The second coming of Gerry Francis as manager couldn’t have got off to a better start.
Fireworks greeted the team as they ran out at the Memorial Stadium for their first home game and a crowd of 10,127 saw Steve Foster’s goal give the side a 1-0 win in that game, against Torquay United, while Ross Weare’s only ever league goal helped them to a 2-1 win at Scunthorpe one week later.
There was a single goal win against Wycombe Wanderers in the First Round of the Worthington Cup and, after victory by the same score in the league game against Luton on 25th August 2001, Rovers were top of the Third Division table with a 100% record after three games.
It didn’t last and by the time Birmingham City visited the Mem for a Second Round Worthington Cup Tie on 11th September, the side had slipped to tenth place in the league.
That date, of course, is remembered for events that were happening in New York and Washington, and not for a football match in Bristol.
All day long horrific footage of the terrorist atrocities in America had unfolded on our television screens but those images had to be put to the back of the mind once the game kicked off.
The sides had already met in a pre-season friendly at the Mem in July, when Rovers were 2-1 winners. On this occasion, though, the First Division outfit were far too strong for Rovers and recorded a convincing victory to ease through to the Third Round of the competition by virtue of a 3-0 win.
Andrew Johnson opened the scoring for the visitors just before half time when he met Martin Grainger’s free kick and headed past Scott Howie.
The second goal arrived just after the hour mark when Michael Johnson applied the finishing touch from close range after Nicky Eaden had threaded the ball through a ruck of players.
Birmingham wrapped things up in the 68th minute when Danny Sonner picked out Bryan Hughes who beat Howie from 15 yards.
Although they registered nine off target attempts in the 90 minutes, Rovers only managed two on target, one of which was a header from Weare which was well saved by Kevin Poole. The other, a weak header from Andy Thomson, caused the goalkeeper no problems at all.
Jerry Gill who would later join the staff at Rovers during Paul Trollope’s time in charge, and who is the current Bath City manager, was in the Birmingham side that night.
Rovers: Scott Howie, Che Wilson, Mark Foran, Steve Foster, Andy Thomson, Scott Jones, Kevin Gall, Ronnie Mauge, David Hillier (Elvis Hammond), Natahn Ellington, Ross Weare (Martin Cameron)
Substitutes: Mike Trought, Lewis Hogg, Ryan Clarke
Birmingham City: Kevin Poole, Jerry Gill, Joey Hutchinson, Michael Johnson (Paul Furlong), Martin Grainger, Nicky Eaden, Danny Sonner, Bryan Hughes (David Burrows), Curtis Woodhouse, Geoff Horsfield (Marcello), Andrew Johnson.
On a night when football was completely overshadowed by the day’s events across the Atlantic, Rovers manager Gerry Francis and skipper Andy Thomson commented on the terrorist attacks after the game.
Francis said; ‘It was a very strange feeling having to play a football match just a few hours after witnessing the atrocities in New York and Washington, and what happened in the USA certainly puts a few things into perspective.’
Thomson added; ‘I first heard the news on the car radio, put the TV on as soon as I reached home and sat glued to the screen in front of the live coverage, barely able to believe what I was seeing. It was like something out of a movie and it seemed quite unimaginable that it was actually happening in real life.
‘It certainly made it very difficult to get back in the car and go and get ready to play a game a few hours later, although we knew we had a job to do.’