January 2, 2018
Three short years ago Stuart Sinclair featured on the front page of the official Bristol Rovers match day programme. It was not a Football League programme, it was a non-League programme and the thought of that still hurts. We went into the festive period facing an away game at Torquay United on Boxing Day, a home return with our West Country rivals on New Years Day and in between a home game with second placed Macclesfield.
We went down to Torquay in good enough spirits; happy enough to be third placed in the table 9 points behind Barnet who led the way and two points behind Macca in second. Before us lay the task of overhauling the Cheshire club and chasing down our rivals from North London. It was a daunting task in many ways but not one that we thought impossible. Perhaps the hurt was driving us forward, driving us onwards and upwards.
There is no question that our supporters were playing their full part. No less than one thousand, one hundred and forty five travelling Gas made it to Plainmoor to make up an attendance figure of 3,755; a magnificent effort. We won the game 2.1 and the stage was set for the festive home game top of the table clash with Macclesfield. Six thousand nine hundred and forty three supporters understood the significance of the game in what turned out to be a dream result. The 4-0 victory moved us to a position where Barnet were just about in our sites and thoughts of an immediate return to The Football League was a realistic proposition.
Attendances were not faltering and 8206 were there for the New Year game 2015. Lee Mannsell stepped up to secure a point against his former club. Torquay were a determined side on the day and frustrated our progress just a touch. Little did Lee know what was ahead of him especially, the players, the manager and all of us on that fateful day at Wembley half a season later. That was the way we were and it was just three short years ago. It is worth us all remembering that as we look ahead to where we want to be.
For the record, as of 17th December, Barnet were 3rd bottom of League Two, Torquay were 3rd bottom of the National League and Macclesfield are still battling away and sat top of the non league pile.