FA Cup display gives Bristol Rovers boss Mark McGhee cause for optimism
BRISTOL Rovers boss Mark McGhee believes his side's performance against Sheffield United on Saturday may mark the start of an improved run of form over the coming weeks.
McGhee watched his players take an early lead against the Blades at the Memorial Stadium on Saturday, before a second-half fightback by Danny Wilson's side ended Rovers' involvement in the FA Cup at the first-round stage.
The manager, however, was pleased with aspects of his side's performance in the 2-1 defeat and is hopeful the imminent return of key players from injury will spark an upturn in form.
Rovers will attempt to end a run of three successive defeats when they return to league action against Southend United at the Memorial Stadium tomorrow night, and McGhee said: "I'm disappointed with the result because I felt there was something there for us to take from the game. The tempo and determination the boys showed in the first half was excellent and there were also some really good individual performances.
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"We have an important period of games coming up now and it is important the players start to show that sort of performance consistently.
"They'll need to if they want to stay in the team because we have players slowly starting to return. Danny Woodards is on his way back and both Matt Gill and Cian Bolger are only a month away.
"We need people to do better than they have been, but we also need the personnel available to pick a strong team.
"Now we're starting to get a better squad, we'll start getting better results. By Christmas, I'm expecting our injury setbacks to be behind us and that I'll be able to field a very strong team.
"Nobody can predict a result, but I'd be surprised if we don't see an equally committed performance on Tuesday (against Southend). I am confident our performance (on Saturday) may mark the start of an improvement for us."
McGhee saw his side take a fifth-minute lead after David Clarkson fired in a shot from the edge of the penalty area, and then control the opening period against the League One promotion hopefuls.
An improved display from Wilson's side in the second-half, however, saw Nick Blackman score a 53rd-minute equaliser, before Chris Porter converted what turned out to be the winning goal nine minutes later.
McGhee, though, was disappointed referee Fred Graham did not stop the play for a foul on defender Garry Kenneth before Porter took the chance to score from inside the six-yard box.
"We have to accept that we switched off at a short corner to allow then the chance to score," said McGhee, who added: "but Garry Kenneth was pulled to the ground when the ball was delivered into our box and the referee has totally missed it.
"The referee had booked two players for similar offences earlier in the game, so for him to miss a critical one that resulted in a goal after being so pernickety over the others was disappointing."
Jake Gosling's second-half strike helped Blue Square South side Dorchester produce another FA Cup upset yesterday as they reached the second round with a 1-0 win over npower League Two side Plymouth Argyle.
The Pilgrims got off to a terrible start when Conor Hourihane received two yellow cards inside the opening ten minutes.
FA Cup second round draw: Preston North End v Gillingham, Bury v Southend United, Sheffield United v Port Vale, Carlisle United v AFC Bournemouth, Crewe Alexandra v Burton Albion or Altrincham, Northampton Town or Bradford City v Brentford, Luton Town or Nuneaton Town v Dorchester Town, Alfreton Town v Gloucester City or Leyton Orient, Oldham Athletic v Doncaster Rovers, Braintree Town or Tranmere v Chesterfield, Rotherham United v Notts County, Cheltenham Town v Hereford United, Guiseley or Barrow v Macclesfield Town, Accrington Stanley v Oxford United, Lincoln City or Walsall v Mansfield Town or Slough Town, Harrogate Town v Hastings United, Coventry City v Morecambe or Rochdale, Cambridge City or MK Dons v York City or AFC Wimbledon, Crawley Town v Chelmsford City, Fleetwood Town v Aldershot Town. Ties to be played on the weekend of December 1-2.