Match Report

500 Words After Luton Town

Sunday, 18 September 2022

The 1998 film “Sliding Doors” (Another one for the teenagers eh ? - Ed) first brought the talents of pre-Goop nonsense Gwyneth Paltrow into my orbit. In the film her character plays the love interest of John Hannah’s character in a delightfully quirky rom-com that’s explores the age-old conundrum of turning points in life. 

The plot hinges on whether or not Gwyneth’s character catches a tube train. In one storyline the sliding doors remain open and the plot unfolds in one direction; in the alternative, the train is missed and a different chain of events unfold. It’s not the greatest film ever made but equally, it’s not the worst - 65% on Rotten Tomatoes if you fancy it. 


Anyhow, why do I raise this point ? Well, football fans are all guilty of the “what if” pontificating post-game - especially so after a defeat. 

“What if the ref had given us (denied them) a penalty ?”

“What if he hadn’t gone off injured ?”

“What if that shot had it the underside of the bar ?”

We’ve all done it, it provides some sort of reassurance to envisage a chain of events that would have seen a happier outcome. It serves to convince us that the fine margins are all that separates us from glory in abundance. 

I tried it following yesterday’s game.  

“What if Ben Brereton-Diaz’s shot had gone in or Tyrhys Dolan had scored the rebound ?”. 

That really was the only “sliding doors moment” though, as it amounted to the only shot on target conjured up in 90 minutes by Rovers.  

One item of note that already seems to be emerging in this embryonic season is the importance of the opening goal in determining the ultimate outcome. Five wins, in each game, Rovers scored first. Five defeats…exactly the opposite.  

What to make of this statistical quirk though ? Well, first of all, Rovers seem to be much better attacking on the counter, fast breaks behind an opposition searching for a goal. When it comes to breaking down a well-organised and structured defence then Rovers lack the wit or the wisdom to create opportunities. 

The second-half against Luton showed one team executing their game plan to perfection and the other seemingly bereft of ideas as to how to react. The substitutions did brighten things up marginally but the result was by then a foregone conclusion. Too many players were operating at the periphery of influence. Too many times the ball was given away carelessly. Too often the defence offered space for the opposition to exploit. 

It’s early days in the JDT regime and he deserves a lot more time to stamp his influence on the team, tactics and formation but he will be acutely aware of the Jekyll & Hyde nature of this side and the importance of establishing some sort of plan for when the opposition takes the lead. 

Having said all of that, offer me 7th place after ten games before the season started & I would have accepted happily.


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