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Lincoln City host Bristol Rovers on Saturday in their first game since the departure of the Cowley brothers, with Jamie McCombe and Andy Warrington due to take charge of the team.
David Byrom, who covers the Gas for the Bristol Post and Bristol Live, answers key questions about Graham Coughlan’s side.
How have Rovers started the season?
On the whole, not badly. Prior to Saturday’s 3-3 draw with 10-man Accrington Stanley, where Rovers were disjointed and failed to do enough to win, they had been putting in good performances without really getting all of the results they deserved. This is partly due to the fact that they’re scoring goals, but conceding too regularly at the moment as well.
However, the away form is a concern in itself. Rovers have lost all three of their away league games 2-0 so far this season, so a lot of focus is on turning that around on Saturday.
What are the expectations for the season?
Consolidation. Rovers were involved in a relegation battle last season which saw long-serving manager Darrell Clarke depart and Graham Coughlan come in. The rookie manager kept the Gas up, and is now setting about trying to build his own team. It wasn’t an easy summer, with Coughlan not getting all of his transfer targets, but the signings he has made have come in and looked positive.
What’s the feeling among the fans?
There is an underlying frustration among a lot of Rovers fans at the moment that not much progress is being made off the pitch, and it’s easy to see why, with promises over new stadiums yet to come to fruition and managers having to sell players in order to bring new ones in.
However, on the pitch, Rovers fans will always give their team a chance to perform. I don’t think anyone is expecting any trees to be pulled up in the league this season, so long as the relegation battle of last season is avoided.
Tell us about manager Graham Coughlan – are the fans happy with him?
Coughlan is a rather no-nonsense manager who has toughened the team up a lot.
He was brought in as defensive coach at the start of last season and made an immediate impact – Rovers’ struggles were due to their lack of goals, rather than any defensive issues.
When he became manager, he set about making the team hard to beat, and they ground results. The football they play is not always the easiest on the eye, but it is effective.
In terms of fans being happy, it depends on who you talk to. Some do not like the football on offer, but others are more willing to give him a chance. I think whoever Rovers appointed after Clarke’s departure would have issues winning over every fan purely because they were following a club legend.
Who are the men to watch?
Jonson Clarke-Harris. The striker has netted five in eight so far this season after almost single-handedly keeping Rovers up last year with his goals after signing from Coventry City in January.
He’s a strong, powerful striker who has the ability to conjure something out of nothing – he produced an outrageous overhead kick against Accrington on Saturday, for example.
Other than that, Ollie Clarke is a midfield dynamo. He’s box-to-box and can pick a pass. He’s also pretty dangerous with shots from the edge of the box.