The last minute men – Bristol Rovers are English football’s comeback kings

Condemnation, tears, back-to-back promotions, elation. Bristol Rovers fans have been treated to a bumper trip on the proverbial “emotional rollercoaster“ over the last few seasons.

‘The Pirates’ were a notably rare case of instant retribution upon returning to English football’s fourth tier just one season after losing their league status for the first time in 94 years. Riding high off a classic campaign, Rovers found themselves moving further up the ladder to League One just 12 months later.

Popular manager Darrell Clarke masterminded an incredible achievement considering the confidence-zapped squad he inherited, and gaining a successive promotion with individuals largely inexperienced at the level above was no mean feat either.

Fast-forward a year and a half, and the club are continuing to make strides on and off the pitch. One look at their league position suggests that the West Country side have accustomed themselves well (they currently sit in 11th place, five points adrift of the play-off positions) however, one glance at league standings hardly tells the full story.

Liverpool’s famous 2005 Champions League victory, Preston North End’s barmy 6-4 2010 comeback win over Leeds United, and now Bristol Rovers recent 3-2 triumph over Rochdale on a freezing Tuesday night at the club’s ‘Memorial Stadium’.

What do these three wildly different scenarios have in common? They all share a place in history as impressive comeback victories, in fact, to say Rovers have a recent record of coming from behind to secure crucial victories would be an understatement.

Since the start of 2016/17 no team in English football has bettered Rovers record of 13 comeback victories from losing positions.

This season alone, the side have already won six times recovering from potentially disastrous scorelines. Being present at last week’s impressive win over Rochdale, the confidence within both the fan base and squad was clear to see.

Instead of heads dropping upon conceding in the 29th minute, the goal seemed instead to serve as a wake-up call to ‘rally the troops’.

A collective sigh of relief was sensed around the ground when full-back Joe Partington headed in an emphatic equaliser, and the atmosphere was understandably electric following Chris Lines 79th minute thunderbolt to win the game.

Another day at the office for Darrell Clarke’s men, they certainly don’t make it easy for themselves.

What exactly is required for a side to recover from a goal deficit to snatch all three points? One attribute stressed by gaffer Darrell Clarke (and countless other managers up and down the country) is ‘Character’. At the time of writing, three of Rovers last five league fixtures have been won having initially been one goal down.

Speaking after his side’s comfortable 3-1 win over Doncaster Rovers, Clarke talked of “Great responses” and the group he has assembled are certainly capable and confident enough to respond when the odds are stacked against them.

It could be argued that an exceptional side wouldn’t find themselves in a losing position in the first place, giving away sloppy goals has been an issue for the side, ‘The Gas’ have conceded 50 goals in just 32 matches.

Despite having a negative goal difference, if ever there was a case to be had for sides that ‘Grow into the game’ then Rovers epitomise that statement. Having scored just two of their league goals in the opening 15 minutes of games, yet 22 goals in the final 15 minutes of matches, they are a side that excel when the stakes are high.

With a important run-in of games and players in form, it proves to be a massive couple of months for one of the most exciting sides in the football league at the moment – just don’t get too excited if your side goes 1-0 up against them.

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Joe Moon
Joe Moon

Writing enthusiast currently studying English at The University Of The West Of England.

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