By Keith Brookman
Having looked back at the month of April 2007, we have returned to the same year and the following month. We have also taken this lockdown opportunity to give you a bumper month, with a separate release for each of the four stunning wins in May 2007!
We hope that the memories contained in these articles will bring back many memories of an incredible month of May just 13 years ago. We also trust that you are all taking care of yourself, your loved ones, friends and those who may be in the vulnerable category as we wait for this awful virus to pass. Wherever you are, and whatever you do, please stay safe.
Rovers and Stockport County were both vying for the final play off spot and both were due to play their final league games in the north east, Rovers at Hartlepool and Stockport at Darlington. While Rovers went into the game unbeaten in seven games, Stockport had only won once in their last ten outings.
Defender Chris Carruthers said; ‘We are on a great run and confidence is high. Our fate is in our own hands and we want to finish things off ourselves rather than be looking at other results.’
His manager, Paul Trollope, said that he felt changes to the training regime implemented during the season had contributed to the club’s late push for a play off place; ‘We dropped off physically at the end of a long hard season last year and it cost us. This season we’ve looked at the way we train and, because of the number of games we’ve had, we’ve eased off a bit.
‘The players still work hard but we’ve taken care of them to ensure they still have energy in the games. Having the players during pre-season helped because the injury prevention techniques we put in place have had a chance to work. Muscle strains have been at a minimum this season and most of our main men are fit. That has been crucial to us.
‘We are happy with the shape we are in going into such an important game and it’s a credit to the players and all the hard work they have put in.’
The game at Hartlepool was to be Trollope’s 100th game in charge and by way of celebrating that fact he was named Manager of the Month for April after overseeing four wins and two draws.
On learning of the award, he said; ‘It’s a nice surprise. Although I’m the focal point, it’s also an award for Lennie (Lawrence, Director of Football), the staff and the players at the club because it has taken a huge effort by everyone over the last month to get to where we are now.’
Goalkeeper Steve Phillips was looking forward to the match, where he would come up against one of his former Bristol City managers in Danny Wilson, who was in charge at Hartlepool, and said; ‘I’ve made no secret of the fact that I have a lot of time for Danny and he is definitely the best manager I’ve ever worked under. He won’t be doing us any favours on Saturday, that’s for sure.’
Of the game against an already promoted Hartlepool side, the shot stopper said; ‘It’s the game of the season. We are in a brilliant position when you consider that a few months ago we were 16 points adrift of Stockport. Now we are one point ahead of them with one game to go. We’ve done tremendously well to turn things around after we had been written off.’
On the day of the game at Hartlepool’s Victoria Park it was announced that skipper Stuart Campbell would be signing a new two year deal with the club; ‘Talks have been going on for the last few weeks,’ said Campbell, who added; ‘It’s pretty much sorted and I’m just glad that it’s done and dusted and I expect to sign early next week.’
On to the game at Victoria Park, and what a 90 minutes it turned out to be. There were 960 Gasheads inside the ground, though it seemed a lot more than that, while many of those who couldn’t make the journey were watching (some 2,000 of them) a live tramsmission back at the Mem.
The only goal of the first half was scored by the home side’s Joel Porter just after the half hour mark. At that point Hartlepool were favourites to clinch the title while Rovers looked as though they would miss out on a play off place as Stockport were winning down the road at Darlington who were a man down following Evan Horwood’s early red card.
Stockport won 5-0 but, thanks to a huge second half effort, it was Rovers who made the play offs. Richard Walker’s 53rd minute penalty levelled the score and with four minutes of normal time remaining Ryan Green swung a cross in from the right and Rickie Lambert headed home the winner. Cue chaos amongst Rovers supporters and on the pitch celebrations and, fair play to Hartlepool. Denied the title as defeat left them a point behind Champions Walsall, they allowed Rovers to celebrate with their fans before setting off on their own lap of honour.
At least they didn’t have to go through the play offs. Rovers had to beat Lincoln City over two legs in the semi final in order to reach the Wembley final, though to be honest, confidence in that squad was unbelievable. Failure wasn’t an option for the management team or any of the players.
Trollope said; ‘Our aim at the start of the season was to gain promotion. Reaching the play offs is a step towards that, nothing more. We haven’t achieved anything yet and success will only come if we get into the next division, so we are determined not to fall short.’
Midfielder Craig Disley had this to say; ‘At half time it wasn’t looking good for us. We were a goal down to a team that had been at the top of the table for much of the season, so I think the second half performance from everyone was absolutely awesome. The fans drove us on as well and to get two goals and sneak into the play offs is an absolutely fantastic achievement by everyone.’
Goalscorer Rickie Lambert was almost overcome with emotion…almost! ‘Ryan Green put in a great cross and I managed to get on the end of it. I just couldn’t move after that, I had no energy whatsoever, but it was absolutely brilliant.
‘It’s probably the most important goal I’ve scored for the club, it even beats the one I scored against Bristol City, as good as that was. I’ve never been in the play offs, or anywhere near them before, so this means the world to me and to the other players as well.’
Find out what happens next on the 12th of May – see you soon…