Amid all the usual media fanfare, the transfer window closed last week. Or did it ‘slam shut’ as the press like to say? Is there an actual window in the corridors of power that paperwork about player moves is passed through?
I could easily talk about this for a while, but let’s talk Rovers. Now seems an appropriate time to discuss the club’s transfer business.
It seems like our main news on deadline day was a possible move out of the club for Billy Bodin; amongst all the Facebook speculation and newspaper talk, it’s hard to know how close that particular catastrophe was, but the club didn’t entertain any interest, if any existed.
Thank heavens we’re not a one man team (in fact we’re the highest goalscorers in the country, in domestic competitions), but Bodin is our spark; losing him, potentially without replacement, would’ve spoken volumes about the ambition, or lack of, at the club.
As for the new signings made during this window, all look at least okay so far, a more detailed picture will come as the season goes on, but one name stands out. Liam Sercombe is a bargain at double the price we paid. And given that it was an undisclosed fee so I don’t know how much we paid, that’s quite a statement. He’s full of hard work, assured on the ball, makes chances, and isn’t afraid to hit a screamer from distance.
For my money, the squad looks balanced, with one exception; the failure to bring in a left-sided midfielder to replace Cristian Montano further shows that releasing the Colombian was a questionable decision. Now, the manager has of course amended our tactics based on the players at his disposal, and four wins on the bounce in all competitions vindicates him at present, but I’m concerned about a lack of depth in wide positions as the long winter months pan out.
Aside from the transfer hoopla, we played two games last week. Fleetwood at home, on Saturday, was in many ways the perfect antidote to the dire previous home performance vs Peterborough. Rovers dominated the game, and put three decent goals past a defence that hadn’t let one in all month in the league.
Stuart Sinclair’s first football league goal at the Memorial Stadium, coming from some decent work by Rory Gaffney, who dealt with Joe Partington’s deep cross well to get it back towards the face of goal and in the bearded one’s path.
Gaffney wasn’t done; his work out on the right flank put him in a position to pass to Bodin 25 yards out, and our resident magician did the rest with a sumptuous low finish in the bottom right corner, embarrassing the visiting keeper. What a time to score, too – conceding two minutes before the break really must have knocked the stuffing out of the Fleetwood players.
I’ll offer no criticism of the defence for Fleetwood’s consolation goal. Devante Cole showing shades of his father, the great Andy Cole, with an intelligent tapped volley under pressure, but Fleetwood didn’t look like using that as a springboard to get anything out of their visit to BS7, a couple of half chances aside.
Rovers’ third goal, from Ellis Harrison, ensured the points stayed with the team most deserving of them; another excellent, accurate cross from Partington, dealt with in the air by Harrison, making great use of his body to get across his man and tap home.
Tuesday’s trip to Wycombe, in the much-maligned Checkatrade Trophy, was treated by many of us as something not to concern ourselves with. While a justifiable boycott continues up and down the country, Tuesday was, at least, a chance for Rovers to give some of the less-used players this season so far a run-out, along with a few young lads from the development squad.
It’s fair to say they did alright; A 5-1 win in any competition is a good night’s work. Dominic Telford, who we’ve not seen loads of his his loan move from Stoke, scored two exceptional goals, one an individual effort that saw him breeze past three defenders, and the second a pinpoint header. Two goals from young Ryan Broom (after great work from Gaffney and Partington yet again for the first) and another from Sercombe (a trademark smash from distance) sealed a happy night in Buckinghamshire.
These two games, for me, show that Partington is now the first choice at right-back, that we’ve got such talent in the middle of the park that a three-man central midfield is the right choice so we can accommodate them; and, hopefully, finally we look capable of a decent goal return up front once again to ease the pressure on Billy Bodin.
Bradford away, on Saturday, provides one of the sternest tests the division has to offer. Their home defeat to Blackburn recently was their first in 18 months. There’s always a big crowd at Valley Parade, and while they don’t score tons of goals, their defence is tighter than a stereotypical Yorkshireman.
Shay McCartan is a big miss for them. More a deep-lying forward or ‘Number 10’ than an out-and-out finisher, City’s new boy is in the Northern Ireland squad. On the other side of the Irish border, their first-choice keeper, Colin Doyle, is called up too, but then we’ve got Sweeney with the Irish U-21 side and Tom Lockyer on the verges of a first Wales cap.
Despite the absences, I’m going to try being optimistic for once, and predict the unthinkable – a second home defeat on the trot for Bradford and an unbelievable win for Rovers.