The lowdown on Bristol Rovers: Gas cooking up good form ahead of Keepmoat Stadium visit

Darrell Clarke
Darrell Clarke

A mid-table finish looks almost certain for Bristol Rovers but can they hope for more.

We got the lowdown from Bristol Post Rovers reporter Jack Vittles ahead of their trip to the Keepmoat this weekend.

Q: This season seems to have been a bit of a slog but there have been some notable results. What were the expectations for the campaign and how is it panning out?

Jack Vittles: It’s been a very inconsistent season for Rovers so far and there have been some big wins, including a 6-0 away win, mixed in with some really poor performances.

Ahead of the season, optimistic fans were hoping for a play-off push given last season’s 10th place, while I think more realistic fans would accept another top 10 finish as a good season.

Despite losing star man Billy Bodin at the start of the month, Rovers are actually in some of their best form of the season. They are unbeaten in five matches now, and that includes three consecutive away draws.

The home win against Bradford City last time out saw Rovers come from a goal down to win, the fourth time they’ve done that this season at home, and they should come into this match with plenty of confidence.

Q: How is Darrell Clarke currently viewed?

JV: Clarke has been in charge of Rovers for almost four years and is almost universally seen as one of the most successful managers in the club’s history.

He’s guided Rovers back from non-league with back-to-back promotions and picked up their highest third tier points total in 17 years last season.

Although there was a poor run earlier this season – three wins in 14 matches – Clarke’s position was never seriously questioned.

Q: We’re into January, will Rovers have changed much since the previous meeting just before Christmas and is any further business planned?

JV: There are only a couple of changes as things stand.

Top scorer Billy Bodin has left for the Championship and joined Preston North End, while Rovers have brought in forward Bernard Mensah from Aldershot in their only January signings thus far.

Q: What style of play does Clarke favour?

JV: Recently Clarke has been favouring a 4-4-2 with a midfield diamond.

This system allows Chris Lines to sit deeper in midfield and gives Liam Sercombe and Stuart Sinclair the chance to get into the opposition penalty area.

However, away from home Clarke sometimes likes to play just one up top, so we’ll have to wait and see. He does like to tinker.

Q: Who are Rovers’ danger men?

JV: Liam Sercombe is stepping up well since Bodin’s departure and has 10 goals already this season, not bad at all for a central midfielder.

He has a great eye for goal and is very capable of scoring from even 25 or 30 yards out from goal.

Ellis Harrison is also having his most consistent season for the Gas, with his strength and fitness causing problems for defences all season.

Q: Match prediction?

JV: Seeing as Rovers have drawn their last three on their travels, I’ll go for 1-1 here.