Is Lady Luck beginning to smile on Bristol Rovers?
MARK McGhee has been at pains in recent weeks to dismiss a poor run of luck as a reason for Bristol Rovers' underwhelming start to the campaign – but here we are again, another Monday and we're still on about it.
What seems to have been an unrelenting run of misfortune started as early as the 16th minute of the opening day of the season when Joe Anyinsah has a goal ruled out against Oxford for nothing much in particular – and nothing much in particular seems to have gone right for Rovers since then.
McGhee arrived at Barnet a few days later only to see key summer signing Garry Kenneth limp out of the warm-up before key-performers Cian Bolger and Matt Harrold sustain long-term knee injuries in the weeks following.
It would be wrong to place all the blame at the door of misfortune for a measly return of three points from seven games, but even the hardest- to-please Rovers supporter, would be hard-pushed not to concede that Lady Luck has been a cruel temptress in the opening month of the season.
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And if it's not Lady Luck hanging around waiting to have a pop, then Mother Nature seems quite prepared to turn up and have a go.
Who could forget the lightning strike that ended Rovers' match with Wycombe prematurely when McGhee's side were cruising towards what would have been their first victory of the season?
It made a refreshing change then, when in the 53rd minute of Rovers' game with Football League new boys Fleetwood Town at the Memorial Stadium on Saturday, it appeared that Lady Luck was finally offering McGhee an olive branch after mostly poking her tongue in his direction since August 18.
Fleetwood had thrown the ball into the Rovers' penalty area on one of their rare forays into the attacking third only to see the ball bounce up and hit a hand.
Who's hand it was seemed to be a source of some confusion – but it has since transpired that it may actually have been skipper Matt Gill's. The referee, Stephen Martin, however, was quick to dismiss Fleetwood's calls for a spot-kick – even though the linesman seemed to have other ideas.
He stood on the far touchline waving his flag in an attempt to make his views on the incident known – and when the referee's attention was finally averted in his direction, everyone of a blue and white quartered affiliation must have feared the worst.
A brief discussion between the pair, however, saw the original decision stand and Rovers, for a change, had got away with it.
"It's the first bit of luck we've had this season," a relieved McGhee admitted afterwards.
"It was a strange decision, but I'd say Matt Gill was probably delighted that the it went in our favour. I'm hopeful that it might represent a change in fortunes for us over the next few weeks."
Fleetwood boss Micky Mellon was less-than-delighted that the decision had not gone his side's way, but was more-than-delighted that an unambitious game plan had secured the point it had been employed to achieve.
"It's always difficult place to come regardless of where they are in the league," said Mellon.
"If you'd have asked me if I would I take a point at Bristol Rovers before the game I would have told you I'd be more than happy with that." Had Fleetwood been awarded the spot-kick they should have been, then they might have taken all three. If that had happened, however, it would have been a bit of a travesty following a game in which Rovers had dominated possession while managing to keep a much-fancied Fleetwood side away from their goal for the duration.
Had it not been for the heroics of Fleetwood goalkeeper Scott Davies at the other end, meanwhile, McGhee's side would have recorded their first victory of the season at a canter.
Three second-half saves to deny David Clarkson (twice) and Oliver Norburn from close-range after some intricate passing moves to create the opportunities meant that McGhee was only left to celebrate what was a first clean sheet of the season.
Much of the improved defensive resilience witnessed in the last two games owes much to the return from injury of summer signing Garry Kenneth – a player the manager has so much waxed lyrical over recent weeks that this reporter was half-expecting the big man to turn up on the pitch wearing his underpants over his shorts while sporting a cape about his neck.
McGhee refrained from comparing Kenneth with Superman after the game on Saturday, but went as far as saying that the man-of-the-match reminded him of former England defender Terry Butcher. High praise, indeed. Kenneth, however, is only one of a few changes that McGhee has made in the last seven days in an attempt to turn Rovers' season around – Fabian Broghammer and midfielder Oliver Norburn the pick of those who may have forced themselves in to the manager's thoughts for a more prominent role over the next few weeks.
Those changes, however, have yet to work the desired effect to instigate a what would be a first victory of the season for McGhee's men – but those who had witnessed the game were compelled to reward the player's efforts with optimistic applause. With a change in luck and, more importantly, the hoped-for addition of a striker or two, hope springs eternal that the first victory will not be too far away.