Match Report: Gresley Rovers vs Burton Albion, 4th March 97

Match Report: Gresley Rovers vs Burton Albion, 4th March 97

Post by Stephen Mulri » Wed, 12 Mar 1997 04:00:00

Dr Martens League Premier Division
Gresley Rovers vs Burton Albion
Moat Ground, Church Gresley
Attendance: 1758

It was high time I went on another pilgrimage to see the mighty Rovers,
and this seemed to be the ideal game to see - the match which should have
been the big New Year's Day derby.  No buses back from Preston in the
small hours for me: this time I made a reservation at a posh hotel in
Burton (which will remain nameless in order to protect the guilty).

There was a distinct aroma of beer-related substances when I got off the
train, which perhaps had something to do with the large number of breweries
in close proximity to Burton station.  The all-important Pizza Hut was soon
located, as was my hotel.  The receptionist was a girl with red hair, so it
was already beginning to look like money well spent.  I could almost have
overlooked the fact that the bathroom door was marginally too big for its
frame, the extractor fan would have woken the dead, the water pressure from
the shower was nearly high enough to bore holes in sensitive parts and the
base filled up with water faster than it could drain, but brushing my teeth
with warm water was a tremendously unpleasant experience.  ("Oh, we know
about that," said my red-haired friend when I drew this to her attention on
checking out.  "I'm afraid we can't do anything about it.")

Anyway, off I went to the Moat Ground.  I'd bought a map of the Burton area
but had stupidly neglected to memorise some street names between Swadlincote
Bus Station and the ground.  So when I got off the bus in near darkness with
about half an hour to spare, I had to pick a likely-looking hill and start
walking.  Fif*** minutes later, there was still no sign of the Moat Ground,
so I asked a nonplussed local for directions.  "Football ground?  Gresley
Rovers?  Moat Street?"  Eventually she deciphered these cryptic clues and
realised where I was heading.  "Is there a game tonight?"  Yes, but only
the crunch derby match against deadly rivals Burton Albion.  And I always
wear this Gresley Rovers scarf.  "Oh, I wondered why there was so much
traffic!"  The local resident happened to be going in that direction and
kindly walked me most of the way there - about half a mile, as it turned
out, so I got to the ground with plenty of time to investigate the club shop
and buy the very fetching new away jersey (light and dark blue quarters).
I also met up with Rovers web site guru Mark Dissington before the kick-off.

The ground was shrouded in fog, but fortunately not enough to place the game
in jeopardy.  Both teams started off cautiously, almost as if they expected
Bela Lugosi to appear in the centre circle at any moment, but it soon
evolved into something of a midfield struggle.  The visitors had the bulk of
possession during the first half, but there were few real scoring
opportunities.  Rovers' solitary chance was possibly the best of all, but
the player was torn between a cross and a shot and the result was harmlessly
somewhere in between.  However, I was pleased to see that the core of the
home side was the same as two seasons ago.  Former Derby man Andy Garner had
looked a bit short on pace even then, but he easily made up for it with his
excellent ball skills.

How novel it was to see a manager (Gary Birtles) make substitutions which
were more or less exactly what the fans were suggesting among themselves,
yet Albion still looked more likely to score.  Rovers were lucky not to go
behind after a penalty area scramble midway through the second half.  They
did manage to force a couple of free kicks on the edge of Albion's box, but
nobody seemed to want to try the obvious direct shot on goal and they were
squandered.  The visitors now seemed to be happy with a point, but exactly
as Mark had predicted, Andy Garner won a late penalty for Rovers.  He had
apparently been held back while trying to get a shot in during a goalmouth
scramble, although there really didn't seem to be much in it.  Garner took
the penalty himself and although he placed the ball a little too close to
Darren Acton for comfort, the Albion keeper couldn't get down in time to
stop it, and all three points stayed at the Moat Ground.

The chap behind the Burton Albion web site was supposed to be meeting Mark
after the match, but he must have made an early break for it - presumably as
his confident assertion that Albion would thrash Rovers had been dashed.
Instead I was kindly invited back to the Dissington residence to see the
night's other results, and then it was off to The Wheel in Swadlincote to
investigate the local beer (Worthington's Bitter - not bad at all).  While
there, a chap at the bar delicately pointed out that I couldn't wear my old
Rovers away jersey round these parts any more; the sponsor had been
Hepworths, who had suddenly closed their factory in the area last year.
Later on, the landlord mentioned the large attendance at the Moat Ground and
added, "That's more than you get in your Premier Division!"  Cheeky
so-and-so.  It isn't true, but I conceded that Scottish First Division
matches (very) occasionally draw smaller crowds.

Whether or not they win the Dr Martens Premier this season, as is looking
increasingly likely, Gresley Rovers won't be promoted to the GM Vauxhall
Conference as their new stadium (the "New Moat", I believe) won't be ready
in time.  It's a real pity, but I have every faith in the management team
of Gary Birtles and Paul Futcher to have them challenging for promotion
next season.  I don't think I'd stay at the same hotel again, though.