Remembering where we once were.
Doncaster and Southport hadn’t clashed for over twenty years, when they reconvened at Belle Vue on August 18th 1998 – a 1-0 win for the visitors in the hosts’ first home Conference game in front of 3663.
That crowd was bigger than any of the home league games the previous season.
The return was played just a month later and despite Rovers racing in to a two goal lead inside the opening quarter of an hour, they spectacularly fell apart and conceded 3 goals in the space of ten second half minute to come away with nothing.
Rovers failed in their attempts to defeat the Seagrounders the following year and only took one point from six against a side that had former Rover’s Adie Mike and Tim Ryan in their ranks. By the time Rovers did defeat the West Coast outfit, ‘Port had another ex-Rover in Dino Maamria playing his trade in their striking yellow kit.
Simon Shaw’s goal was the only one of the game during a meeting in September 2000, however that was as good as it got for Steve Wignall’s men who not only saw Southport avenge the league defeat with a 1-0 league win of their own, but hand Rovers the ignominy of not even qualifying for the first round of that season’s FA Cup first round.
The tight affairs continued and both games in the 01/02 season finished 1-0 to the respective home sides – Paul Barnes netting for Rovers in their final game at Belle Vue that season in front of a crowd of just over 2100.
Eight of the ten meetings between the two sides in the Conference saw at least one side finish goalless and after a stalemate at Belle Vue, Rovers rounded off foreseeable encounters between the pair with a resounding 4-0 flourish.
Midfielder Paul Green opened and closed the scoring for the visitors at a torrential Haig Avenue – either side of Rob Gill and Paul Barnes’ strikes which only added to the flurry.
The clubs departed the Conference at their respective ends and the Seagrounders were not to return until 2005 when they were the inaugural winners of the Conferene North.
Despite acquiring a healthy 47 points, ‘Port were to return to the sixth tier just a couple of seasons later, but it was arguably for the better.
The club went from strength to strength, and though they twice failed in the Conference North Play-Offs, promotion was sealed in 2010. Since then, the Club have become an established Conference outfit and will look to push on under the stewardship of Martin Foyle, who recently replaced John Coleman.
*Rovers centre back Barry Miller climbs highest in an aerial duel against Southport at Belle Vue in a 1-0 win on 20th April 2002*