Retro: Doncaster Rovers trophy triumph

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In May 1998 Doncaster Rovers were on the brink of extinction.

The team had just been relegated from the Football League to the Football Conference with one of the worst records for a season.

Rovers had only won four of their 46 games, losing 34, and conceded 113 goals, scoring just 30.

The boardroom was in turmoil; the majority of the players were to leave and the team was in need of a new manager.

With a change of ownership and the arrival of former player Ian Snodin as manager, the club’s slide into the abyss was halted.

The Rovers even managed to have a run in the Endsleigh Trophy and reached the final in April 1999, playing two legs against Farnborough Town.

The first match was away on April 20, 1999, only a few days after the teams had met in the league, with the Rovers losing 1-0.

Manager Ian Snodin said: “I felt that we let down the fans, who didn’t have to travel all that way in view of the fact we were down there again four days later.”

He added: “I can guarantee any fans there tonight that we will play a lot better and that all the players will be giving 100 per cent.”

For the tie, Ian Duerden, Dave Penney, Colin Sutherland, Simon Shaw and Andy Watson returned to the team.

Rovers started brightly but Farnborough were solid in defence – a characteristic lacking for the majority of their season and leading factor in the team’s relegation.

Both sides had opportunities before the end of the half but these could not be converted.

An improvement was made by the Rovers in the second half and youngster Andy Watson impressed with several runs. He also came close to a goal after a sliced clearance from Farnborough’s keeper.

The home side were reduced to 10 men around the hour mark as Stuart Harte was sent off when he received a second yellow card.

Chances were had by both sides afterwards but the tie appeared to be heading to Belle Vue with the scores level.

Shortly before time, Rovers captain Dave Penney struck a volley into the net at the far post to give the Rovers an advantage in the home game.

Scott Maxfield then came close to adding a second with a 25-yard strike but he was denied the chance to seal the tie for the away side.

Only 630 people saw the game, 300 being travelling fans from Doncaster.

The start of the second leg was delayed for 15 minutes due to the sheer number of supporters wanting to squeeze into the ground.

The crowd was the largest the competition had seen with 7,160 people packing in to witness the Rovers fight for the trophy.

The fans were not disappointed as the team got off to a flying start. Centre back Colin Sutherland fired the ball into the net from 12 yards as Farnborough could not clear Shaun Goodwin’s corner.

He came close to making the scoreline 2-0 on the night only a few minutes later, following good work from captain Dave Penney, but his close range shot was blocked.

Farnborough had an opportunity before the 20-minute mark as striker Steve McKinn beat Penney, only to shoot tamely at keeper Andy Woods.

Stuart Harte then skimmed the crossbar, leaving Rovers fans hoping that this pressure would not see Farnborough get a goal back.

This was not to be and the Rovers killed off the game in the 39th minute.

Striker Ian Duerden, Rovers’ top scorer for the season, laid the ball to Jamie Barnwell, who then crossed the ball back to the forward to deliver the knockout blow.

Duerden was denied his second after half time as Farnborough keeper Stuart Mackenzie rushed off his line and headed the ball away. This reached Barnwell and Mackenzie had to scramble to stop his attempt.

Not to be disappointed, Duerden saw the keeper away from his goal and audaciously chipped a shot from the right-hand touchline into the net.

Farnborough vainly tried to gain a consolation but the Rovers were not to be denied their first triumph at a cup competition and first piece of silverware since winning the Fourth Division title in 1969.

An ecstatic Snodin said: “It gives me as much pleasure as winning the championship with Everton.”

Refusing to single out any players for praise, maintaining that the team had won the cup, Snodin did single out the fans as a driving force behind the success.

“The fans have been tremendous. To attract over 7,000 for a game such as this just shows what potential there is in Doncaster for a successful football team.”

Also receiving his thanks were groundsman Peter Smith and South Yorkshire Fire Brigade, who watered the pitch.

The team was rewarded with a civic reception at Doncaster Mansion House on May 14. Hundreds of fans gathered to see the players with the trophy.

“Didn’t they do well!” said Mayor Coun Yvonne Woodcock.

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