A look back at results of our opening day fixtures this millennium doesn’t make for pretty reading; I make it four wins out of 21, with the last opening day victory coming against AFC Wimbledon back in 2011, the first game under new manager Paul Buckle.

One of the four wins referred to, though, came against Mansfield Town who we face next Saturday, 7th August and that game was also at Field Mill or whatever it’s now called.

Although manager Ian Atkins had taken charge of the final game of the previous season, against Hull City, he was hoping to lead Rovers to promotion in his first full season at the helm.

The summer had already proved to be a hectic one for Atkins and his team; he had completely revamped his squad, bringing in a number of new faces, and there had been a pre-season tour to the Isle of Man to take part in a week long, six team tournament with Carlisle United, Wrexham, Port Vale, Rushden & Diamonds and an island side. Rovers finished runners up, in case you’re interested!

The squad that Atkins had assembled for the start of his first season in charge bore little resemblance to the one that had completed the previous campaign and the new faces included Craig Hinton, Robbie Ryan, Paul Trollope, Steve Elliott, Stuart Campbell, James Hunt, Jamie Forrester, Craig Disley and Richard Walker.

On a sweltering hot summers day at Mansfield 17 years ago, the manager handed full debuts to six players, while two more made their first appearance for the club when going on as substitutes.

However, it was one of the old guard, in the shape of Junior Agogo, who caused the home side problems.

He opened the scoring on 31 minutes when he met Ali Gibb’s cross from the right and struck a smart volley past home goalkeeper Kevin Pilkington.

The same combination linked up again seven minutes into the second half with Agogo finishing from close range following another ball into the box by Gibb.



Commenting after the game, Atkins said; ‘I felt we always looked dangerous on the break and even though we allowed Mansfield a lot of possession in their own half, they didn’t do a lot with it and I think they ran out of ideas a bit.’

Rovers: Miller, Hinton, Edwards, Anderson, Ryan, Gibb, Hunt, Campbell (Elliott), Trollope, Forrester (Savage), Agogo (Walker).

Substitutes: Williams, Thorpe

For the record, the players making their Rovers league debuts that day were; Stuart Campbell, Steve Elliott, Jamie Forrester, Craig Hinton, James Hunt, Robbie Ryan, Paul Trollope and Richard Walker.

Let’s hope that, seventeen years on, we can repeat that scoreline and go on to enjoy a successful season.

Keith Brookman

(Photos courtesy of Jeff Davis)