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It Happened in October

By Keith Brookman

This month we go back just five years to see what was happening in BS7 in October 2015.

The first day of the month fell on a Thursday and, following a 3-0 win at Hartlepool two days earlier, Rovers were preparing for another long trip, to the Globe Arena, home of Morecambe.

The win in the north east had ended a five match winless run and manager Darrell Clarke was looking for another three points at Morecambe and said this before leaving for the Fylde coast; ‘We won a game at Hartlepool on Tuesday night playing in a certain way with certain players, but that game is gone now and we might need to do something different to win at Morecambe.

‘I’m not trying to be clever of over analysing things, but that is the way I manage. That’s the way I have always done it and it has been successful for me.’

One player not making the trip was Jamie Lucas, as he rejoined Boreham Wood on loan having scored twice in four games in an earlier loan spell there before picking up a hamstring injury.

Of the young striker Clarke said; ‘There is no doubt in my mind that he will get his chance here in the future but, for now, it is a good time for him to go back to Boreham Wood for a month because there are probably three strikers ahead of him in the pecking order.’

Another loan deal concluded before the trip up north was that of goalkeeper Kieran Preston, who joined Southern League Mangotsfield United for a month.

Skipper Mark McChrystal, who had made his first start of the season at Hartlepool said; ‘That was a good win for us, but we haven’t spent the last few days patting each other on the back.

‘We’ve moved on and we are already looking towards Saturday because our aim is to get another three points and try to get on a little run.’

The side did collect three more points, just edging out the home side in a seven goal thriller to make it a good week all round for the Gas.

Lee Mansell’s goal, his first of the season, gave Rovers the lead on 28 minutes when he got on the end of a Jake Gosling cross and rifled a shot past goalkeeper Barry Roche.

Lee Mansell goes for goal at Morecambe [Photo Credit – Neil Brookman]

Rovers’ custodian Lee Nicholls gifted Morecambe an equaliser a minute before half time when he dashed off his line in a vain attempt to reach Shaun Miller who had broken free on the right. The Morecambe man calmly lifted the ball over the keeper and into an empty net.

Billy Bodin made it 2-1 to the Gas two minutes into the second half. Roche beat away a Jermaine Easter shot but Bodin snapped up the rebound and fired a shot past the shot stopper.

On 59 minutes Matty Taylor steered home a low cross from Lee Brown to give Rovers a two goal cushion but, almost immediately, Tom Barkhuizen ran on to a long ball over the top and comfortably beat Nicholls.

Ellis Harrison converted an 80th minute penalty, awarded after Shaun Beeley handled in the area and Morecambe scored their third goal from the penalty spot with two minutes of normal time remaining.

Billy Bodin in action at Morecambe. [Photo Credit – Neil Brookman]

Ollie Clarke was ruled to have fouled Miller and Paul Mullin sent Nicholls the wrong way with his spot kick.

Afterwards manager Clarke said; ‘We deserved to win a thoroughly entertaining game, though I have to say it wasn’t great for the heart!

‘Two long away trips this week have yielded six points, which means I’m a happy man.’

Lee Mansell thought that the win proved the side’s top seven credentials, saying; ‘We are a good side. We weren’t getting too concerned when we lost a couple of games because it’s early in the season and there is still a long way to go.

‘Our main goal is to be in the top seven at the end of the season and we feel as though we are good enough to do that.’

Just a few days later defender Tom Lockyer was called into the Welsh U-21 squad for the first time and he and Ellis Harrison were preparing to travel to Denmark for a U-21 European Championship qualifier.

His club manager said; ‘He got the call on the bus when we were on our way home from Morecambe and the rest of the lads were delighted for him. I have been thinking for some time that there must be some really good defenders in that Wales U-21 side if Tom couldn’t get a look in.’

With Jake Gosling also going away on international duty, with Gibraltar, that took the number of absentees to three and so the Saturday home league game against Wycombe Wanderers was called off.

However, Wycombe did provide the opposition for Rovers’ next game, as they visited the Memorial Stadium on Tuesday 6th October for a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy match.

Without their three internationals, Rovers still won the tie 2-0. A crowd of 3,243 saw Matty Taylor open the scoring after only four minutes when he curled a shot high into the net after taking a pass from Chris Lines.

Jermaine Easter added a second goal on 12 minutes when he met a pass from Billy Bodin and fired a shot past goalkeeper Matt Ingram.

Jermaine Easter takes on two Wycombe defenders [Photo Credit – Neil Brookman]

Those two early goals sealed a passage through to the quarter finals of the competition and Easter said this after the game; ‘We have scored nine goals in our last three games and that has really lifted the confidence around the place.

‘It will stand us in good stead for the games we have coming up and we can go into them knowing that we have nothing to fear from any other team in this league.’

Danny Leadbitter, who made only his second start of the season against Wycombe after returning from injury, said; ‘I have only had three games in six weeks so it’s disappointing that there’s no game this weekend because I’d like to get going again sooner, rather than later.’

Striker Matty Taylor said he felt that Rovers were in some of their best form since he signed for the club; ‘We have been able to get the ball down and dominate long periods of the games and we’ve probably played some of the best football since I’ve been here.

‘We had to show a bit of character to go on and win after getting pegged back at Morecambe, so it has been good to show that we also have that side to our game. Our most recent aim was to beat one of the top sides and I think you can say we did that by seeing off Wycombe last Tuesday night.

‘I don’t think we fear anyone now and are going into every game confident in our ability to outscore teams.’

Manager Clarke wasn’t getting carried away, though, and said; ‘I haven’t got the biggest squad to work with, so what is important is that everyone here knows they will have a contribution to make at some point.

‘Some players are not at the levels they would like to be, or playing as well as I know they are capable of, but that happens, and form will return for them as it will dip for others as we go through the season.’

Meanwhile Tom Lockyer and Ellis Harrison featured for Wales U-21’s in their game against Denmark which ended in a goalless draw. The defender said; ‘It was a proud moment to pull the Wales shirt on before the game and when we were singing the national anthem, I had goosebumps.’

Tom Lockyer keeps his eye on the ball against Notts County [Photo Credit – Neil Brookman]

Back home, it was a big week for another central defender, Alfie Kilgour, who put pen to paper on his first pro contract with his manager saying; ‘Alfie deserves it for all the hard work he has put in on the training ground and in the games he has played at all levels. He has impressed me and the rest of my staff since he has been training with us and is someone we think has a bright future in the game.’

Next game up, on 17th October, was a trip to face Mansfield, Clarke’s home town and his former club and the club that unceremoniously dumped Rovers out of the Football league on the final day of the 2013/14 season.

His side went some way towards avenging that defeat with a 2-1 win which made it four consecutive league wins.

It was a bad tempered game, though, because in addition to the three goals there were also three red cards.

Jermaine Easter gave Rovers a 15th minute lead when Dan Leadbitter chested the ball down to him and he blasted the ball into the roof of the net from six yards out.

Jermaine Easter on the goal trail at Mansfield [Photo Credit – Neil Brookman]

On the stroke of half time, though, the goalscorer was red carded. He appeared to be brought down in the area by Krystian Pearce though referee Mark Haywood felt that he had dived and was about to show him a yellow card.

Then Jamie Maguire intervened and grabbed Easter’s shirt, prompting a reaction from the striker that Mr Heywood viewed as a statement of intent of a head butt and sent him off even though he made no contact with the Mansfield player.

Just after the hour Mark Pearce received his marching orders after fouling Tom Lockyer as they jostled for position whilst waiting for a corner to be taken.

Things got a little bit heated at Mansfield [Photo Credit – Neil Brookman]

The home side were then reduced to nine men as Nicky Hunt picked up a second yellow card on 77 minutes. Amazingly, though, Mansfield drew level on 81 minutes when Ryan Tafazolli beat goalkeeper Lee Nicholls from 20 yards.

That wasn’t the end of the drama, though, as eight minutes into stoppage time Matty Taylor headed home from a James Clarke cross to give Rovers all three points.

‘We were sloppy at times, but I have to give my players credit. I don’t want to appear too harsh, but it was the scruffy three points that I’m really pleased with!’ said Darrell Clarke, before adding; ‘It’s not always possible to come away from home and play free flowing football and today we simply kept going. When Mansfield did equalise there was a response from my players, which was key.’

Rovers appealed the red card shown to Easter, hoping that he would be available to face Notts County at the Memorial Stadium on the Tuesday following the game at Field Mill. The referee’s report had said that the striker head butted the Mansfield player, though manager Clarke disputed that after viewing video evidence.

Thankfully, the appeal was successful, and Easter took his place on the Rovers bench for the visit of Notts County and was sent on at the start of the second half.

Stuart Sinclair in a heading duel against Notts County. [Photo Credit – JMP]

It was a frustrating night all round, though, as the visitors defended stubbornly and took a point from a goalless draw.

Darrell said this afterwards; ‘County did what I think they wanted to achieve. They defended well and played the diamond well. They sat in and worked hard, and I think their manager will be quite chuffed with the response he got from his players.

‘For me that shows they gave our team a hell of a lot of respect and it shows how far we’ve come as a team in the last year or so.’

With his side sitting in 12th place in the league standings, the manager wasn’t ruling out making additions to his squad; ‘We are always looking to strengthen, but we have to strengthen in the right areas and that’s the key.

‘Although we might dip into the loan market, I don’t think that’s the answer. It’s more about experience and a bit of know how that we are after.’

The league’s bottom side, Newport County, were next up for Clarke’s side and one player was expecting a few jeers from County fans when the side took to the Memorial Stadium pitch for this one. Billy Bodin didn’t play for County, but his father Paul enjoyed two spells with the Welsh side.

Bodin junior said; ‘I got a few boos when I played at Newport, for Torquay, a few years ago. I don’t mind it, though, as it’s part of football.’

Billy Bodin in action against Newport County [Photo Credit – JMP]

It was a day to forget, though, as Newport ran out 4-1 winners in front of a crowd of 7,442.

A Tom Parkes own goal after 13 minutes gave the visitors the lead, but Billy Bodin fired in an equaliser just two minutes later.

With 52 minutes on the clock goalkeeper Lee Nicholls inexplicably dropped the ball at the feet of Zak Ansah who was left with a simple tap in to give his side the lead.

Five minutes later the same player took the ball past Parkes and beat Nicholls with a shot into the roof of the net and with 15 minutes remaining Tommy O’Sullivan beat the keeper with a right foot drive from the edge of the area.

‘There are some ears burning in the dressing room because that was not good enough. I apologise to our fans on behalf of myself and the players.’ Those were the words of an angry Rovers manager after the match.

Lee Mansell said; ‘Embarrassed is just one of the words that come to mind. I captained the team and I know we let down the manager and the fans. Things were very raw in the dressing room after the game. The gaffer was clearly not pleased, and neither were the players.

‘He reminded us that we have not won a league game at home since August and it is probably becoming a mental thing. Today we capitulated in the second half and conceded three bad goals.’

There was a quick chance to make amends for the defeat as Rovers were scheduled to head off to Cambridge United on the following Friday night and were determined to put the Newport defeat behind them.

Before that game the draw for the First Round of the FA Cup had given Rovers a home game against Southern League side Chesham United, whose striker was none other than former Rovers player Barry Hayles.

Ahead of the trip to Cambridge, midfielder Jake Gosling had this to say; ‘The goals we gave away against Newport were sloppy and the performance as a whole was not good enough on our part. The changing room wasn’t a nice place to be afterwards and there were a few harsh words exchanged.

‘Our away form has been good this season, so we can travel to Cambridge with nothing to fear.’

Jake Gosling in action at Cambridge [Photo Credit – Neil Brookman]

Meanwhile Rovers were being linked with 24 year old Dundalk striker Richie Towell and were planning to send Steve Yates over to run the rule over him.

At Cambridge Rovers came from behind to win 2-1 and in doing so equalled a 25 year old club record of winning four consecutive league away wins in the league.

Barry Corr opened the scoring after 33 minutes when he planted a firm header, from Harrison Dunk’s cross, beyond the reach of goalkeeper Lee Nicholls.

Home goalkeeper Chris Dunne parried a Matty Taylor shot into the path of Ellis Harrison on 66 minutes and the Rovers’ striker blasted the ball high into the roof of the net.

Ellis Harrison scores at Cambridge [Photo Credit – Neil Brookman]

Taylor won the game for Rovers seven minutes from time when he intercepted Greg Taylor’s underhit back pass and ran on before rounding Dunne and rolling the ball into an empty net.

Final words of the month go to manager Darrell Clarke, whose post match press conference was far more upbeat than his previous one!

‘I can’t tell you how proud I am of my players. They responded in exactly the right manner after last week’s home defeat. I think victory was testament to the work rate, effort and mental strength of my players who came in a goal down at half time.

‘They turned the game around and thoroughly deserved to win. The goal we conceded came from the one cross into our box we didn’t deal with, but that one aside, the players were magnificent.’

Gone for a Burton

By Keith Brookman

This really is a tale of two managers who wouldn’t see out the season, though we weren’t aware of it when Burton boss Paul Peschisolido locked horns with Rovers’ manager Paul Buckle at the Pirelli Stadium on 22nd October 2011.

Burton had moved to the ground in 2005, when they were still a non league club. The Brewers have only been a Football league Club since 2009 when they were promoted from what was then known as the Blue Square Conference.

Their new home hosted pre-season friendlies against Chester City and Hull City prior to the start of the 2005/06 campaign. The Chester game was lost 1-0 and they drew 2-2 against Hull City. The distinction of being the first Burton player to score a goal at the stadium went to former Rovers midfielder Kevin Street, who was on trial with the club at the time.

He scored the first of the two Burton goals in that game, but it doesn’t appear to have done him any good as he wasn’t offered a contract and certainly wasn’t around for the official opening of the ground in November 2005 with a game against Manchester United.

Rovers’ relegation at the end of the 2010/11 campaign meant that they would be facing Burton for the first time in the league, so it was an ideal opportunity for Rovers supporters to see their side against new opponents and, for those who were members of the 92 club, a chance to visit a new ground.

Whether or not their numbers were reflected in the away attendance of 704 (out of 3,094) I can’t be sure, but I think it’s certain that one or two members of that esteemed club ticked off another ground that afternoon.

The Pirelli Stadium [Photo Credit – Neil Brookman]

Buckle’s honeymoon period as Rovers manager was over and he was more than halfway towards the end of his short tenure as boss. Nevertheless, his side had registered their fifth league victory of the season in a 5-2 win against Rotherham United a week before they travelled to Burton.

Brewers boss Peschilolido, a Canadian international who had played for nine clubs, had seen his side lose 2-0 at home to Cheltenham Town eight days earlier.

Burton’s leading goalscorer at the time was former Rovers striker Justin Richards, who already had ten goals to his name in 14 games and there were one or two other familiar names in their squad, namely Darren Moore, the current Doncaster Rovers manager and Kevin Amankwaah better known for his time in the red half of Bristol and who was on loan from Swindon Town.

Richards missed out on a place in the Brewers’ squad, though, as he had suffered a back spasm following the Cheltenham defeat.

Rovers hadn’t won on their travels since the opening day of the season, so when Matt Harrold opened the scoring after only 14 minutes it seemed possible that another three away points were heading their way.

Matt Harrold heads for goal [Photo Credit – Neil Brookman]

Buckle’s side totally dominated proceedings early on and that wasn’t said too often during his time at the helm! However, the hosts equalised through Cleveland Taylor after 28 minutes and Billy Kee put them ahead eight minutes later and they went into the half time break 2-1 ahead.

Rovers enjoyed a good deal of second half possession but, for all their efforts, they seldom troubled goalkeeper Ross Atkins and returned home empty handed.

Burton boss Peschisolido rewarded his players with a few days off, while Buckle had to prepare his squad for a game against Port Vale at the Memorial Stadium the following Tuesday.

The Rovers’ manager said afterwards; ‘I’m still smiling, but we are all hurting because we felt today that after a good win at home against Rotherham we could kick on. It really looked as though we were going to do that and I think that there was only one team in control of the game for the first 20 minutes.’

The Burton boss sort of agreed, saying; ‘It was a fantastic finish for our first goal and it got us back in the game as we had been up against it. They say goals change games and after that we had a spell in the ascendancy and managed to get our second.

‘You have to give Bristol Rovers credit as they are a big, strong, side with attacking players who can cause you problems and we were up against it again in the second half but I thought our back five were fantastic and kept us in the game.’

Both managers were gone for a Burton before the season’s end; Buckle in January 2012, Peschisolido was relieved in March. Buckle later managed Luton Town and Cheltenham Town (the latter for just 79 days!) while Peschisolido hasn’t managed in the EFL since.

Paul Buckle and Paul Peshisolido [Photo Credit – Neil Brookman]

While the Brewers have been to the Championship and back, and Rovers have travelled the other way, to the Conference and back, the clubs will, Coronavirus permitting, be playing each other at the Pirelli Stadium again this season.

This is how the sides lined up nine years ago.

Burton: Atkins, Amankwaah, James, Austin, Webster, Taylor (Maghoma, 66), Bolder, McGrath, Phillips, Zola, Kee (Palmer, 87). Subs: Poole, Corbett, Yussuf

Rovers: Bevan, Woodards, Bolger, Sawyer, Brown, Campbell (Norburn, 63), Gill (Zebroski, 90), Stanley, Rendell, McGleish (Anyinsah, 71) Harrold. Subs: Carayol, Anthony

Tom makes the blue & white quarters his own (and also ours…)

By Keith Brookman

One of the Bristol Rovers Former Players Association (BRFPA) committee members is none other than Gas legend David ‘Boris’ Mehew, so it was a pleasure to see his son, Tom, make a goalscoring debut for the club in his first senior appearance.

That was, of course, against Walsall in the EFL Trophy tie at the Memorial Stadium on 8th September. He followed that up with another appearance, and another goal, in the same competition against Oxford United on 6th October.

Tom Mehew on his debut against Walsall. [Photo Credit – JMP UK]

The BRFPA decided that sponsoring the shirt of a member of the current squad would enable us to help the football club, financially, in this difficult time and so the logical choice was Tom and we are sponsoring his away kit for the current season.

It’s not a huge amount of money and we would like to do more but, unfortunately, the Coronavirus pandemic has curtailed all of our fundraising activities for the time being.

Tom’s debut goal was a cracker and the pity is that there were no fans in the ground to see it. At least ‘Boris’ was able to follow the game on ifollow and he was in his favourite armchair again for the Oxford match. Needless to say he’s one proud Dad!

Walsall now figure quite prominently in the Mehew family football history as it was against the Saddlers that ‘Boris’ made his first league start for Rovers, on the opening day of the 1985/86 season at Fellows Park, having made four appearances from the bench during the previous campaign.

A young ‘Boris’ Mehew pictured in the summer of 1986. [Photo Credit – Alan Marshall]

Rovers won 3-0 that day, with Trevor Morgan scoring twice and Kenny Hibbitt also on the scoresheet. Young ‘Boris’ collected a first half booking, but according to press reports, played well; ‘Bobby Gould’s cut price team of teenagers and free transfer signings silenced their critics with a stunning start to the season. Up front Mehew and Morgan were unselfish workers who never gave the Walsall defence a moment’s rest.’

Rovers lined up that day as follows; Carter, Scales, Smalley, Jones, Tanner, Alexander, Penrice, Hibbitt, Micallef, Morgan, Mehew.

Substitute: Smart.

His Rovers career took in 222 league games and 63 goals, and he was a key member of the 1989/90 promotion winning side that also appeared at Wembley in the Leyland DAF Final.

David Mehew [Photo Credit – Alan Marshall]

He wasn’t done with Walsall, though, as he was persuaded to join them in the summer of 1994 by his former Rovers team mate Kenny Hibbitt, by then in charge of the club.

Within weeks of signing ‘Boris,’ Hibbitt was then sacked! We’re not sure if that was a case of cause and effect though?

Then a combination of injuries and illness restricted Mehew’s league appearances to just 13 in his one season in the Midlands, though Walsall finished in second place in the Third Division that season and were promoted, so somewhere among the Mehew memorabilia lies another medal to go with those from 1990 with the Gas!

As for Tom, he was also booked on his Rovers senior debut; his yellow card arrived on the hour mark. By then he had already scored his first goal for the club, though; ‘The ball was laid off by Ayunga to Mehew and he took aim from 25 yards before firing a shot into the top corner of the net.’

The goal was timed at 16 minutes, while his strike against Oxford on his next start was arrived after only 12 minutes.

Rovers drew both of the games Tom appeared in (2-2 against Walsall and 1-1 against Oxford) but went on to lose both in the subsequent penalty shootouts.

This was the lineup for Tom’s first senior appearance; Van Stappershoef, Kilgour, Kelly, Hargreaves (Daly, 70), Ayunga, Hare, Mehew (Grant, 83), Tutonda, Harries, Baldwin, Walker (Mitchell-Lawson, 70).

Substitutes: Alexis Andre Jnr, Little, Martinez, Heal.

In his interview after the Oxford game Tom let slip that ‘Boris’ always gets the DVD’s of his Rovers games out for family viewing at Christmas. Perhaps this year it will be his turn to show the family highlights of his games!

Tom Mehew pictured after the game against Oxford. [Photo Credit – Keith Brookman]

To the best of my knowledge, the Mehew’s are only the second father/son combination to appear in a senior competitive game for Rovers, following in the footsteps of Ray and Gary Mabbutt.

There have been others who have come close and I recall the sons of Phil Kite, Dave Palmer and Phil Bater all appearing in reserve team games, but not a first team match.

Just as there were three Mabbutt’s, father Ray and sons Gary and Kevin, involved in the game there are also three Mehew’s.

Olly, Tom’s older brother, started out in the Rovers Academy before being offered a scholarship with Blackburn Rovers. He later returned to the Gas and is now back playing for Yate Town, the club he left for Bristol Manor Farm last season.

The BRFPA will be following Tom’s career very closely and we wish him every success as he attempts to become a regular first team player for the Gas.

One thing I did learn recently was that I’ve been pronouncing the family surname wrong for something like 30 years. Apparently it really is Meehew, not Mayhew; I’ll get it right the next time Tom makes a first team appearance!