Need to win by five (UPS, after all seven) goal difference to go back to the last lap? It sounds utopian, but it really happened.
The 46th and last day of the league twothe fourth tier of English football (equivalent to the Portuguese league) played one of the most epic league finals on Saturday and culminated in the rise of Bristol Rovers, pushing Northampton Town to the playoffs of ascent to League 1.
Northampton and Bristol started the last lap with 77 points, respectively in the third (direct climb to League 1) and fourth place (playoffs of rise) and Northampton having the advantage by the balance sheet of 20 positive goals, with 15 positive goals for “The Gas”.
However, that meant that in the event of a tie on points, Bristol would have to overturn the five-goal difference, which seemed all the more unthinkable given how events had unfolded since kick-off on Saturday afternoon.
Northampton won the visit to Barrow AFC by 3-1 to give them, with 80 points, a positive record of 22 goals… Forcing Bristol to beat Scunthorpe by seven goals.
And what did Bristol do at the same time? Defeated 7-0, they had the same 80 points, a positive record of 22 goals scored and conceded… But with an advantage over Northampton by the total number of goals scored, the next tie-breaking criterion (71 scored and 49 conceded for 60- 38 between scored and suffered by Northampton).
A film that had everything to be upside down
To understand just how epic Bristol Rovers’ rise to prominence was, you have to watch the film of the two encounters that had third place at stake.
Bristol made it 1-0 in the 18th minute, but bad news came from Holker Street: Northampton were already beating Barrow 3-0 in the 22nd minute, precisely when Bristol made it 2-0 over Scunthorpe, who left Northampton, at that time, with a six-goal advantage in goal difference against the direct opposition.
Hope, almost nil as the break approached, was a little high for Bristol with the goal of Barrow, which reduced it to 1-3 against Northampton. In turn, Bristol, playing at home and 2-0 up at half-time, needed to score at least five goals in the remaining 45 minutes, not suffer and hope Northampton’s lead did not increase.
And what amazement the footballing world felt when it actually happened.
The ex-man. City that achieved an epic feat
Joey Barton, the Bristol Rovers coach, had no doubts about the rise.
“I knew we were going up, I had no doubt about it. One thing that cannot be questioned is the character of our team and our players. Following that, the fans came out and supported the players because they knew they were going to give it their all. You have special days if you get this kind of income,” said the 39-year-old coach, who lived last Saturday one of the most memorable days of a sports career that, as a player, has passed time with Manchester City, Newcastle or Marseille, just over a decade.
The players, in legitimate celebration, were sparse in words while still in the stadium, but with emotion evident.
“I’m speechless, it can’t be summed up. I am speechless. That’s why we play football.” The words were from Bristol Rovers goalkeeper James Belshaw on the grass amid endless festivities in shades of blue and white (video above).
” What can I say ? It was phenomenal. It just shows the character we have in this dressing room,” said Collins, who scored two of Rovers’ goals in the final round.
Next weekend Northampton will go to playoffs and play in the semi-finals with Mansfield Town. Swindon Town and Port Vale face off in the other semi-final, with four teams for a place in promotion to the third tier to be decided in the final on May 28.
Who no longer have to go through it are the Rovers. Ligue 1 in 2022/23 is a certainty.