By Daniel JonesOn this day 27 years ago, anticipation, and nerves, were growing for Rovers fans; it was FA Cup replay day.
It was a second round tie against non-league Rugby Town, who played in the Southern League. Back then they went by the confusing name Valley Sports Rugby, which sorely lacked a ‘football club’ ending.
Rovers had battered Merthyr Tydfil 6-0 to reach the second round, whilst VS Rugby had to go to a replay with Atherstone United to progress. The first clash between the teams ended in a frustrating 1-1 draw, with Jeff Meacham striking for Rovers.
This meant a replay on a Thursday night, in Rovers’ second year at Twerton Park. The 1987-88 season was Gerry Francis’ first in charge, and he made a big statement of intent with what would prove to be high calibre signings including Nigel Martyn, Ian Holloway and Devon White.
The threat of being beaten by the underdogs was something all wanted to avoid, and if the first match was close, this one was anything but. Rovers ran rampant, thumping Rugby 4-0, the goals coming from White, Andy Reece, Gary Penrice and Ian Alexander.
Despite the win, Francis’ team fell at the next hurdle, losing 2-1 away to Shrewsbury, in the year that ‘the crazy gang’ of Wimbledon famously won the cup, defeating Liverpool 1-0 in the final. Rovers finished eighth that season, and Rugby narrowly avoided relegation having being promoted the season before, finishing 17th.
The two sides had never played each other before this tie, nor played each other since.
Bristol Rovers: Nigel Martyn, Nick Tanner, Ian Alexander, Vaughan Jones, Geoff Twentyman, Jeff Meacham, Ian Holloway, Ken Hibbitt, Phil Purnell, Devon White, Gavin Penrice
Subs: Andy Reece, Richard Dryden (Only two subs back then!)