By Gerry PrewettThe turning point of Bristol Rovers first season in the Vanarama Conference took place on 6th September in front of a 1,621 crowd at Braintree. For many Gasheads the 2-0 defeat to a part-time team was a step too far for an under-performing team.
The first shock for Rovers came on 30 minutes, when the home side were awarded a controversial penalty. The ball was played into the box and was safely gathered by Steve Mildenhall. Cox had rushed in behind him, closely policed by Tom Parkes and in the melee that followed the three officials decided a foul had been committed. Kenny Davis sent Mildenhall the wrong way from 12 yards.
With 59 minutes on the clock a good move down the left saw Simeon Akinola find Dan Sparkes on the edge of the area and he swept a shot past Mildenhall and into the bottom corner of the net to give the Essex club a comfortable lead.
Formed in 1898 as Manor Works they took over the fixtures of the disbanded Braintree F.C. in the North Essex League. In 1935 were founder members of the Eastern Counties League. They won their second ECL title in 1983–84 and retained it the following season. In 1986–87 they won the Essex Senior Trophy and the following season they won the League Cup.
After a chequered league existence, in 2005–06 they earned promotion to the Conference South. They reached the play-offs in their first season in the Conference South, but lost 1–0 to Salisbury City in the final. They also reached the play-offs the following season, but lost to Eastbourne Borough in the semi-finals. In 2010–11 they finished as Conference South champions, earning promotion to the Conference Premier.
On Saturday Alan Devonshire’s team went down to a very late 1-0 defeat at Halifax. The Shaymen’s manager Neil Aspin admitted he felt his side’s chance of sealing a late win had gone before substitute Jamie Jackson’s last-gasp goal . Halifax saw off the Essex side 1-0, Jack Muldoon seeing an effort chalked off for offside shortly before Jackson’s header.
Aspin said: “I was always hopeful, but you’d be lying if you said you expected a goal to come in the 90th minute. Once we got the ‘goal’ disallowed I thought that was our chance gone. But we got it (the win) and it’s all about picking up the three points. “
Devonshire said: “We tweaked our system a bit to try and frustrate them and we knew that if we kept it like that with 20 to 25 minutes to go, then we could go for a winner. That was the plan, but it didn’t work as we didn’t score the goal we needed and they nicked it at the end.”
“However, the lads gave me everything. I’m gutted for the boys because they worked so hard and I felt we were the better side without a doubt in the second half. But you have to take your chances.”