I was having a pre-match pint when I read James Coppinger wasn’t in the squad. I contemplated staying put and ordering another. A text from a friend conveyed similar thoughts; ‘When I heard Coppinger wasn’t playing I almost went home’.
But then, that’s the difference between this season’s Rovers and last; even without our talisman, we’re still incredibly watchable. In the first half at an empty Valley, Rovers were on top, but unable to pull the trigger; most of the forty-five was spent in and around the Athletic box, but with never quite enough space for a clear shot on goal.
In the second half Rovers kicked on, led by the magic boots of Herbie Kane and the old-fashioned noggin of Andy Butler. On 66 minutes it was the captain’s head that met a left-wing corner and the ball somehow squeezed between the bodies on the goalline for 1-0. Eleven minutes later Butler stuck his swede on an excellent Danny Andrew free-kick, looping it over the ‘keeper for John Marquis to glance in from about three milimetres.
Match won. Into the hat. Time to settle in for the Kane show. Drag-backs, killer touches, pirouettes, back-heels, sending the ball one side of a defender, whilst he went the other. But this was far from pointless showboating, it was merely a wayward strike, a goalkeeper’s hand and a defender’s toe away from presenting goals for Mallik Wilks, Paul Taylor and Ali Crawford. The kid is a magician, watching him a real privilege.
by Glen Wilson