say the least and a lot would have to change almost with the click of fingers.

Kamil Conteh already looking to be a shrewd purchase.

Let’s have some positivity to round things off. Four appearances so far in blue-and-white quarters and Kamil Conteh is looking to be an excellent pick up. At 21, there’s still so much room for improvement which is the most exciting part.

Confidence and maturity on the ball, happy to go in for a challenge, an intelligent reader of the game. The January addition has the attributes you want from a defensive midfielder and has settled into his new team impressively well.

Going into the window we knew how important it was to recruit a midfielder which then almost led to desperation when Grant Ward picked up a long-term injury and Lamare Bogarde and Ryan Woods both returned to their parent clubs. In hindsight, recent injuries to Sam Finley and Luke McCormick could have been even weightier blows had Conteh not arrived.

It took longer than planned for a deal to be completed but he’s here now and arguably had his best game for Rovers against Burton, despite it being a poor performance collectively. It is certainly going to be a privilege to watch him play.

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