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Twenty years since Stoke | 'Sir' Francis Tierney on the most golden of goals

10 May 2023

In all of Rovers folklore, only one man with the honour of having a day named after him.

May 10 will forever be known as Sir Francis Tierney Day after the man who netted the golden goal in the play-off final to cap Rovers’ resurrection from the ashes and return to the Football League.

A single goal to change the fortunes of a football club and accelerate an incredible rise following the most painful of falls.

Tierney’s extra time strike to secure a 3-2 win over Dagenham and Redbridge at the Britannia Stadium in Stoke sparked delirium from the Rovers support and etched the Liverpudlian’s name in the club’s history books.

The 47-year-old looks back on the day with obvious fondness - and will raise a drink or two in its memory while spending its 20th anniversary on holiday - but admits it could easily have been so different.

“We went 2-0 up and they got it back to 2-2,” he said. “The bit I remember is that they got the second goal from down my side and I was blaming myself. I think it was Tarkan Mustafa, who used to play for us, he was a lot quicker than me and he went down the right side. I slid to try to block the shot and I just had a birds eye view of it going in to make it 2-2.

“I had a header as well. I wouldn’t say heading was my greatest forte but I should have scored it. It was ridiculous - it went the opposite way to where I was supposed to head it.

“We should never have let them back in the game after going 2-0 up. We didn’t expect to win, it wasn’t anything like that. We knew it was going to be hard.”

With the game ending at 2-2 after 90 minutes, the two sides headed into extra time - but no ordinary half hour period. The golden goal method was put in place - effectively meaning the next goal would be the winner.

It brought tension, but also set the stage for Tierney’s heroics.

“I’d never been in a golden goal game before. It was cagey,” he said. “Every time they had even half an attack you’re just thinking it’s over here.

“There wasn’t a massive amount of chances in extra time but I remember the move. I just managed to get a steal on the left back. Gregg [Blundell] played it to Barney [Paul Barnes] and I thought if he puts this where I want it, it’s over.

“He did. Game over and cue the celebrations. Pitch invasion.

“We had a do at the hotel and had a night out back in Doncaster which was great. The fans were outstanding - every pub was packed.

“We were all going to Magaluf, win or lose. And we had three or four days there which was brilliant.”

Rovers went on to secure promotion from Division Three the following season but an early season injury for Tierney left him sidelined and ultimately led to his untimely retirement from the game.

“I started the next season but it was the beginning of the end for me,” he said. “I started the first five games but then I got injured and then I came back in the reserves and my cartilage went. It just wasn’t fixable and I had to retire.”

Looking back at that day in Stoke two decades on, Tierney remains proud to have played such a significant part in the club’s history.

“It was my best moment by far,” he said. It was a whole team effort but when you get the goal, you get most of the plaudits.

“Even for years after, supporters would send me messages on Facebook every anniversary of it.

“I’ll always be appreciative for the support people have given me.”

And Rovers will forever be appreciative for the most golden of goals.

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