Home > Football, Previous clubs > My time at Bristol Rovers…Part 2 A missed pen at The Mem

My time at Bristol Rovers…Part 2 A missed pen at The Mem

 

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A large travelling away support greeted us as we came out for the warm up at Field Mill. Another sweltering day opened the league season. As what was to become the norm, we didn’t know the starting eleven until very close to kick off. I got the nod up front alongside Junior Agogo. We played somewhat on the break that day and used Agogo’s pace very well in what ended up being a comfortable victory in the end.

It was Bury on the following Tuesday for my home debut. As there had been a large number of new signings over the summer there was a renewed interest amongst Bristol Rovers supporters at the beginning of the season. Although we had played at The Mem on a couple of occasions in pre-season matches we were all given a huge lift by the atmosphere that was created. The passion was there for us all to see and hear, that’s for sure. We took the lead in the first half thanks to a dubious penalty decision on Junior Agogo which I tucked away.  I was very pleased to get off the mark with a goal. A new season and a new club – a good start was very important for me as I felt that so much was expected of me. Ian Atkins had tried to sign me on a few occasions both previously at Bristol Rovers toward the end of the previous season as well as when he was manager at Northampton Town some years earlier. During the pre-season many supporters made their expectations known to me so I felt like I needed to perform.

My home debut turned sour though as I missed a penalty in the second half. I chose to place it the opposite side to the earlier spot kick and it was saved. The score was 1-0 so it would have secured the 3 points for us had it gone in. I remember the fans cheering my name after missing it which is always nice to hear. I didn’t miss too many penalties over the course of my career. I always had a sickening feeling each time I missed one and this was no different. Bury scored a superb late equalizer which made me feel even worse.

We had started off playing some great football. The squad we had was one of quality and depth on paper. Ian Atkins seemed to be happy to let us play too. I think we were unbeaten in the league until we played Leyton Orient away. It was a match which I remember well. Having been fortunate to have played so many matches over the course of my career many of them are a blur.  Some matches stick out though and for me I have to say that it was my best ever personal performance in a match. I remember thinking it at the time and although I had some good performances for the clubs I played for after leaving Bristol Rovers but I know inside that I never had a better game personally. It will probably be a game that not too many people remember but it does for me. I scored in the first half from a long clearance with a left footed volley from outside the box but my all-round game was good. Ironically I didn’t expect to play until about 2pm that day. My dad came to watch me and I recall telling him that I didn’t think I would start so was surprised that I did in the end.

To talk about that match as a whole, we ended up out playing Leyton Orient but missing enough chances to win four or five games. We lost 4-2 in the end conceding each time they had a shot, or so it seemed. That signalled something of a downturn in fortunes for us from then on.  It also signalled a change in the style of play we adopted. After the defeat Ian Atkins wanted us to get the ball forward a lot earlier. We had given away possession in the wrong areas of the pitch on too many occasions according to the manager away at Orient. He now insisted that we play a safer, longer game which is what he was more used to at his previous clubs. As a result, the good footballers that were brought in were now not being allowed to affect matches as we were launching it so much. An example of this was when we played away at Northampton Town. Many of us were ex-cobblers and we got a good hiding that day. We were 2-0 in no time and down to 10 men before half time as James Hunt was sent off. I was ‘sacrificed’ shortly after although I don’t think I got a kick that day

We slowly moved down the table as the season went on which was so frustrating. We changed personnel, formation and tactics but we couldn’t quite find the form needed to sustain a push on the promotion race.

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