Dramatic scoring spree earns promotion for Pirates

Dramatic scoring spree earns promotion for Pirates

One of the great things about football is its never-ending capacity to surprise as witnessed by Real Madrid's extraordinary injury-time comeback against Manchester City recently.

But it is not just at the top level you get such drama.

Take the events at Bristol Rovers' Memorial Stadium last Saturday which saw the home team clinch a most unlikely automatic promotion from League Two on the final day with an extraordinary 7-0 victory over relegated Scunthorpe.

The afternoon started with the Bristol club, nicknamed the Pirates, in fourth place and needing to match third-placed Northampton's result and win by another five goals or more than the Cobblers.

When Northampton took an early 3-0 lead at Barrow in a game which eventually finished 3-1, it didn't look good for the Pirates.

Playing against a young Scunthorpe side, which included seven teenagers, Rovers held a 2-0 lead at half-time, way short of their target.

But in the 53rd minute they scored their third after which the floodgates opened as they stormed their way to a 7-0 victory.

The seventh goal prompted an ill-advised celebratory ground invasion by home fans which could lead to disciplinary action.

However, order was eventually restored and the final five minutes were played without incident.

At the final whistle Northampton and Rovers had the same points and an identical goal difference of 22, but Rovers earned promotion thanks to having scored more goals (71-60 ) over the season.

Remarkably, the Pirates had not been in the top three all season, while Northampton will have to battle it out in the play-offs, facing Mansfield Town tonight.

It is unclear whether Northampton will file an official complaint concerning Scunthorpe's team selection. However, the FA will be looking at the pitch invasion.

Explaining his team's youthful selection, Scunthorpe manager Keith Hill said: "I wanted them to enjoy the experience of playing in front of a big crowd against a good side, but from a football point of view they were miles better than us."

It was a personal triumph for Rovers manager Joey Barton who has experienced plenty of controversy over the years and was not a popular choice when he joined the club in February 2021.

Barton said the extraordinary victory was one of the best moments of his career.

"I can't describe it," he said "There's been a lot of times I've been close to getting sacked."

However, Rovers owner Wael Al-Qadi, a Jordanian banker, told the Daily Mirror: "I stood by Joe because I know he is a born winner. I knew that he was desperate to succeed."

The Bristol side are known as the Pirates owing to city's sea-faring connections.

They are also called the Gas owing to the close proximity of the gasworks at their former Eastville Stadium where the smell would drift over the stadium.

Inevitably the supporters became known as "Gasheads" and their fanzine The Gashead.

Founded in 1883 by schoolteachers they were originally called the Black Arabs because of the black gowns they used to wear at the time.

Rovers became founder members of the old Third Division in 1920 by which time they were wearing their familiar blue and white quarters.

They remained in the same division for three decades before winning promotion to the old Second Division in 1953.

This turned out to be the club's most successful period, finishing sixth on two occasions.

The club finally left Eastville in 1989 and for 10 years had to play their "home" games at Bath City's Twerton Park, before moving to their present home.

After years of struggling, in 2013 they were eventually relegated to the Conference but have since battled their way back and spent one season in League One in 2016 but quickly returned to League Two.

The club made the news in somewhat quirky fashion in 1989 after they had lost 3-0 at home to Wigan Athletic.

It was a match marred by eccentric officiating and at the final whistle the tannoy announcer cheekily came out with "the referee is available for Christmas pantomime or cabaret."

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