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22nd March 1997 – Cheltenham Town 3-3 Burton Albion

March 21, 2014

Those of you on Twitter will probably know about the Albion ‘On this day’ page I do, if not here’s a link – https://twitter.com/BAFCOnthisday

I was looking through the book, the ‘Brewers bible’ my Dad compiled for me like the geek that I am, and noticed the last time we played away on 22nd March was in a promotion battle, just like tomorrow.

It was the 1996/97 season and as much as it still pains to say, Gresley Rovers were running away with the league title. However their ground was deemed not up to Conference standard (we were all dead shocked, honest) so the race was on for 2nd place and an automatic promotion spot.

A string of clubs had their sights set on 2nd; Cheltenham, Gloucester, Kings Lynn, Nuneaton, Halesowen, and the mighty Brewers. Could it finally be our time? Steve Cotterill, the Cheltenham player/manager at the time and former prolific Brewers striker had other ideas.

My Dad took me and our neighbour Stu on the train that day. Our table on the journey there was filled with Merlins Premier League football stickers as Stu and me opened endless packets and got through plenty of sticker-swapping, the air filled with shouts of “Got! Got! Need!” as we traded Francis Benali for Peter Ndlovu.

We arrived in Cheltenham early and taxi’d to the ground, going to the social club for some panda pop and crisp action.

Entering the ground before kick-off, Stu and me were shocked and horrified the tea-bar’s didn’t do chips, unthinkable!

Whaddon Road was quite different back in the 90’s. The terraced home end is where the Albion attacked in the first half and where we stood, but there was no cover and I don’t know if it’s because I was smaller then but the terrace seemed steeper too than it does now. The stand that has seats running the whole length down was also a terrace. What is now the away stand was a smaller terrace with partial cover, here’s a link that shows a few older pics of Whaddon Road. http://www.ciderspace.co.uk/asp/opposition/cheltenham.asp

When I went to Whaddon Road for the opening game of this season it was my first time back since ’97, so to be honest it was like visiting a new ground.

I can’t remember how many Albion fans were there but probably around 150 if not more, the crowd was 1,066 which was impressive for the Doc Martens Prem and would’ve been funny had they been playing Hastings Town.

I’m pretty sure we raced into a 2-goal lead – Mickey Cotter and Martin Devaney scored them but I can’t remember in what order! But the 2nd was a belter from outside the area that saw us going mad on the terraces. Cheltenham hit back to make it 2-1, but right on half time Simon Redfern ran in to head home a corner and it was 3-1 to the Brewers.

We did some traditional non-league end-swapping at half-time, and hoped for more of the same in the 2nd half.

But the Brewers couldn’t match their first half heroics, and constant Robins pressure finally told with 2 second half goals. It was a blow we couldn’t hold on, very disappointing, it would’ve been a vital 3 points as without the play-offs to fall back on it literally was a case of 2nd or nothing.

We walked back to the station after the game, a walk that seemed to take forever, a walk that didn’t seem as long this season with pubs to break it up.

Our promotion charge couldn’t be sustained, with Cheltenham clinching the promotion spot after a 0-0 draw at Eton Park on the final day of the season. Albion finished 8 points behind in 6th place. Here’s a link to the Southern League 96/97 table and info – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1996%E2%80%9397_Southern_Football_League

So tomorrow? 17 years to the day and it’s a League 2 promotion battle we’re fully immersed in. Nothing definite will be decided no matter the result at Glanford Park, this time around there are the play-offs to fall back on… but how big would a win be, hey?

 

 

 

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From → The Albion.

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