Danny Coles: Spaniard Bauza could have an impact after Torquay return
WHILE it was disappointing not to notch a sixth successive away win against Torquay earlier in the week, you have to keep these things in perspective.
We've taken 16 points from our last six away games, remained unbeaten in 2013 and, what's more, need no longer fret about what we have to do to win at home.
Tuesday night's starting line-up may have raised one or two eyebrows, but with the games coming thick and fast and the pitches as heavy as they are just now, it makes sense to utilise your entire squad.
That aside, I maintain Guillem Bauza, who was making his first start since November, is a major talent who could have a big role to play between now and the end of the season if only he can steer clear of injury.
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For what it's worth, I thought we were the better team at Plainmoor, but it was never going to be easy – all the more so when you consider Jamie Cureton was suspended, John O'Flynn went off injured inside the first 10 minutes and the pudding basin of a pitch was more suited to the oval ball than our particular passing game.
While we didn't have too many complaints with the penalty which allowed Rene Howe to put the Gulls ahead, I thought we were a shade unfortunate to go in trailing at the interval. However, with the introduction of Alan Gow at half-time, it was pretty much one-way traffic in the second half and it would really have been a travesty if we hadn't got a point from the game at the very least.
When their keeper made a great stop from Jimmy Keohane with the score at 1-0 and time ebbing away, you could have been excused for wondering if it was destined not to be our night but, such is the confidence in the camp at the minute, we continued to believe and got our just deserts when Gowser picked himself up off the floor to convert from the spot with just seven or eight minutes left on the clock.
Make no mistake, Torquay are a decent side, but we didn't see too much to frighten us. We will go into the return game at St James's Park on January 28 full of confidence that we can win a second successive home game and, at the same time, become the first team to emerge victorious in what will, I think, be an astonishing fifth Devon derby of the season so far.
It was a massive relief to get our home form back on track with a 3-0 win over Southend on Saturday.
While Paul Sturrock's side might have considered themselves a little unlucky not to have been ahead at the interval, we produced some of our best football of the season in the second half and, ultimately, the margin of victory didn't flatter us one bit.
I'm loathe to single out individuals in what was an excellent all-round performance but, once again, the contributions of Messrs Keohane and O'Flynn really did stand out – Jimmy's getting better with every game and it's great to see Flynny, who was a thoroughly deserving recipient of the man-of-the-match award, get into double figures for the season with a healthy 20-plus games still to go. One can only hope the injury he sustained at Torquay doesn't keep him out for too long.
I ought also to give honorable mentions to our three substitutes – Kevin Amankwaah and Tommy Doherty – who did exactly what was required of them to ensure we saw the game out and young Jake Gosling didn't look at all out of place on his first start. Of course, Jake is already a hero to the Grecian faithful having scored the goal that knocked Plymouth Argyle out of the FA Cup while he was away on loan at non-league Dorchester earlier in the season.
??? This Saturday sees us make the relatively short trip to the Memorial Stadium to take on Bristol Rovers when, for the second time in the space of a week, I'm sure we can look forward to a huge turn-out of travelling Grecian supporters.
The Gas may be bottom of the table but they beat us at home earlier in the season and, what's more, have shown a marked improvement since the appointment of John Ward last month so, rest assured, we'll be taking nothing for granted going into the game
It's another big match for us as we try to cement our automatic promotion spot and for myself and Curo, as Bristolians who went on to play for Rovers at one point or another over our careers, it's one of the most eagerly anticipated games of the entire season.
Suffice to say, we are all desperate to make amends for our 2-1 defeat at the Park in September and can hardly wait to get stuck in and hopefully bag the points.
Let's hope we get the result we're looking for and I'm as keen to reflect on the game in next week's column as I am to play in it now!