Seasons in Retrospect; 1973-74

MansfieldvDoncaster1974In popular STAND this season we serialised Ray Jest‘s detailed account of the 1973-74 season. Unfortunately, due to print deadlines and copy space we omitted to bring you the concluding part, and so to address that issue we now present the feature in full. Sit back, light up a Woodbine and crack open a Party Seven, here is Ray’s account of Rovers’ 1973-74 season.

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The end of the 1972-73 season had seen the dismantling of the Rovers Junior team and a sad farewell to Malcolm Cook who had been at the club less than 18 months. The beginning of the 1973-74 season was no less controversial with the departure of the Rovers Chairman following what must have been one of the shortest AGM’s in club history. The actual AGM lasted just 7 minutes after which time the press were excluded. After the press had left the meeting a Rovers shareholder read out a prepared statement calling for the resignation of Mr. Ben Bailey (Chairman) and the removal from the board of Mr. Hubert Bates. Mr. Bailey told the meeting that due note would be taken of the shareholders comments.

In an interview with the Doncaster Evenings Post’s Joe Slater, Mr. Bailey said that his decision to resign in no way followed the shareholders statement and that he had been thinking of resigning for some time now that he was living in Scarborough. Mr. Bailey had joined the Rovers board in 1965 and had taken over as Chairman from Mr. F J Wilson in 1970 following three years as Vice Chairman. His resignation shocked the Board of Directors and was totally unexpected.

On footballing matters Rovers were hoping to sign Peter Woods from Southend United for a fee estimated to be around £8,000. Also on the radar were Peter Higgins a left winger with Bristol Rovers, and Keith Pritchard from Wolverhampton Wanderers who had been released on a free transfer, whilst Rovers had been asked to name their price by a third division club for Archie Irvine who had still not reached an agreement over a new contract.

A major signing who would figure significantly in the coming seasons was Brendan O’Callaghan with Mr. Setters beating off competition from Leeds United, Rotherham and Bradford City to gain his signature. On the downside Rovers transferred Ian Branfoot to Lincoln City for £8,000. A fan favourite, Branfoot had been in dispute over his contract and negotiations had reached an impasse.

Ray Ternent was a player coming in and had visited the ground with his wife although there were also two second division clubs vying for his signature. He eventually signed for Rovers for a fee of £8,000. Both Peter Wood and Peter Higgins had signed up along with Brendan O’Callaghan and another new boy Alan Murray. One of the former youth team players had also signed a professional contract, his name Terry Curran.

Rovers had given free transfers to Glen Johnson, Brian Joy, Brian Usher, Stephen Briggs, Chris Rabjohn and Harold Wilcockson. For reference, Johnson had joined Aldershot, Joy had joined Exeter City, Usher and Briggs had gone to Southern League club Yeovil and Northampton were talking to Rabjohn.

Rovers’ pre season friendlies would again feature both Leeds United and Stoke City. For some reason the Stoke City game was played behind ‘closed doors’ and resulted in a 4-1 defeat. The Stoke team featured Jimmy Greenough and Geoff Hurst amongst other names although Gordon Banks whose future was in some doubt was only a spectator at the game. Rovers’ goal was scored by new midfield man Alan Murray.

Next it was the turn of Yorkshire Leagues Hatfield Main to face up to Rovers, and Rovers duly ran out 3-1 winners. In their next game Rovers faced the Midlands League side Sutton Town and although they won 1-0 they did little to impress and were out maneuvered on many occasions during the match. A headed goal from a free kick scored by Uzelac eventually saved Rovers blushes.

The match did nothing to deter 9,067 spectators from turning out to watch Rovers take on Leeds United and what a difference in performances. Although they lost 2-0, Rovers received high praise from the Leeds manager Don Revie. Goals from Mick Jones and Trevor Cherry sealed the win for Leeds. After the game Mr. Setters said “We were playing against some of the best players in the world and I think we did extremely well”.

Mike Sinclair writing in the local paper highlighted some of the players who he thought would make the difference this season for the Rovers, pinpointing in particular Brendan O’Callaghan, Alan Murray, Terry Curran and Ray Ternent. In the same article Mr. Setters when asked about the changes to the playing staff said “several of the players had been here for some time and I felt a change would be good for the club”.

In a further interview with Michael Morgan from the Express headlined ‘Things are growing better for Setters’ the manager stated that the Rovers, job was “looked upon as a graveyard for managers but I couldn’t see it, the club had come in for a lot of criticism and a lot of it they had brought upon themselves”.

He went on to say “I told [the board] that I knew I was the 13th manager in 13 years but that I wasn’t superstitious – only ambitious. I knew when I arrived it would take two years to organise the club, we were just a football club then, now we are a professional football club. We’ve got one of the best set ups in the Fourth division, and it’s better than some in the 3rd division and 2nd division as well”.

“The public are just waiting to support a successful club, the trouble at the moment is they have been let down badly in the past by promises that were not fulfilled. I need patience and time from the fans; it could still be 5 years before Doncaster are successful. That’s why I am making no promises – promises I may not be able to keep”.

Maurice SettersThe interview was prophetic in as much as Mr. Setters never did deliver success on a large scale. In a season that again saw Rovers flirt with the dreaded Re-election zone they would very rarely be out of the bottom four or five clubs, always watching over their shoulders for other teams results.

The season got off to a mediocre start when Stockport County visited Belle Vue for the first league game of the campaign. The match resulted in a 1-1 draw; Rovers taking the lead after 25 minutes through Peter Higgins. The only noticeable thing from then on until Stockport equalised in the 80th minute was a half time bomb scare, although it only seemed to have an explosive effect on the visitors. One positive from the result was that at least Rovers were up and running in the points, unlike the previous seasons disastrous start.

In the League Cup Rovers were drawn away to 2nd Division Notts County and it looked a book maker’s dream home win. It didn’t turn out that way though as Rovers shocked their illustrious neighbours with an attacking style of play that had County back peddling for long periods of the first half. County, striving to get back on terms after Kitchen’s shock 7th minute strike, stretched Book in the Rovers goal on several occasions but the Rovers defence held out.

At half time Rovers led 1-0 and within 2 minutes of the re-start they were 2-0 up with a goal from Elwiss. County finally broke through in the 54th minute to reduce the arrears but 8 minutes later Kitchen popped up to re-gain Rovers’ two goal lead. County again scored just one minute later and then when they equalised on 76 minutes it looked all on a win for the 2nd Division side, but in the 90th minute Kitchen scored Rovers’ 4th goal and his 3rd to secure the win for his team. Peter Kitchen had his hat trick and it was English football’s first of the season. A fantastic cup tie had seen Rovers at their best, if they could carry this form into the league they would surely be a force to be reckoned with.

After the game Mr. Setters said “Rovers biggest fight was with themselves and was connected to self confidence. I’ve been telling them now for weeks that they are too good for the fourth division. My big problem now is motivating them for our league game at Bradford this weekend”.

A shock also came in the shape of Gateshead and a request for the League Secretary Russell Louden to cancel all future fixtures for the club until further notice. Financial difficulties had forced the club to release all their players. Exactly 43 years ago Gateshead had played their first Football League game against Doncaster. They lost 2-1 but a crowd of 17,000 had attended the game.

On the Saturday following their great Cup win over Notts County Rovers travelled to Valley Parade to play Yorkshire neighbours Bradford City. Brendan O’Callaghan made his league debut for the Rovers and proved a handful for the City defence. Peter Higgins put Rovers in front on 37 minutes. The only other thing of note concerning Rovers in this half was a penalty save by Book from City forward Ingham. After defending well for almost all the second half, and just as it looked as if Rovers would hold out for the win City equalised in the 83rd minute. It ended 1-1 and Rovers found themselves in an unusual mid table position, with 2 points from 2 games.

3,313 fans turned up for the next game at Belle Vue against Torquay United, and, as always seems to happen, a decent crowd saw Rovers capitulate by a single goal, scored after 27 mins. To say it was an unimpressive display would only just about touch the edges.

Brighter news came as 17 year old Rovers Apprentices Robert McLuckie and Stephen Reed were both picked for training at Lilleshall with the England Youth Team. “Obviously this is a good thing for the club and gives the players a boost too,” said Manager Maurice Setters.

Rovers were at Belle Vue again for their next League game this time against the “Old Enemy” Barnsley. In a controversial game two players were sent off, Archie Irvine for Rovers and Kenny Brown for Barnsley, after squaring up to each other in the 77th minute. It is not certain whether any blows were exchanged but it was sufficient enough a confrontation for the Referee to send both for the obligatory “Early Bath”. Doncaster won the game 1-0, thanks to a goal scored in the 80th minute by Brendan O’Callaghan, his first league for the club. The win meant Rovers now sat in 11th place in the table and their fans made much of the fact that defeat ensured Barnsley were rock bottom.

On the injury front John Haselden, who had taken a knock in the pre-season game against Stoke City pulled up in a reserve game at York with a recurrence of the same injury, wiping out any lasting hopes of a quick return to the first team.

Back to the action, and if you were a football fan wanting goals at the start of this season then Rovers had to be the team to watch. Over the next five games involving the club there were no less than 25 goals, unfortunately not all to Doncaster’s benefit. First was a trip to Griffin Park, the home of Brentford, from which Rovers came home on the back of a 2-0 defeat. Another away trip followed, this time to London Road and Peterborough United. Again it brought defeat but this time a heavy one; 5-1 the reply coming from Alan Murray with a penalty 3 minutes from time.

Returning home to Belle Vue, Rovers next opponents were Workington Town. This time it was Doncaster scoring five goals, but only after Workington had taken a shock lead. Kitchen had equalised for Rovers on 29 minutes only for Workington to go in front again just one minute later. Just before the interval Kitchen scored his second and in the second half O’Callaghan with a brace and a fifth from Higgins secured a Rovers win.

Following that victory Rovers travelled to Gillingham and the Priestfield Stadium on a high. It turned out to be a disaster as Rovers were once again on the end of a 5-1 routing. Rovers only goal was scored by Kitchen in the 53rd minute and at 2-1 down hopes of a revival were high, but they fell apart under countless attacks and succumbed to the better team. At Belle Vue though it appeared that Rovers were establishing their home ground as something of a fortress, and they gained some revenge on Peterborough United in a 3-1 win. Goals from Elwiss, Kitchen and Ternent sealing the victory. The game also featured a rare booking for a manager; Maurice Setters cautioned in the 17th minute for something he said to the linesman.

Brendan O'Callaghan, Doncaster RoversReading were Rovers next visitors and would prove a stern test for Setters’ men. Riding high in 2nd position Reading were having a good season and were proving to be one of the form sides. However, Doncaster matched their opponents stride for stride and were unlucky on several occasions not to go in front. Death the Reading keeper was by far the busiest man on the field pulling of saves from Kitchen and Murray. And right at the end of the game Death pulled of a save from Murray that had goal written all over it but he managed to tip it around the post. So it ended goalless, Rovers worthy of the point that lifted them into 15th and kept Reading in 2nd spot behind only Bury on goal average.

In the League Cup, following their impressive victory over Notts County Rovers were set to face another set of Magpies in the next round, as they were drawn away to Newcastle United. Malcolm McDonald, Bobby Moncur, Terry McDermott and all. It was a mouthwatering tie and Rovers travelled up to St James Park full of optimism and hope.

Unfortunately the game was over before half time, two defensive mistakes in the 33rd and 37th minutes allowed McDonald to score twice. Strikers of that quality need no second invitation to score goals and he duly claimed his hat trick in the 73rd minute. Two more goals from Keith Robson and one from Clark put seal to a disappointing evening for Rovers. But give credit also where it is due, even at 4, 5 and 6 goals down Rovers still tried to take the game to Newcastle. And the one bonus from the game was that Rovers share of the gate netted them £7,247 pounds.

There wasn’t to be much cheer on the return to League action though as Doncaster were beaten 3-0 at Chester in a dismal display that’s best forgotten. The next three games wouldn’t get much better as Rovers gained just one point. In front of just 1,676 faithful fans they drew 2-2 with Hartlepool United at Belle Vue. The game saw the return to the Rovers side of former Welsh international Graham Moore after injury. Peter Kitchen had put Rovers in front after 37 minutes, and Steve Uzelac had given Rovers the lead for the second time on 56 minutes after Hartlepool had equalised just two minute after Kitchen’s goal.

The next game saw Rovers travel to Oakwell to face Barnsley. The first half ended 0-0 with Rovers running rings around their South Yorkshire neighbours, but being unable to turn their superiority into goals. However, the second half saw Barnsley dominate affairs and unlike Rovers, they made the most of their chances when they occurred. The game finished 2-0 to Barnsley and Rovers had dropped to 19th in the division.

Rovers now travelled up to Feethams for a game against Darlington and once again Rovers dominated play but lacked the “Killer touch” in front of goal. At the end the game was decided on a 53rd minute penalty and Rovers run of unimpressive results continued.

A trip to Somerton Park the home of Newport County followed, but this time it was the Welshmen who came out on top. The game that exploded from the start with County scoring in the second minute, then fizzed out until the 43rd minute when Newport scored a second goal, only for Steve Uzelac to pull a goal back in the 44th minute and the Newport to score again in the 45th minute. 3-1 was how it finished.

19th in the division and in the opinion of many fans the season was going no different than the two which had preceded it. That said, a slight upturn in fortunes saw Rovers take 3 out of the next 4 points. A 1-1 draw at Belle Vue against Bury with O’Callaghan giving Rovers a 52nd minute lead only for Bury to equalise in the 70th minute was followed by a 2-1 victory over Exeter City at their St James Park ground. Rover’s goals coming from Murray and O’Callaghan turning round Exeter’s14th minute lead. Still it was not an easy game and Rovers had to survive a 59th minute penalty which gratefully Wallace of Exeter blasted against the crossbar.

In the FA Cup Rovers were paired with Lincoln City at Belle Vue and ran out 1-0 winners thanks to an Alan Murray penalty to set up a 2nd round tie with Tranmere. Before Rovers hosted Tranmere in the FA Cup there was a little matter of a League game at Crewe Alexandra. At half time at Gresty Road, with the score a respectable 0-0, it looked as if Rovers might get away with at least a point. But in the second half Doncaster pressed the self destruct button and collapsed. Two own goals from Wignall and Brooke, along with a 47th minute penalty were just part of the reason that Rovers travelled back to South Yorkshire on the wrong end of a 4-0 hiding.

Keegan Press2,444 faithful fans turned up the following week to watch the 2nd round Cup tie with Tranmere Rovers and most left well satisfied with a 3-0 victory. Goals from Kitchen on 13 minutes, and Woods after 17 minutes put Rovers in control and a goal from O’Callaghan five minutes from time sealed the victory. The third round draw with all the First Division clubs now in the hat was eagerly awaited and Rovers and their fans were not to be disappointed. The club were drawn away to face the mighty Liverpool in a repeat of the 1969 tie which Liverpool had won 2-0.

It was back to the League now though for Rovers and many could be forgiven if they thought that the Liverpool game was on the minds of many of the players as just one point was earned from the next four games. A 2-1 defeat to Gillingham at Belle Vue with Kitchen scoring on the stroke of half time to pull Rovers back into the game was followed by successive away defeats. In a local derby at Scunthorpe’s Old Showground Doncaster were beaten by 2-1 even though Kitchen gave them a 4th minute lead. And then, at Plainmoor the home of Torquay United they capitulated by 3-0.The only bright spot was a game against Bradford City at Belle Vue where Rovers took a point in a 2-2 draw. Goals from Murray and Elwiss securing the point although it should really have been two as Murray missed a second half penalty.

The run of results meant that Rovers were rock bottom of the Football League, with 91 places separating them from their next opponents Liverpool in the FA Cup 3rd round. Newspapers of course make headlines from the slightest things, and the fact that Kevin Keegan was a “Donny” lad did not miss their radar. There were interviews and features aplenty, from the time he stood on the terraces at Belle Vue and watched Rovers, to the fact that he was “overlooked” by Rovers and had to start his career at Scunthorpe.

Keegan’s first hero in football at the age of ten had been Willie Nimmo a Rovers stalwart between the posts. Then later at the age of twelve the great man Alick Jeffrey had taken centre stage in Keegan’s eyes. The Liverpool player’s one regret in life was that he had never played on the Belle Vue pitch, and his interview with the papers was done at Belle Vue with barbed wire along the top of the walls surrounding the ground. A picture of Keegan outside Bell Vue was titled “Kevin Keegan and his favourite old haunt “Donny”.

Keegan’s was not the only interview however, although a slightly lesser known player also got his 15 minutes of fame. That player was Steve Wignall, Liverpool born and bred. A centre back who as a youth player had been on Liverpool’s books, whose dad was a life time Liverpool fan and whose “digs” in Doncaster were opposite the house in Waverley Avenue where Keegan and his family once lived. It would be Wignall’s job to mark Keegan in the match.

At 3 o’clock when the game kicked off there was no indication of what a great game it would be, in fact when Liverpool scored after four minutes Rovers fans could have been forgiven for thinking the worst. It was inevitably that man Keegan who got the goal from a cross by Ian Callaghan, a great header to beat Kim Book.

Instead the Rovers rolled up their purple shirt sleeves and gave Liverpool the fright of their lives. Before Liverpool had scored Mike Elwiss had a great chance to put Rovers one up and fluffed his shot. But two minutes later Peter Kitchen stabbed a weak shot towards Liverpool’s goal and inexplicably it seemed that Ray Clemence let the ball slide under his body for Rovers equaliser.

The game was only six minutes old and the score was already 1-1. From then on the game ebbed and flowed, both teams playing good passing football and Rovers belying their league position. Then in the 19th minute came something that silenced the Anfield crowd, but not the Rovers following. Brendan O’Callaghan gave Rovers the lead with a superb goal, and suddenly dreams began to come true and Rovers went at their illustrious opponents ready for the kill. Kitchen left in the clear scooped his shot over the bar.

Half time arrived with the score at 2-1 to the Rovers and how many fans wished they could be a fly on the wall of the Liverpool dressing room. Rovers had matched them pass for pass in a fantastic first half. It was going to take a goal of great quality to get Liverpool back into this game and it was that man Keegan again, from a Callaghan cross again, that scored another great header to bring it back to 2-2.

From here you would expect that the First Division side would run out easy winners but, it was not to be. Those fans who where there will never forget the dying minutes as Kitchen controlled the ball lobbed over Clemence and hit the bar only for Alex Lindsay to clear the bouncing ball of the line. Rovers travelled home to South Yorkshire with the whole of the football world singing their praises.

Kitchen, Doncaster RoversThe replay at Belle Vue the following Tuesday kicked off in the afternoon due to the Miners strike at the Electricity cuts. It is an old adage in football that against the top teams you get one chance, and Rovers had had theirs on the Saturday. Although Rovers tried, they fought and chased every ball, but in the end class told. Goals from Heighway after 15 minutes and Cormack after 61 minutes won the game for Liverpool. But it was not for want of trying that Rovers were defeated, their efforts in front of 22,499 fans were to be commended and even as Liverpool were 2-0 up Rovers seemed to redouble their efforts. They ran themselves into the ground for the cause but the luck was not with them, even when Elwiss thought he had gained some reward for Rovers efforts by stabbing the ball into the net, his joy was curtailed by the linesman’s flag for offside.

Bill Shankly the Liverpool manager said “Now we can go on and win the cup. We had this kind of experience against Stockport in 1965 and went on to beat Leeds at Wembley.” Still, Kevin Keegan got his wish “to play on the hallowed turf of Belle Vue”.

Despite the euphoria of their cup exploits Rovers were still struggling at the bottom of the fourth division and a return to League football with a home game against Brentford did nothing to alleviate their position as the Londoners went home with a 2-1 victory. Rovers were now at the foot of the table, 5 points behind the fifth bottom club, although with a game in hand, and things did not look good.

A trip to Edgley Park gained Rovers a point in a drab, dull 0-0 draw with Stockport County. Back at Belle Vue Rovers then gained two well earned points in a 2-0 win over Colchester; goals from Ternent after 58 minutes and Kitchen after 62 minutes securing the win, although Rovers remained rooted to the foot of the table.

Rovers’ next game again at Belle Vue was a South Yorkshire derby againt Rotherham United. The attendance of 5,957 was swelled by the presence of one man, a certain Mr. Bill Shankly who was there to run the rule over Rovers player Mike Elwiss. As it turned out Rotherham won the game 2-1. Mr. Shankly who had left the ground with 15 minutes to go missed the only bit of magic from Elwiss. With just two minutes to go Elwiss on the right of the penalty area controlled the ball turned on a sixpence and hit a rising drive towards goal from 12 yards. It looked a goal all the way but Rotherham keeper Jim McDonagh sprang from nowhere to palm the ball over the bar. The next morning’s headlines pronounced that there would be a bid from Anfield for Elwiss. It was never forthcoming.

Rovers now were perilously close to the infamy of finishing at the bottom of the league for the first time in their history and three further defeats in succession did nothing to help.  Another home defeat, this time 2-1 to Chester City, was followed by a 3-1 loss at Workington Town’s Borough Park then a dismal 5-0 at Readings Elm Park. With 30 games gone Rovers were rock bottom, 5 points adrift of the next club Stockport County, but with two or three games in hand of the next five teams. That gap would be closed in the next game, another home derby, this time against Scunthorpe as Rovers beat the Iron with a penalty from Murray. It was another sub standard performance but it was enough to earn the victory and bring Rovers within three points of their fellow strugglers.

As Rovers fans waited for news of a bid from Liverpool for Elwiss it took everyone by surprise when Preston North End had stepped in to take the forward to Deepdale for a fee of £70,000. Bobby Charlton, then Preston’s manager, stated “I have admired Elwiss for some time now; I saw a lot of football even when I was playing and this is one lad who really impressed me” Elwiss moved from one relegation battle to another with Preston struggling against relegation from Division two; a battle they ultimately failed to win.

So Rovers would have to continue their fight without the services of one of their best players. A point against Darlington at Belle Vue in a 0-0 draw was followed by a 3-0 loss at Hartlepool United. However, Doncaster were to give their fans something to cheer as they now went on a four match unbeaten run, starting with a satisfying local derby win over Rotherham at Millmoor; goals from Higgins and Murray sealing a 2-1 win. The victory though was offset by the sending off of Steve Wignall after 57 minutes. It was a bad tempered match as some derby games turn out to be and referee Mr. Kevin McNally booked 5 players besides sending Wignall for an early bath.

Back at Belle Vue Rovers saw of Newport County by 2-0 with goals from Higgins and Curran, before two goalless draws followed. At home to Mansfield Town Rovers ran the show but could not find the finish to win the game, and then another 0-0 away at Swansea City moved Rovers above Workington at the foot if the table. It was to be a short-lived rise as the following week a 3-0 reversal at Colchester United’s Layer Road saw Rovers bottom again.

A 1-0 win over Exeter City through an Archie Irvine penalty moved Rovers up level with Stockport County on points, but they remained behind them on goal difference, especially after a 3-1 Good Friday defeat at Bury’s Gigg Lane.

Doncaster then had to face Lincoln City twice in two days. In the first game at Sincil Bank it looked as if Rovers were going to get well and truly beaten. Lincoln scored one goal and hit the bar twice in the first 4 minutes, and although Rovers equalized through O’Callaghan in the ninth minute, after just 13 minutes Rovers were 3-1 down. For once Rovers enthusiasm would pay dividends; their never say die endeavors’ harried Lincoln into mistakes and after former Rovers player Ian Branfoot had handled in the penalty area, Kitchen tucked away the penalty to reduce the deficit. Then with just two minutes to go Lincoln failed to clear their lines and Higgins shot through a crowded penalty area to give Rovers a share of the spoils.

The following day at Belle Vue with Rovers desperate to build on the come-back at Sincil Bank they came out all guns blazing and goals from Woods and O’Callaghan sent the 2,385 attending supporters home with a nice Easter present. The win lifted Rovers to the dizzy heights of 21st in the table and hopes were high that they could now draw clear of the ee-election zone.

Unfortunately it was not to be, the euphoria of the 2-0 home win against Lincoln was cast sadly aside as Rovers succumbed 2-0 at Belle Vue to Crewe Alexandra, a defeat which dropped Rovers one place down the table, beneath Crewe. Next in town were Northampton, fifth in the table and still chasing promotion, though on the evidence of this game at Bellle Vue it would have been hard to pick which team was at the top or bottom of the league. Rovers matched their opponents all over the pitch and goals from O’Callaghan and Curran gave them a much needed win lifting them to 21st place, just one point behind Darlington on 37 points.

Four days later Rovers travelled to the County Ground for the return match, alas they could not repeat the result or the performance and were beaten 3-1 by the Cobbblers; Rovers’ goal coming from Brookes. The final game of the season saw Rovers travel to Field Mill and again fall to defeat, beaten 2-0 by The Stags to end the season on a low note and leave Rovers in 22nd place and at the mercy of re-election.

Although re-election almost always saw the league clubs re-elected to the League it was still a worrying time, with there being no automatic promotion from non-league, dropping from Division Four often spelt the end for many teams. This season though Rovers would be spared – as too were the two teams below them, Workington and Stockport County – and could fight another day, but it would be almost three quarters though the next season before Rovers fans had anything like a smile back on their faces.

But that is for another season and another day.

Ray Jest