Junior Daniel’s winner had dramatic consequences for Bristol Rovers on the last day of the season.
Vs Bristol Rovers
, W 1-0. Watch highlights by clicking here
After a long and sometimes gruelling campaign, our team travelled to Bristol Rovers on the final day of the season knowing that only a victory would secure a top half finish.
The hosts, meanwhile, still needed a point to be mathematically certain of maintaining their Football League status and a sell-out crowd flocked to the Memorial Stadium to witness the encounter.
A carnivalesque pre-match atmosphere only added to the occasion, and there was a deafening wall of noise when the teams emerged from the tunnel at 3.00pm.
Darrell Clarke’s team looked bright in the early exchanges as they seized to open the scoring and establish a lead, which would ease their nerves. Tom Parkes went close with a header, Matt Harrold flashed a low drive through the six-yard box and Chris Beardsley hooked a shot over the upright from close-range.
Rovers’ frustrations at their profligacy grew with each passing minute and their mood was worsened when Junior Daniel broke the deadlock in our favour with a delightful half-volley.
With other results going against them, Rovers were now firmly planted in the relegation mire and knew they had to equalise in order to prevent relegation to non-league.
The Pirates threw the kitchen sink at us after the re-start, but somehow squandered chance after chance as nerves intensified and precious minutes ebbed away.
Lewis Price denied David Clarkson with a spectacular one-handed save, before the same player somehow failed to hit the target with a glancing header from literally point-blank range. John-Joe O’Toole fired wide from distance, and the Memorial Stadium nearly erupted when Mark McChrystal saw a headed attempt cannon back off the upright.
Rovers continued to apply intense pressure and we endured another heart-in-mouth moment as O’Toole headed only an inch wide of the target. It was a truly nail-biting finale and with just five minutes remaining, Clarkson cut inside and saw a venomous drive crash against the woodwork as it became apparent that this was simply not going to be Rovers’ day.
Ultimately, we held on to record a gritty 1-0 victory, which ensured a top half finish in our first campaign back in Sky Bet League Two, whilst, by stark contrast, the Pirates were left staring at relegation to non-league.