Having only witnessed the final 10 minutes of Weymouth's FA Cup 2nd Qualifying round tie with Bognor Regis last weekend (we won the replay 4-1), I was desperate to see a good game this weekend. Weymouth were away to Biggleswade and I didn't fancy the idea of sitting on a coach for 5 hours. A quick look through the fixture list and I saw that Bristol Rovers were at home to Fleetwood Town.
I did some research on the football ground guide website to see how to get there, and when I found that a return ticket on the train was only £17 it seemed like too good an oppurtunity to miss, so off I went.
I got to Bristol Temple Meads just before 2pm and decided to just jump in a taxi outside the station rather than trying to find the right bus. The driver was quite chatty - turned out he was a Bristol City fan, and he reminisced about the 70s, and when Don Revie's Leeds United played at Asthon Gate in front of 45,000 people. It was an FA Cup tie, and Bristol City went on to win the replay at Elland Road 1-0.
He dropped me off right outside the Memorial Gates, and at ten quid for the four mile drive I couldn't complain.
My mate who moved to Bristol recently for work met me at the ground and we decided on standing in the Blackthorn end behind the goal, where the Bristol Rovers singers stand.
I went to buy my ticket, but it was only when arriving at the ticket office that I realised I had left my student card at home. I asked about a student ticket but was asked if I had my card, so I had to pay full adult price. At £18 it wasn't cheap, but compared to other ticket prices certainly not overly expensive.
When I got into the ground I took a few photos (see below) and went off to get some food. A sausage roll and can of coke for £1.90 was not to be snifed at, although half the pastry from the sausage roll ended up on the floor!
One thing I really liked was while the players were warming up, Rovers managed John Ward came over to the Blackthorn end to greet the fans. He shook hands with fans, took the time to stop and speak to a lot of young children, and signed programmes. I thought that was a really nice gesture, it would be nice to see more managers do that sort of thing.
Finally, kick off approached. I was looking forward to this game as it had all the makings of a very interesting game. Fleetwood are in the promotion mix and have been strong on the road; whilst Rovers have struggled with injuries and made a stuttering start. However they appeared to be finding a bit of form and were still unbeaten at home.
The first half was actually quite dissapointing, not much happened at all. Bristol Rovers tried to play football but offered next to nothing in the final third. Fleetwood were very well organised and pressed the ball well. However their own tactics in the first half seemed to be to just hoof it forward to the big lad up front.
0-0 at half time was deffinitely fair, with neither side creating any real chances. The second half however, was much better.
Rovers came out more fired up, and they should have taken the lead when Andy Bond raced onto a through ball but at one v one with Fleetwood keeper Scott Davies, he put his effort wide.
Then the visitors went close when Antoni Sarevic's effort was tipped over the crossbar by Steve Mildenhall when it looked destined for the top corner.
On 64 minutes a goal finally arrived, and it came for Fleetwood. A run into the penalty area was not stopped by the Rovers defence, and Jamille Matt turned the ball home from no more than a yard out.
But this seemed to spark Rovers into life. Just two minutes after falling behind, Andy Bond put a cross into the box and John-Joe O'Toole headed into the top corner from a couple of yards out, sparking jubilant scenes in the Blackthorn end with many fans running down to the front to rub it in Scott Davies' face, after he had shushed the home fans when Fleetwood took the lead.
Suddenly Rovers were on top, and the home fans were right behind their team. In the very next attack Rovers had another header cleared off the line, and from the resulting corner Chris Brunt saw his header smash against the crossbar.
Fleetwood managed to weather the storm and going into the final few minutes, it was anyone's game. But it was the visitors who snatched the points with two late goals.
With just 3 minutes remaining, Sarevic opened up the Rovers defence and found Jamille Matt, who slotted home from the edge of the area to send the Fleetwood fans mad.
Bristol Rovers tried to rally and push for another equaliser, but they didn't really threaten the Fleetwood goal and deep into added time, a Fleetwood counter attack was finished off by substitute Jon Parkin who volleyed home superbly from a tight angle.
The full time whistle was greeted by some boos from the home fans, but I didn't think they had played too badly. On another day they might have won had they taken advantage of their spell of pressure just after the equaliser, but that's football isn't it? Full of what if's.
The atmosphere wasn't quite as good as I thought it would be, with the Rovers fans only really coming to life after they scored. Mind you, when the entire Blackthorn end sang the club anthem "Goodnight Irene" it sounded brilliant! I didn't record it, but here's another video I found of that song:
We left the ground and caught a bus back to the town centre. My train back was due to depart at 17:49 so by the time I got off the bus, I had around 20 minutes to make what was apparently a 20 to 25 minute walk back to the station. So just to be safe, I did something I hadn't done for years - run!
I made it back with a bit of time to spare but was knackered for it. I'm deffinitely unfit!
On the whole it was a very good day out. Not too expensive and another ground ticked off. I liked the Memorial Stadium - it was odd in that 6 stands make it up and none of them match, but I always prefer the older grounds as they have a bit of character and tradition about them.
Next up for me is Cirencester Town away with Weymouth in the FA Cup 3rd Qualifying round, then Swindon Town away with Notts Up The Terras! Come On You Pies!