Just as the first league win of the season was so important at the weekend, this first defeat of the campaign could be just as crucial in a strange way. A 2-1 reverse at one of the league’s better sides is not shameful in the least but what it does do is bring us down to earth and remind us that there’s plenty of work to do.
To me this game was more important for Rovers than it was for us with their home defeat to Torquay at the weekend. A second successive home loss was out of the question for them but it’s certainly not the end of the world for Gary Johnson and his troops ahead of two ‘winnable’ home games against Cheltenham and Morecambe.
Johnson used an unchanged side for the trip to the Memorial Stadium as he looked to stick with the winning formula from Ipswich and Aldershot. There were places on the bench, though, for John Johnson and Bayo Akinfenwa after injury, giving the subs a strong feel about them.
It was Rovers, though, who would come out of the blocks quicker as they tried to put the weekend result behind them. Byron Anthony went close with an effort that Sam Walker parried as we began the game well under the cosh. Ashley Westwood, gaining an increasing number of fans in a cult following on Twitter, was forced off on the twenty minute mark through injury with John Johnson making his return in his place.
But we could do nothing as the Gas took the lead ten minutes later. Jo Kuffour, scorer of the winning goal the last time the teams met, netted again from a quick reaction to a free kick to give the hosts a deserved advantage going into the break. The striker went close twice again before half-time but thankfully we held out and went in just one goal down.
A better start to the second half, though, saw us getting back in the game with substitute Lewis Young working hard to create a chance that was blocked before Michael Jacobs shot over the bar. Bayo was getting prepared for his introduction and replaced Bas Savage on the hour to immediate effect.
A long throw from Ben Tozer was volleyed towards goal by Byron Webster and despite a good block, the ball deflected off Bayo and rolled in to earn an equaliser. The lead would unfortunately not last long though.
With fifteen minutes to go, Rovers sub Chris Zebroski mis hit a shot and the ball rolled to Matt Harrold who had the relatively easy task of putting it past Sam Walker to score what would turn out to be the winner.
Frustrating as it was to fall to defeat in such fashion, on the first half alone it sounds like a deserved win for Buckle’s men as they leapfrog the Cobblers on six points. With these two home games to come there is a real need to bounce back. Cheltenham and Morecambe should be taken seriously or we’ll be looking at more home frustration akin to the opening day against Accrington and 4-6 points from those two games is a must to keep in touch with the leading pack.
With two cup distractions (Wolves in the Carling Cup next Tuesday and Huddersfield the following Tuesday, both at Sixfields) there’s no hold up in games and we can expect the squad to be stretched a little bit with another injury victim coming away from Bristol last night.
With this first taste of a losing feeling in this campaign, I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that we would swap two cup defeats for six points in the league over the next two weeks!