Bristol Rovers 1 Southampton 0: Rovers follow Cup blueprint for promotion
Monday 18 February 2008
Some managers will be busy trying to convince all around them that exiting the FA Cup this past weekend will at least let them concentrate on improving their respective league positions. Southampton's caretaker managers, Jason Dodd and John Gorman, will surely be among them.
But Bristol Rovers, mid-table in League One, are cut from different cloth. Distraction appears to be the very thing which helps them focus on the League and, in its own way, helped them to promotion via the play-offs last season after they amassed 62 competitive matches.
On this day in 2007 Rovers were 10 points off sixth place in League Two with a game in hand and went on to lose just two of their remaining 14 league matches as confidence bred success. Today they are nine points off the League One play-off positions in 15th and, with this Cup run ensuring the fixtures are again stacking up, the Rovers captain, Stuart Campbell, is confident they can repeat the trick.
"We've done brilliant to get to the quarter-final but we really have to put it to the back of our minds and concentrate on winning the games we've got in hand," he said. "Who knows where we'll end up. The players deserve a lot of credit for the way they look after themselves off the pitch. We've proved we can handle this amount of games and I'm sure we'll do the same this year."
Despite being the lowest-ranked side left in the draw Rovers will also be confident in their ability to reach the semi-finals for the first time in their history, even more so should they be handed a home tie. With work on a new stadium scheduled to begin in May forcing a temporary move to Cheltenham Town's Whaddon Road, the advantage afforded them on their mudflat of a pitch may be lost forever, so they will be keen to capitalise as they did against Southampton, and Fulham before them.
Indeed, Rovers have not lost a competitive match at home since November and it showed. Southampton have won just once in 11 league matches and the visitors never came to terms with the bobbly surface and only managed two shots on target. "It's disappointing when you're coming into a game looking at the possibility of getting into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup and some of the lads aren't up to it," said Dodd. "That's hard to believe, but we got what we deserved."
Dodd admitted he and Gorman are unaware of whether they will be taking charge of Southampton on a more permanent basis, but this result will hardly have strengthened their cause. "We've been in football long enough to know that if you're getting results everything's fine," he said. "But if you're not getting results people are going to start asking questions."
Rovers hardly embodied total football but playing to the aerial strengths of their physical forwards Rickie Lambert and Andy Williams is an effective tactic. The winner, though, came from one of the rare moments the ball was on the deck, Lambert's 84th-minute free-kick taking a major deflection off Jermaine Wright in beating Kelvin Davis.
It was Lambert's sixth goal in seven FA Cup matches this season and offered added reason to celebrate his 26th birthday. "It was a big deflection but it was on target and in my eyes if it's on target it's your goal," he said. "It does seem to be that in the big games I tend to score. I still can't believe we're in the quarter-finals. To have the opportunity to get to the semi-finals is unbelievable." It will mean more training and more matches of course, but that is just the way they like it here.
Goals: Lambert (84) 1-0.
Bristol Rovers (4-4-2): Phillips; Lescott, Hinton, Coles, Jacobsen; Pipe, Campbell, Disley, Lines; Williams (Rigg, 76), Lambert. Substitutes not used: Walker, Igoe, Anthony, Carruthers
Southampton (4-4-2): Davis; Ostlund, Davies, Powell, Wright; Viafara (Hammill, 86), Euell, Idiakez (Wright-Phillips, 57), Surman; Sagnowski (McGoldrick, 80), John. Substitutes not used: Poke (gk), Thomas
Referee: M Riley (West Yorkshire)
Booked: Southampton Viafara, Wright, Euell
Man of the match: Campbell
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