Wednesday 12 October 2011

An unforgettable day

On Friday night, Cheltenham go back to the Pirelli Stadium in Burton - scene of undoubtedly the most amazing game of football I have ever seen.
Cheltenham fans will talk fondly of the 2-1 comeback win over Rushden, that FA Trophy semi-final success against Dover, the 3-2 win over Yeovil and the play-off win over Rushden in Cardiff - but the events of Saturday March 13, 2010 will always be remembered.
My personal memories started earlier in that week, and the realisation that I was not going to go to the game. I was not needed for BBC summarising duties as Russ Milton sat alongside Pete Matthews that day - then the BBC's guru Ian Randall said him and his dad were going, so I got a lift with them.
There were 2,500 in the ground that day, and about 150-200 from Cheltenham, but the number of Cheltenham fans who claim to have there is probably about 5,000 at the last count...
Now, to get an idea of how crazy a game this was you have to remember just how abject we were in the first half.
Remember also that Josh Low went off in the 16th minute, Lee Ridley coming on, and we had re-jig ourselves, already a goal down with Shaun Harrad's stunning strike.
I remember he could have had another soon after, then did get a second after Michael Townsend gave away a penalty. Suffice to say, it wasn't Towner's best game in red and white...
At half-time, a few of our fans left for the pub, and I remember an animated conversation with Greg Parry about the attitude of our players, him saying they didn't care and me trying to be more measured. I think he had had a drink...
I don't know what Mark Yates said at half time. It bloody worked though - and he needs to bottle it.
Justin Richards pulled one back after David Hutton cut the ball back, then Medy Eilto scored an absolute screamer.
Follow this link to see that goal...
A few of our fans were watching on the TV in the bar under the stand as we came back to 2-2, and had returned to the terrace in time for Towner to score an own goal, and with 18 minutes left, Steve Kabba made it 4-2.
Well, that's that we thought, and I remember again the fans behind the goal getting very disgruntled after we had - as we thought at the time - wasted the efforts of coming back from 2-0 down.
With six minutes to go, Michael Pook scored with a free-kick, where I remember Jim Haggin and myself pointing at the massive space left by the keeper and the wall before Pooky put it right there - but Kabba made it 5-3 with five minutes left.
Surely game over.
87 minutes, and Pook's shot deflected over Artur Krysiak off Paul Boertien, then on 90 minutes Justin Richards struck again with a great finish after a 1-2 with Julian Alsop.
The big man landed on me as I headed for the front after that goal, and it had barely calmed down when this happened -
It was ridiculous, amazing, crazy - all of those words and more, and I will never forget it as long as I live.
We were six points above the drop zone after that win, and I am sure that this day, more than any other, was what kept us up.
I remember kicking a crash barrier very hard and hurting my foot, and then on returning to Cheltenham I was the first caller to talk to Alan Green on 6-0-6 that night - name checking the Cheltenham fans who left the game early. They know who they are...
Now we go back there again, and in those crazy ironies you get in football, Russ Penn, who lined up for Burton that day, will be in ruby this time, while our two-goal man Justin Richards will be wearing yellow and black.
Not many players from that day will be on either side - Scott Brown, Danny Andrew and Josh Low is about it for us, and maybe only Josh will start.
Tony James, Andy Corbett and Cleveland Taylor, who has left and come back again since that day, may line up for Burton, while Aaron Webster was on the bench.
But this is a big game - both sides have 20 points from 12 games, and an identical goal difference, so it should be another cracker.
So while our personnel may be different, let's hope some of that 2010 spirit is still there - maybe Yatesy should get Russ Penn to do the team talk and tell everyone how he felt after that game...

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