Bristol Rovers: McGhee blames defence for 'catastrophic' lapses
THERE'S an exciting new offer available to all supporters of Bristol Rovers at the Memorial Stadium this season.
"Come and join us in the bar afterwards," the man on the public address system announced at half-time.
"Screen Soccer are providing you with a unique chance to watch immediate post-match highlights on the big screen."
It was an offer that had only been available to Supporters' Club members in seasons past, apparently – but now everyone could come and join in the fun.
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It was a pretty hard sell, however, after what had been a largely uninspiring and goalless opening period in which the major highlight had probably been one shot from Morecambe midfielder Andrew Wright that had cannoned back off a post.
It would have been easier to sell bags of sand in the desert 45 minutes and three Morecambe goals later.
The man on the public address system still had a go, though. God bless him.
In the Memorial Stadium IT suite, meanwhile, a mere stone's throw away from the bar, the Bristol Rovers players were being offered the same exciting opportunity.
The likelihood is, however, that they were watching the game through their fingers and not discussing it over a beer as the man had encouraged supporters to do.
No, this exciting opportunity was being served up more as a punishment following a second-half capitulation which condemned Rovers to a second successive Memorial Stadium defeat of the season.
"Nobody leaves here tonight until we get to the bottom of what's gone on out there," McGhee told reporters before explaining that ordering the players to watch the game in the immediate aftermath of defeat is something he's never felt the need to do in a managerial career that has just entered a third decade.
So what will McGhee have seen? Lots to think about, you would suppose. One thing he won't have seen, however, is anybody tracking the late run of midfielder Gary McDonald, which allowed him to latch on to Jordan Burrow's carefully-placed knock down to open the scoring from close-range in the 52nd minute.
The manager, meanwhile, didn't need to watch the DVD to describe the defending which allowed defender Nicky Fenton to hook in a finish at the far post to double Morecambe's lead six minutes later, as 'catastrophic'. What McGhee definitely would have seen, though, is possession conceded needlessly and cheaply in midfield before the back four parted like the red sea to allow Kevin Ellison to stride through to complete the scoring by adding Morecambe's third goal on the hour mark.
"Ridiculous," was McGhee assessment of that eight-minute period of keystone cops-like defending that ultimately cost Rovers the game.
McGhee, perhaps, would have reached for the volume control at the final whistle in an effort to mute the boos and jeers that accompanied the conclusion of another unsatisfactory afternoon at the Memorial Stadium.
What the manager certainly didn't see was 'that coming at half-time'. 'That' being a 3-0 defeat from a game in which Rovers had dominated possession of the ball – 62 percent in their favour to be precise.
The important statistic, however, as football pundits are always quick to tell us, is that which usually resides in the top left hand corner of your TV screen.
Yes, Rovers did have plenty of the ball, particularly during a half-an-hour spell before the break, but – other than a Tom Parkes' shot that had to be repelled by Morecambe goalkeeper Barry Roche – the actual goal threat was limited.
Skipper Matt Gill went close in the second-half with a close-range header – but Rovers were three down by that time and the game was well and truly up.
Another statistic that provided interesting reading was the one showing that nobody in a Rovers shirt was caught offside over the 90 minutes – for the third time this season – suggesting that the threat McGhee's side pose to opponents 'in behind' is minimal.
The manager argued that his side do not lack creativity by offering plausible evidence in the shape of the scintillating display at Wycombe last weekend – but that's the thing that makes the defeat on Saturday all the more galling isn't it?
This reporter, as well as countless Rovers' supporters you would imagine, were expecting McGhee's men to build on what they had achieved at Adams Park just seven days earlier – yet the two performances were like chalk and cheese.
Perhaps, it would be better to expect nothing at all.
Expectation, it seems, appears to be the mother of all disappointments at the Memorial Stadium.
One thing supporters will expect on their way to the Memorial Stadium for tomorrow night clash with Yeovil Town, however, are changes.