There was no joking around on April Fool’s Day 2007, at least not in the Bristol Rovers camp.
It was the day that The Gas took on Doncaster Rovers in the final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy (JPT) at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff.
It would the last major Football League/Association final to be played at the venue before all finals reverted to the newly completed/refurbished Wembley Stadium.
Ever since they had beaten rivals Bristol City 1-0 on aggregate in the two-legged semi final, Gasheads were looking forward to making the short trip over the Severn Bridge to cheer on Paul Trollope’s side.
The crowd of 59,024 that day were treated to a thriller, though unfortunately the wrong Rovers came out on top.
Having kept a clean sheet in six games in the competition, Trollope’s side made the worst possible start in this match, conceding after only 50 seconds.
A miscued Jason Price shot landed in space between Chris Carruthers and goalkeeper Steve Phillips and the Former City and future Rovers striker Paul Heffernan got to the ball first and square it to Jonathan Forte who gratefully slotted home from close range.
It went from bad to worse very quickly as, on five minutes, Heffernan ran on to a long Neil Sullivan clearance and fired a left foot shot past Phillips.
Although down, the Rovers of Bristol were definitely not out and picked themselves up and went on to take the game to their opponents, though they were still two goals down at the break.
Four minutes into the second half Trollope’s side were awarded a penalty after Sammy Igoe was held back by Graeme Lee on the edge of the six yard box. Up stepped Richard Walker to pull a goal back with his spot kick, dispatched to goalkeeper Sullivan’s left.
Just after the hour mark there was an equaliser, this time Igoe was the goalscorer, slotting home after a Rickie Lambert cross fell to him after hitting a Donny defender.
There were chances to go on and win the game, but there were no further goals and the game went to extra time and blue hearts were broken ten minutes from the end when Sean Thornton’s cross was headed past Phillips by slipper Lee.
Rovers lined up that day as follows; Phillips, Lescott, Hinton, Elliott, Carruthers, Igoe (Sandell (Igoe, 100), Campbell, Disley, Haldane (Lines, 107), Lambert, Walker (Nicholson, 100)
Substitutes: Anthony, Green