A disciplined defensive performance saw Rovers gain a slim 1-0 victory over promotion chasing Southend United.
So much changes in the space of one month. When I last saw the Gas I was stripped in a scarf and two warm fleeces. Today I, among many others, took the luxury of shorts and a Rovers shirt. On the field matters have changed too, with Rovers comfortably safe from the drop, the thought of a top ten finish all too realistic now, we can hopefully start enjoying our football.
Both teams started brightly, having spells of possession but few chances. The first came inside 12 minutes when a missed defensive header left Zebroski one on one, with Harrold and Lund in the middle; Zebroski decided to selfishly go alone hitting a poor effort yards past the post. As the game pogressed Rovers came more into their own, controlling large spells of first half possession but failing to make the most of it. Zebroski's 21st minute skillful run caused all sorts of problems in the Southend backline, before squaring it to Matt Harrold who hit a tame effort into the body of the keeper.
Half time came, as so often happens the second half opened up; with Southend starting to create dangerous chances. 16 minutes into the second half, a long ball up to Freddy Eastwood was held up effectively, allowing Michael Timlin to hit a rasping effort narrowly over the bar. The chance was followed up by another, a far post cross enabled Eastwood to release a strong header which was well saved at point bank range by Scott Bevan. Mustapha Carayol struggled to get into his game, not helped by the constant double marking upon recieving the ball, but found room 5 minutes from time to release a shot inside the penalty whilst being brought down by Southend's Michael Timlin. The result... a Rovers' penalty. Up stepped Matt Harrold, who dispatched the penalty with power and confidence, his 14th goal of the season. 1-0 Rovers.
With just minutes remaining, Rovers dangerously sat back and invited pressure on to them. A late surge from Southend United left Rovers' supporters with their hearts in the mouths especially when a strong 93rd minute penalty appeal was turned down and instead given as an edge of the area freekick, but with little success; the shot was blasted straight at the Pirates' wall. Rovers held tight and managed their 6th win in 12 games as well as their 6th clean sheet since the permanent appointment of Mark McGhee.