Meet Town’s opposition: The Gas are very thin on top
- Credit: PA
Ipswich Town begin the new 2020-21 season with a Carabao EFL Cup first round home tie against Bristol Rovers tomorrow afternoon. CARL MARSTON casts his eye over the opposition
Woefully short of striker options, Bristol Rovers might lack a punch when they take on Ipswich Town in the 2020-21 season opener at Portman Road tomorrow afternoon, in the first round of the Carabao EFL Cup.
Gas fans are deeply concerned that star striker Jonson Clarke-Harris’ recent big-money move to Peterborough United has left them down to the bare bones, in terms of potential goalscorers.
In fact, the West Country club, with manager Ben Garner still finding his feet at the Memorial Stadium, have just two recognised senior strikers in James Daly and summer recruit Jonah Ayunga going into the new season.
SALE OF CLARKE-HARRIS
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Jonson Clarke-Harris became Coventry City’s youngest-ever debutant, when he came on as a substitute against Morecambe in a League Cup tie (August 2010) at the age of 16 years and 21 days.
Now aged 26, Clarke-Harris didn’t really live up to his early promise until he started to score goals for fun, for Bristol Rovers, on his arrival during the January transfer window of 2019.
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He bagged 11 goals in 16 games during the second half of that 2018-19 season, and weighed in with 13 goals in 26 outings last term to make it an impressive 24 goals in 42 league appearances.
No wonder, then, that Peterborough United were prepared to pay in the region of £1.25million for Clarke-Harris last week.
A good deal for The Gas (a nickname from the gasworks next to Rovers’ former home at Eastville Stadium), perhaps, but it has left them with just two unproven front-men in Daly and Ayunga, the latter having played down in National League South last season.
Manager Garner insisted during today’s press conference: “We’re looking to strengthen the squad still, but I don’t think it (a new signing) will be a direct replacement (for Harris-Clarke) in a like-for-like.”
At least Rovers have been very busy in the transfer market over the last couple of months. Here’s a run-down of the major new arrivals:
1 Josh Grant: ex-Chelsea Academy player, who spent last season playing 30 games on loan at Plymouth Argyle, signed a three year deal. A 21-year-old defender-cum-midfielder, Grant helped the Pilgrims to the League Two title last term.
2 Jack Baldwin: A 27-year-old ex-Sunderland defender who enjoyed regular first-team action on loan at Football League new boys Salford City last season.
3 Max Ehmer: An experienced defender, who rattled up more than 200 appearances for Gillingham over the previous six years. The Gills had been keen to keep the 28-year-old, but Rovers swooped with a tempting two-year deal
4 Sam Nicholson: A Scottish-born winger who is back from America after a spell in the Major League Soccer set-up, most recently with Colorado Rapids. Formerly played for Hearts
5 Jonah Ayunga: This 23-year-old striker made a name for himself in the National League South last season, finishing a truncated campaign as the league’s joint top scorer with 17 goals (from 30 games) for Havant & Waterlooville
6 Zain Westbrooke: A midfielder snapped up for an undisclosed fee from Coventry City. The ex-Brentford youngster made 33 appearances in the Sky Blues’ League One title-winning campaign.
7 David Tutonda: A Zaire-born left-back, a product of the Cardiff City Academy, who spent more than two years at Barnet before being recently signed on a free by Rovers
Ben Garner had a testing start to life as Bristol Rovers boss, following his appointment just two days before Christmas in 2019.
In fact, to date the 40-year-old has only overseen two wins in his first 16 outings, with five draws and nine defeats.
A first victory did not arrive until the middle of February, with a 2-1 success over Blackpool, although the last match of last season did herald a fine 2-0 home win over Sunderland (March 10).
Garner’s earlier career in coaching saw him learn his trade at Crystal Palace (youth team coach and first team coach), West Brom (coach and assistant) and Indian Super League club ATK (assistant)
Nor surprisingly, given the club’s current lack of strikers, Garner has tended to operate with a lone striker system.
Garner seems to prefer a 3-4-2-1 formation, boosted by two marauding wing-backs. The team tends to pass from defence, rather than go long, with two lively attacking midfielders tucked in behind the centre forward.