Bristol Rovers fan column: Awful reality of relegation to Conference hits home

Bristol Rovers FC

Bristol Rovers FC

First published in Yate and Sodbury Sport Gazette Series: Photograph of the Author by , assistant editor

SO the unthinkable happened and Rovers failed to get the point they needed at home to Mansfield to fend off the threat of relegation to the Conference.

Having done the hard work the previous week by winning at Wycombe, most Gasheads were fairly confident we would not slip up and would be playing league football again next season.

However, life as a Gashead is never straightforward, and when news filtered through that both Wycombe and Northampton were winning, the tension at an already edgy Memorial Stadium was heightened further.

When Mansfield scored there were collective gasps and groans, and apart from a couple of opportunities that grazed the crossbar and post we were not good enough to rescue the situation.

The final whistle was greeted with stunned silence as the awful reality hit home – Rovers had lost their league status after 94 years and we now supported a club that would be plying its trade in non-league next season.

After flirting with relegation for the last couple of years, we have never adequately improved the team and those shortcomings were more apparent than ever this season.

A failure to recruit a proven goalscorer and any wingers proved costly as the lack of a goal threat was a constant problem. Ward’s negative tactics didn’t help as the team was usually set up not to lose, rather than go out to win.

Long-term injuries to Brunt and Broghammer were also a blow but these absences should have been addressed last summer.

The board deserve great credit for securing a long-awaited new stadium for Rovers but it appears they took their eye off the playing side and thought we could scrape by with reduced investment.

They were wrong and we have paid the ultimate price. Chairman Nick Higgs has promised radical changes but whatever the outcome of his review, fans will have to be patient as a new side is assembled.

There is still plenty to be positive about with the UWE stadium on the horizon, but I expect a season of transition next year before we can hope to reclaim our league status.

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