Bristol Rovers: Memorial Stadium pitch can be an advantage to us, says Mark McGhee
MARK McGhee insists Bristol Rovers have to make their much-criticised playing surface work in their favour over their final home games of the campaign.
The Pirates have yet to lose at the Memorial Stadium since McGhee took charge in January, and that is a record the manager is keen to extend against Burton Albion this weekend.
Rovers' badly-worn pitch has come in for increasing criticism from opponents in recent weeks, with Gillingham boss Andy Hessenthaler describing it as the worst he had seen at any Football League ground after their 2-2 draw on Good Friday.
"We have an advantage over the opposition because we have played on it so often. Opponents come here, take one look at it and can be horrified," said McGhee.
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"I know from my own days as a player that when you arrive at a ground and walk on to a fantastic pitch, it gives you a lift and you feel full of energy. You want to play there. This pitch isn't conducive to that."
Rovers will be looking to bounce back after suffering a 3-0 defeat at Crewe on Monday.
"We have had various sorts of results and performances, but we haven't had a poor performance and a defeat at home – and that is the one I'm guarding against, because we do not want that to be the next one in the sequence," said McGhee.
"We have to be up for this, no matter how many games are left and what's at stake."
McGhee was full of praise for Crewe's performance on Monday – but critical of his own side's display.
"We have been working on defending set-pieces in training. That's not something we had been weak on, but Crewe's second goal was the worst of the lot for me and nobody seemed to know what was going on," he said.
"Nobody was tight, nobody was aggressive or doing their jobs. Crewe had no aerial superiority over us, but still managed to score a headed goal.
"Rest assured, I will be expecting to see us marking properly at set-pieces on Saturday."
McGhee hopes Mustapha Carayol will have recovered from the hamstring problem which kept him out of the defeat at Gresty Road.
"I thought Muzzy was a big miss on Monday and we are hoping he will be fit. He is an important player for us and gives us that initiative to get forward a bit better," said McGhee.
"There are four games left and 12 points, and the table would look a lot different from our point of view if we could take them all.
"More importantly, any of the teams we are playing over the last four games could be up against us in our first game next season, so it is important we put down a psychological marker.
"Burton recently had a spell of 16 games without a win, but have bounced back in their last few games, so they have got that out of their system and we will be need to be at our best. Recently, we have drawn games we thought we should have won, so we need to be better."
McGhee is pressing on with plans to shape next season's squad.
"I had another meeting with the chairman and finance director Toni Watola this week to put some meat on the bones of things and I will be seeing players' representatives next week," he said. "We are doing our utmost to re-sign the players the fans will want to see again next season and hunt for new ones to make sure we have a squad fit to challenge.
"We have to make sure that any funds released by people who are out of contract or loan signings going back is spent wisely."