Promotion Seven

Jun 28, 2022 | News

Just to confirm that seven is, indeed a lucky number, Rovers’ latest promotion was also achieved on the seventh day of the month when they were 7-0 winners against Scunthorpe United.

There had been many changes since Darrell Clarke’s 2015/16 side had gone from league Two to League One. On the managerial front Clarke had departed, to be replaced by Graham Coughlan who walked out to join Mansfield following an excellent win at Ipswich Town in December 2019.

Joe Dunne had taken charge of one game after Coughlan had left, before leaving to link up with his former boss at Field Mill. Ben Garner came in for his first managerial role, apparently with a brief to develop younger players and sell them on at a profit to make the club more sustainable, I think! The experiment, for that is what it was, didn’t work out and Garner was eventually replaced by Paul Tisdale whose job was to steady the ship. It didn’t work out, though, and when he left in came Joe Barton.

Head of Recruitment Tommy Widdrington took charge of one match as caretaker prior to the appointment of Tisdale and two more following Tisdale’s departure and Barton’s appointment.

With no transfer window to improve his squad, Barton looked on as the players struggled on the pitch, criticised many of them publicly and saw them relegated without so much as a whimper.

Barton was ruthless in the summer of 2021, though, as he attempted to rebuild a squad capable of returning to League One at the first attempt. No fewer than 19 players who had appeared in the league for the club were released, two more were shipped out on loan and a raft of new faces arrived in BS7 charged with mounting a promotion challenge.

The season didn’t get off to the best of starts, though, with a 2-1 defeat against Mansfield Town at Field Mill made worse by the red card picked up by skipper Paul Coutts on his debut for the club.

A few weeks later, following a 4-1 mauling by Exeter City at St James’ Park, the manager stated that he thought his side were capable of gaining promotion. Not too many people believed that possible having witnessed just one win from the opening five games and a mauling by the side that was also promoted at the end of the season, by virtue of finishing runners up to champions Forest Green Rovers.

Rovers didn’t play a game between December 11th 2021 and January 8th 2022 due to Covid outbreaks either in their camp or that of their opponents.

The break appeared to do them some good, though, as there were only three league defeats between then and the final day of the season, against Oldham Athletic, Newport County and Carlisle United.

We reached the final day of the campaign following a dramatic 4-3 win against Rochdale (seven goals again!) in the penultimate game, which left Rovers on level on points (77 would you believe!) with third placed Northampton Town but with an inferior goal difference.

Should Rovers and Northampton fail to win, then Mansfield Town, Port Vale or Swindon Town could snatch the final automatic promotion place, whilst Sutton United had a chance of sneaking into a play off place with a win and other results going their way.

Rovers began their final game of the season, at home to already relegated Scunthorpe United, knowing they would need to score five to overtake Northampton and clinch the final automatic place.

The Cobblers, away at Barrow, raced into a 3-0 lead while Rovers scored twice without reply against Scunthorpe. Just before half time, though, news of a Barrow goal lifted spirits all around the ground and, probably, in the dressing room as well.

Assuming the score at Barrow stayed at 3-1, then Rovers needed five second half goals and, unbelievably, they arrived much to the delight of a capacity Memorial Stadium crowd.

The 7-0 win not only equalled Rovers’ highest ever league victory but, with an identical goal difference to Northampton, they pipped the Cobblers to that final automatic promotion place on goals scored.





The seventh goal arrived five minutes before the end of the game and moved Rovers into the top three for the first time all season. Has there ever been a more dramatic end to a season?!

Of their 46 league games, Rovers won 23, drew 11 and lost 12, scoring 71 goals and conceding 49. A total of 33 players appeared in league games, 22 of whom made their Rovers league debut.

Of those 33, Jon Nolan, Brandon Hanlan and Pablo Martinez each made just one substitute appearance.

No player appeared in every game, though Aaron Collins, who top scored in the league with 16 goals, appeared in 45 league fixtures and James Belshaw, Paul Coutts, Connor Taylor and Harry Anderson all played in 40 games or more.


In an emotional post match interview Barton said; ‘There have been some tough moments, but one thing that can’t ever be questioned is the character of our team and our players.

‘As a direct consequence of that the fans have turned up and supported them because they know they give everything for the quarters. You get special days at football if you get that kind of recipe.’

He didn’t say if seven was his lucky number, but if not his, then it certainly is that of the football club!



Keith Brookman

(all photos courtesy of JMP)