Thirty Years On – August 1989

By Keith Brookman

During this season we are going on a journey back in time, thirty years back in time to be precise, to a season that ended in a historic Championship and Rovers’ first ever trip to Wembley!

Part 2 – The Beginning  [August]

The new season kicked off on 19th August with a 1-0 home win against Brentford, achieved courtesy of David Mehew.  The Twerton Park crowd was 5,835 and Ian Alexander was named as Man of the Match in the local newspaper.

Programme Cover from Rovers first game of the 1989-90 season

It was a big day for 21 year old Ian Willmott, who was handed his Rovers debut and claimed an assist for the goal.

The following week it was announced that skipper Vaughan Jones had been granted a testimonial season in 1989/90 and that Rovers had turned down two bids from Wimbledon for Gary Penrice.  It was also reported that Rovers were unable to sign former West Brom, Newcastle, Oxford and Birmingham defender John Trewick because they couldn’t afford his wages.

Ian Willmott - made his debut against Brentford - no photo credit
Ian Willmott, who made his debut on the opening day of the season, against Brentford

In demand striker Penrice continued to impress as Rovers managed another 1-0 win just days after their league opener against Brentford. The striker scored a vital goal against Second Division Portsmouth in the first round first leg Littlewoods Cup tie at Twerton Park.

Next up in the league was an away trip to face Mansfield Town at Field Mill and Rovers recorded a third 1-0 win in a week and once again David Mehew was the man to score the vital goal, striking in the second minute of the second half.

The fourth game of the fledgling season saw Rovers take on Portsmouth at Fratton Park, in the second leg of their Littlewoods Cup tie looking to progress to the second round of the competition for the first time in four years.

They didn’t manage it, losing 2-0 against their Second Division opponents to go out 2-1 on aggregate. The turning point, as far as Rovers were concerned, came in the 37th minute of the game when Kevin Ball’s crunching tackle on Gary Penrice saw him taken to hospital.

It was a challenge that left Gerry Francis fuming; ‘The referee took a very lenient view. It was a bad tackle and possibly cost us the game because we had matters under control.’

Bristol Rovers 1989-90 squad
Bristol Rovers 1989-90 squad

August Teams

vs Brentford – 19th August 1989
Starting Line-up: Martyn, Alexander, Twentyman, Yates, Jones, Mehew, Holloway, Reece, Willmott, White, Penrice.
Substitutes: McClean, Cawley.

vs Portsmouth – 23rd August 1989
Starting Line-up: Martyn, Alexander, Twentyman, Yates, Jones, Mehew, Holloway, Reece, Willmott, White, Penrice.
Substitutes: Hazel, Cawley.

vs Mansfield Town – 26th August 1989
Starting Line-up: Martyn, Alexander, Twentyman, Yates, Jones, Mehew, Holloway, Reece, Willmott (Cawley, 86), White, Penrice.
Substitute: Hazel.

vs Portsmouth – 29th August 1989
Starting Line-up: Martyn, Alexander, Twentyman, Yates, Jones, Mehew, Holloway, Reece, Willmott, White, Penrice (McClean, 41).
Substitute: Cawley.