safc.com catch up with Tom Metcalfe from the GasCast to preview tonight's Checkatrade Trophy semi-final against Bristol Rovers.
Hi Tom! We only chatted last week, but since our teams meet again I thought it might be good to find out about your Checkatrade Trophy run so far - what has the competition been like so far for Rovers?
TM: In the last three of four seasons we’ve had terrible cup runs so to be one game away from Wembley is a bit of a shock to be honest. In usual circumstances everyone would be buzzing, but due to an ongoing boycott of the competition the mood is a bit subdued. It doesn’t help that we are going up against a team that is right up there and has done the double over us this season. On the whole we’re pretty pessimistic about getting to Wembley, but you never know!
How important is success in this competition - or is it an unnecessary distraction to your relegation battle?
TM: There are a lot of our fans who are keen for a day out at Wembley, but for me the League has to take priority. Our next two games are against Scunthorpe and Gillingham (Saturday and Tuesday) who are down there with us. Playing midweek right now isn’t ideal, I’d prefer to have fresh legs for the Scunthorpe game.
Last weekend you lost 2-0 against Sunderland, what was your view of that game?
TM: I thought we were really poor. The first 15 minutes I thought we looked hungry and we’re pressuring Sunderland, after that it all went wrong. Too many misplaces passed (looking at you Ollie Clarke) and no real pressure on the ball. The stat that sums up the game for me is we had 0 shots on target. We were totally devoid of ideas going forward and I thought your tall defender Tom Flanagan was pretty dominant. The only time we looked dangerous was when Rielley came on and gave us a bit of pace, but it was too little too late.
A 4-0 win this past weekend against Blackpool was much needed, was that your best performance of the season?
TM: A massive 3 points for us and it was definitely up there with our best performances this season. I’d like to say best, but truth be told Blackpool we’re very poor and had given up by the time the 4th went in. It looks like we changed shape for this game to a diamond in midfield and that seemed to pay dividends. I will expect the same when we line up on Tuesday.
We talked about Jonson Clarke-Harris last week, he scored a hat-trick against Blackpool - is he the dangerman?
TM: He was fantastic on Saturday. I’ve been impressed with him since he joined to be honest. Good in the air and has great strength. He’s exactly what we needed to get in. He is our number one threat at the moment, which is a worry because he limped off against Blackpool. It sounds like he will be able to play on Tuesday so it might not be too serious.
Graham Coughlon has seemingly done a great job with five wins, five draws and just three defeats so far in all competitions, how important is this competition to him and the squad in your opinion?
TM: Its massive to them. As a professional footballer playing at Wembley has to be the dream so they will be well up for it. Most of them won’t have been at Rovers when we won the National League playoff final in 2015 so getting there would be massive. I’m sure Graham would love to have that on his CV too. First job in management and you get to a Wembley final isn’t too shabby.
Finally, what will the score be and why?
TM: I’m going to be pessimistic and say 0-2. I think as a week ago you’ll just have too much quality for us. It was on show when you brought off Will Grigg for Charlie Wyke who I rate after he demolished us for Bradford a couple of seasons ago.