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The Conference Years: Burton Albion

17 May 2014

Remembering where we once were.

The Brewers are just ninety minutes away from meeting Rovers again following their play-off joy against Southend today.

Albion will face Fleetwood at Wembley in a week’s time to determine whether they will make the elevation to the third level of English football for the first time in their history.

With Nigel Clough taking the reins of the then Southern Football League Premier Division outfit in 1998, they went on to finish runners-up in the league in two successive years before their geographical location ultimately helped them gain promotion to the Conference as title winners…of the Northern Premier League in 2002.

Clough took to the field in the first ever meeting between the two sides at Eton Park on a cold Friday night in December 2002.

A crowd in excess of 2,000 saw Rovers take the lead through their formidable striker Paul Barnes – who went on to notch 26 goals in total that season.

Young goalscorer Robert Gill was bang in the middle of his purple patch in front of goal too, which yielded seven goals in 9 games, and he increased Rovers’ lead with his strike just after half time.
 
Jason Kavanagh’s 81st minute penalty reduced the arrears but Dave Penney’s men hung on for the win and would do likewise a few months later at Belle Vue.

Barnes would notch once again, this time past future England under-21 and Northern Ireland international Lee Camp, in a routine 1-0 win.

Promotion to the Football League was eventually forthcoming, although Clough, who’d taken charge of over 700 games, wasn’t at the helm. He’d set the wheels in motion at the newly built Pirelli Stadium, but left midway through the season to head to Derby County, and so Roy MacFarland, himself a former Ram, took the credit for sealing the deal.

Albion, currently managed by Gary Rowett, continue to go from strength to strength and a reunion with Rovers in the near future is not an impossibility.

*Centre half Steve Foster climbs highest at Belle Vue in Rovers' 1-0 win over the Brewers in February 2003*

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