I should like to start by offering my unqualified apologies to my loyal reader. Prior to Bristol Rovers 7-0 thumping of Alfreton, I foolishly changed my prediction of a few weeks ago where I said, on the basis of no knowledge whatsoever, that Rovers would lose the play off final to Grimsby Town at Wembley with a goal from Craig Disley. I changed that to Rovers would beat Alfreton and Barnet would slip up against Gateshead. WRONG!!!
It is fortunate that I am not placing benefits on these predictions, or guesses as they are otherwise known. I have as little idea about what’s going to happen in any given Rovers game as I did with the 2.15 at Kempton Park today. But I did feel the force with Rovers. Their incredible run since a somewhat iffy start to the season has been mighty impressive. They hardly ever lose which is not a bad thing to take into one of the most crucial matches of the season. The fact that they are now in the play offs is obviously disappointing – you enter the world of lotteries here – but a team that doesn’t lose much is surely at a massive advantage to a team that loses now and then, like Forest Green Rovers, who Rovers meet in the twin-legged play off semi-final.
Who would ever have believed that the Rovers would be playing Forest Green at all given that Nailsworth is is a small town with a population of well under 6000? No wonder (Bristol) Rovers are hot favourites to go through. Quite frankly, I would be surprised if they didn’t put the game to bed in the first leg. Forest Green are obviously not a bad side but over two legs, you would normally expect the big guns to go through. By the same token, I would expect Grimsby to see off Eastleigh. Which would give us a Bristol Rovers v Grimsby Conference play off final. Again, Rovers would go into this game as favourites too. They have a slightly better points and goals record and, crucially, Grimsby have lost twice as many games as Rovers. If things were really tight – and you suspect they could be – then the team that knows how to not lose could well triumph.
But, as we have said, the play offs can be a lottery. What if your goalkeeper is sent off in the first minute, or your best player tweaks a hamstring in the warm up? There a million scenarios that could happen. Given my miserable track record, I will sit on the fence with this one. My Disley prediction was just some wild imagining on my part, on the basis of if something really unusual could happen, it probably will.
Whatever happens, Rovers boss Darrell Clarke has done a great job this season and if the worst comes to the worst and they don’t squeeze past FGR and Grimsby/Eastleigh, I can’t think of a man who deserves another crack at it.