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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!

It Happened in September

By Keith Brookman

It’s probably fair to say that the 2012/13 season was endured rather than enjoyed, but sometimes you have to remember the bad times in order to enjoy the good times, so here we go with a look back to September 2012 to see what was happening in BS7.

The month didn’t start well as, on the first day of the new month Rovers were beaten 3-0 by Morecambe at the Memorial Stadium.

A crowd of 5,207, with just 47 travelling down from the Fylde coast, saw Gary McDonald, Nick Fenton and Kevin Ellison all score in the second half.

Matt Lund in the thick of the action against Morecambe [Photo Credit – Neil Brookman]

Manager Mark McGhee wasn’t happy with his side’s performance and refused to let his players leave the ground until they had watched the second half on DVD. He said; ‘I have never done it before in my managerial career, but I don’t want them to go home without seeing what went wrong and taking responsibility for it.’

There was an early opportunity for them to bounce back from that defeat, as on the following Tuesday they entertained Yeovil Town in the first round of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

The manager said; ‘We can’t mess about and think that we can beat Yeovil with a second string team. I watched them against West Brom last week and they were fantastic. They have a bit of everything about them and I’m not surprised they have started the season so well.’

Just 2,810 fans were inside the Mem for this one and once again they saw Rovers ship three goals without scoring themselves. Ed Upson, now a Rovers player of course, scored twice from free kicks that night and Sam Foley scored their other goal.

Ed Upson, who scored twice for Yeovil, challenges Wayne Brown [Photo Credit – Neil Brookman]

The Glovers ended the game with ten men after seeing Jamie McAllister sent off on 77 minutes with the score at 1-0, and former Rovers player Dominic Blizzard was in the Yeovil side that night.

In spite of the defeat, McGhee had this to say afterwards; ‘It was 100% better than the performance we put in on Saturday. The whole tempo and determination were first class and we will win football matches if we continue to go out on the field with that attitude.

‘I’m really gutted for the players because it such a scandalous scoreline. We passed the ball brilliantly and their commitment couldn’t be questioned. Their lad scored two fantastic free kicks and you just can’t legislate against that.’

Speaking a day later skipper Matt Gill admitted that the second half display against Morecambe had left him feeling embarrassed though said he felt that there were positives to take from the game against Yeovil; ‘We needed to offer some sort of response to what happened on Saturday and although we might not have got the result we wanted against Yeovil it was important that we reacted in a positive way after what was a very bad defeat.’

Next up was another home game, against Aldershot and striker David Clarkson had this to say ahead of that match; ‘It hasn’t been the start that any of us wanted and I’m not sure why that is. The only thing we can do now is focus on the positives. We are only a few games into the season, and I don’t think there is any reason for anyone to panic.’

Rovers collected just a point from their visitors from Hampshire, playing out a 2-2 draw in front of a crowd of 5,117 though they left it late to claim a point, as Fabian Broghammer’s equaliser was timed at 90 minutes.

David Clarkson had scored his first goal in a Rovers shirt in the 11th minute, but Craig Reid equalised for the Shots just four minutes later and Alex Rodman, another player who is now turning out for us, put his side ahead after 57 minutes.

Alex Rodman (then an Aldershot player) is being challenged by Eliot Richards [Photo Credit – Neil Brookman]

McGhee felt that it was a point gained for his side; ‘It was important that we didn’t lose another home game. What we have also done is to score two goals in front of our own supporters for the first time this season. That was important, because we’ve proved to ourselves that we can get goals.

‘In the end, it was a point gained. At this stage, the way things are for us, any point is a point gained.’

Broghammer, whose goal was his first for the club, said; ‘I started well when I came on trial in the summer. I needed a bit of time to acclimatise to my new surroundings after that, but I feel I’m starting to get into it now and I’m really enjoying it.’

Manager McGhee, meanwhile, was concerned about the fitness of central defender Garry Kenneth and revealed that he was putting him on an intensive exercise regime. Kenneth had not, at that point, started a competitive match for the club after limping out of the warm up prior to the game against Barnet on 21st August.

McGhee said; ‘I still worry about Garry’s general fitness and his weight. He’s a boy who works so hard in the gym and on the training ground, but I don’t see him reducing his weight or increasing his fitness as quickly as I would like.’

There was bad news for another Rovers central defender as it was revealed that on loan Leicester player Cian Bolger would be missing for three months after sustaining a posterior cruciate ligament injury in the game against Aldershot.

Cian Bolger was stretchered off during the Aldershot game [Photo Credit – Neil Brookman]

Striker Matt Harrold, meanwhile, spoke about the fact that the club had only picked up one point from a possible nine in their three home games to date; ‘It’s a difficult one to explain. We were very solid at home towards the end of last season and we’ve come back struggling to perform in front of our fans.

‘It’s not a great feeling. There is that added bit of pressure on us because we haven’t started great and we haven’t got as many points as we would have liked.’

Rovers’ next game was a trip to Kent to face league leaders Gillingham at the Priestfield Stadium and Sam Walker, who had yet to keep a clean sheet, was hoping that the club could pull off a surprise win; ‘I’ve come off after every game and felt that I haven’t really had to make many saves. The goals have been flying in all over the place and that has been frustrating for me. Goalkeepers do everything we can to stop the ball going in the net, but there are times when you are beaten by a goal you can’t do much about.

‘What you have to be as a goalkeeper is mentally strong and you have to forget about the ones that have gone in and just focus on keeping them out in the next game.’

Unfortunately, though, the goals continued to fly past him at Gillingham. Four of them to be exact, and Rovers failed to find the net at the other end.

Physio Phil Kite signals to the bench at Gillingham that Matt Harold is unable to continue… [Photo Credit – Neil Brookman]

The rot set in as early as the fifth minute when Danny Kedwell scored from the penalty spot after a clumsy challenge on him by Tom Parkes. The same player added a second with 15 minutes on the clock and it was virtually all over by half time as Charlie Lee scored a third on 45 minutes. Chris Whelpdale completed the scoring with eight minutes of the game remaining.

Former Rovers skipper Adam Barrett was in the Gillingham side that afternoon.

‘We are giving away too many soft goals,’ said McGhee afterwards, before adding; ‘but you have to remember that we brought in Cian Bolger and Garry Kenneth for that very reason and we need one of those two back quickly.’

Matt Harrold was injured in the Gillingham game and a subsequent scan revealed that he had sustained a knee ligament injury; ‘We are looking at being without him for quite a lengthy spell,’ said McGhee, ‘and it’s a terrible blow, both for him personally and for us as a club.’

…Matt was a spectator for the rest of the match and faced a lengthy lay off [Photo Credit – Neil Brookman]

A Tuesday night trip to Home Park, Plymouth, was next up for McGhee’s side and the manager gave Garry Kenneth his league debut, in spite of questioning his fitness only a week earlier.

The gamble, if it was one, paid off as Rovers hit back from being a goal down to equalise through Tom Parkes (his first goal for the club) and claim a point from a 1-1 draw.

That made it six games without a win and McGhee was expected to dip into the loan market to strengthen his squad; ‘We were disappointed to miss out on the striker we tried to get in over the weekend, but it just wasn’t possible to do the deal and now we move on to other targets. The injury to Matt Harrold has forced our hand in terms of adding to our squad and that is my first priority at the moment,’ said the manager.

Tom Parkes celebrates his goal at Plymouth [Photo Credit – Neil Brookman]

Nineteen year old Tom Parkes had this to say; ‘I enjoyed scoring that goal. I struck it sweetly and it was all the more pleasing as it was the equalising goal for us.

‘It was certainly a good point to pick up after the disappointment of losing heavily at Gillingham last Saturday.’

Ahead of the game against Fleetwood Town at the Memorial Stadium, manager Mark McGhee signed Fulham goalkeeper Neil Etheridge in a one month loan deal. The 22 year old shot stopper had, at that point in his career, made 37 international appearances for the Philippines.

Sam Walker, signed ahead of the first game of the season, was to return to Chelsea, though he was on the bench for the remaining two games of the month.

It was Fleetwood’s first season as a league club, but they had some experienced players in their side, none more so that striker Jon Parkin and Rovers defender Garry Kenneth was looking forward to the challenge of marking him; ‘I don’t mind playing up against a big lad,’ said Kenneth, who was not exactly small in stature himself!

‘I enjoy that sort of physical battle and the likelihood is that you don’t have to worry about them running in behind. I don’t know that much about Fleetwood, but their results so far suggest that it is going to be a tough game.’

The game saw Rovers extend their run without a win to seven with a goalless draw against their visitors. So, it was a clean sheet on his debut for goalkeeper Neil Etheridge and there was no goal for Fleetwood’s Jon Parkin.

Goalkeeper Neil Etheridge made his debut against Fleetwood and is seen here being congratulated by manager Mark McGhee after keeping a clean sheet. Garry Kenneth looks on. [Photo Credit – Neil Brookman]

McGhee said, after the game; ‘I’m disappointed not to have won the game because we did enough to take all three points. David Clarkson is the first to admit he should have scored in the second half and I thought Joe Anyinsah might have done better with one of his chances.

‘I was pleased with the performance, but we need to start picking up wins. I am looking to go into the loan market for a couple of strikers.’

Defender Lee Brown felt there were positives to take from the performance; ‘There are a lot of positive signs at the minute. We had chances to win at Plymouth and against Fleetwood, so we are a little disappointed to only get two points from those games.

‘I think it’s good to be disappointed because it shows that we have a belief in ourselves to win games. It was a good confidence boost to keep a clean sheet and if we can add a few goals to our game, then I think we can really kick on from there.’

Midfielder Ollie Norburn, meanwhile, was hoping he had done enough to warrant a run in the side; ‘I am happy to be starting now and I just want to keep my place in the team and, hopefully, kick on with more good performances.

‘It is a team game and I believed I would get my chance. When I got that chance, I thought I would be able to take it and hopefully I am doing that. There are a number pf good midfield players here and I believe that whoever does play will perform, Competition for places is healthy and I am just happy that it’s me in the side at the moment.’

Two days before the final game of the month striker Matt Harrold spoke of the devastating blow of having his season cut short by a long term knee injury; ‘When I first found out the injury was going to keep me put for a while, I probably cried more in an hour than I have in my whole life. I quickly pulled myself together because you soon realise that these things happen in football and you have to get over it and move on. I didn’t think I’d injured myself at all. My knee went from under me when I slid for a ball down by the corner, but it didn’t feel too bad at first. There was a bit of initial pain, but I thought I could run it off.

‘When I returned to the pitch, and went for a header, I felt a bit of a click and a pop in my knee. I knew something was up and the worst was confirmed after some tests. I suppose I am looking at a period of six to nine months out, which is a long time, but when your career is at stake you can’t afford to cut corners.’

Ahead of the game at Exeter City on 29th September, the manager’s promise of two new strikers materialised. Bolton Wanderers striker Tom Eaves agreed to a 93 day emergency loan, while Scottish striker Derek Riordan was offered a short term deal until Christmas.

‘I’m hoping that the arrival of Tom and Derek will fire up the likes of Eliot Richards, Joe Anyinsah and David Clarkson,’ said manager Mark McGhee.

On his Rovers debut Tom Eaves was closely marked by former Rovers defender Danny Coles [Photo Credit – Neil Brookman]

Twenty year old Eaves had yet to start a league game, though he had made 15 appearances from Oldham’s bench the previous season. As for Riordan, who had won three Scottish international caps, McGhee said; ‘He’s a bit of an enigma and some supporters will wonder about him because he is not the most industrious of players.

‘When it comes to creativity, however, he can be brilliant. He has great feet and offers us fantastic shooting, passing and crossing ability.’

It was also revealed that the striker was expected to stand trial after appearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court to face charges of breach of the police and using anti-homophobic sexual language to door staff at a nightclub in the Scottish capital.

Eaves and Riordan were both handed their debuts in the game at Exeter and Rovers recorded their first win of the season, beating the Grecians 2-1 thanks to goals from David Clarkson and Eliot Richards. Former Rovers striker Jamie Cureton scored the Exeter goal.

There were three more former Gas players in the Exeter squad; Danny Coles and Pat Baldwin were in the starting lineup and goalkeeper Rhys Evans was on the bench.

McGhee claimed a little bit of credit for the goal scored by Richards, which proved to be the winner; ‘I had a chat with Eliot during the week and sometimes he has a vacant look on his face. But he reacted in the best possible way, working hard for the team and getting the winning goal.’

So, victory was achieved, for the first time, in the eighth game of the season but it wasn’t really a platform for greater success. McGhee remained in post until 15th December before he was dismissed in a phone call after his side had lost 4-1 at York City.

Tractors, Pirates and Deja Vu

By Keith Brookman

Rovers will face Ipswich Town in the Carabao Cup for only the second time in their history and, just as was the case when the clubs first met in the competition back in 2012, the game will also be played before the start of the League campaign.

Back in 2012 it was known as the Capital One Cup when Rovers travelled to Portman Road.

TUESDAY 14th AUGUST 2012

IPSWICH TOWN 3 BRISTOL ROVERS 1
Scotland (40), Smith (56), Cresswell (84) / Smith (27)
Attendance: 8,645 Referee: F Graham

Mark McGhee was in charge of the Gas, while Paul Jewell was the manager at Ipswich, the club where Rovers’ then assistant manager Marcus Stewart was held in high regard.

Rovers were struggling with a bit of a goalkeeping crisis at the time and the day before the tie as first choice shot stopper Scott Bevan was injured and Iain Turner had decided against joining the club. Still, McGhee was confident of signing former Nottingham Forest keeper Paul Smith as cover.

Overnight, though, Rovers failed to agree terms with Smith and after a number of phone calls McGhee finally managed to agree to the signing of Chelsea keeper Sam Walker. The team set off on the morning of the match to their hotel, while I travelled with McGhee, in his car, to collect Walker on the way.

Goalkeeper Sam Walker who faced Ipswich in the competition for the second successive season [Photo Credit – Jeff Davis]

Talk about shady dealings; we collected the goalkeeper from outside a pub/club/hotel somewhere off the M25 – Brentwood, I think it was, and drove on to meet the squad at the hotel.

Introductions were made and Walker, along with every other member of the travelling party, jumped on the coach for the journey to Portman Road where Rovers made a spirited exit from the competition, losing 3-1 after Michael Smith’s first goal for the club had given them a 27th minute lead.

Walker had an excellent debut, though, counting a penalty save amongst many that he made that evening.

Jason Scotland, Tommy Smith and Aaron Cresswell scored for the Championship side and although they did most of the early running it was Rovers who took the lead when Rovers defender Smith cut in from the right touchline and unleashed a looping left foot shot from 25 yards that beat Scott Loach in the Ipswich goal.

Michael Smith celebrates. [Photo Credit – Jeff Davis]

The goal knocked confidence in the Ipswich ranks for a while, but when they did hit back Walker made two smart saves from Chopra. They eventually made the breakthrough five minutes before the interval when Scotland bore down on goal and slid the ball wide of Walker’s outstretched arms.

Ipswich were awarded a penalty on 54 minutes when Luke Hyam went down under an Adam Virgo challenge in the area. Walker, though, palmed Chopra’s spot kick behind for a corner but from that set play Jimmy Smith powered a header past the Rovers’ keeper.

As Ipswich went in search of further goals Emmanuel Thomas fired over the bar and Chopra hit a couple of efforts wide of the mark and it was left to Cresswell to clinch victory for the Tractor Boys when he headed home, six minutes from time, after Walker had palmed away another Emmanuel-Thomas effort.

Michael Smith said afterwards; ‘I’m really looking forward to this season. When I first came, I didn’t really know what to expect, but I feel that I have made massive improvements in certain areas of my game.

‘I didn’t play much under Paul Buckle; he wasn’t having me, but the new gaffer has given me a new lease of life. He likes the way I play and that has given me a lot of confidence.’

As for his goal, he said; ‘It was definitely a shot and it was certainly the best goal I’ve ever scored. I really enjoyed the moment, but I don’t really know where it came from. Some of the boys have been giving me stick, because they reckon I meant it as a cross.’

As well as Walker, David Clarkson also made his senior Rovers debut in this game but Fabian Broghammer, who travelled with the squad, was unable to play because the club hadn’t received the necessary international clearance.

David Clarkson in action on his first team debut [Photo Credit – Jeff Davis]

Walker was playing against Ipswich in the competition for the second year running, having been in the Northampton side that beat them the previous season.

Matt Gill, who started in Rovers midfield that evening, is now assistant manager at Portman Road. Former Rovers striker Nathan Ellington was on the Ipswich bench.

This is how the two sides lined up.

Bristol Rovers: Walker, Smith, Virgo, Paterson, Brown (L), Brown (W), Gill (Lund, 60), Norburn (Clucas, 63), Anyinsah (Clarke, 80), Clarkson, Harrold.
Substitutes: Harding, Gough, Staley

Ipswich Town: Loach, Cresswell, Chambers, Edwards, Emmanuel-Thomas, Chopra, Martin (Burke, 89), Scotland (Stevenson, 89), Luongo, Hyam, Smith. Substitutes: Lee-Barrett, Ellington, Ainsley, Wright, Lawrence