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Note that this page is from our Gresley Rovers archive.
It may not be related to the new club Gresley FC.
Story posted: Monday, 1st April 1991

Final glory!
Story courtesy of
Tears of emotion welled up in the player’s eyes as Gresley Rovers made sure of a trip to Wembley with a stunning victory over Littlehampton Town.
As the reality sank in, some of the Gresley heroes couldn’t hide their feelings.

Others didn’t want to think about their achievement, merely to celebrate one of the greatest occasions not jusy in their careers but also in their lives.

Anyone going into the away dressing room at Littlehampton wanted ear plugs to drown out the deafening noise – and a raincoat as Neil Lovell, the joker in Rovers’ pack, sent cups of tea flying as he banged out a beat on the unprotected table.

Minutes earlier, the Moatmen had danced a jig which wouldn’t have won any prizes on Come Dancing, punched the air with delight and embraced one another on the final whistle.

Some of the victors made a beeline for relatives in the 400 strong army of travelling fans who were penned in behind one of the goals, and before long all the team were gathered at the end to pay tribute to their supporters.

Gresley’s 2-1 win on the afternoon – a 5-2 aggregate success – made up for the harsh treatment some of the fans felt they had to endure at the South Coast club.

Warded like sheep into a fenced-off enclosure behind the goal, they had been made to wait 15 minutes before being allowed into the ground, couldn’t get a hot drink and had to use a mobile toilet brought in specially for the day.

The elderly and the infirm were made to stand like everyone else – no seat tickets were allocated to visiting fans.

Give credit to Littlehampton – they rarely resorted to strong-arm tactics and wished Gresley all the best at Wembley.

They must have been grateful that Rovers hadn’t gone into the record books for the biggest-ever win in a semi-final, such was their dominance.

The Marigolds could have been four or five goals down from the first leg and if the Moatmen had accepted all the clear-cut chances that came their way in Sussex they would have won 7-1.

As it was, Gresley ran the show almost from start to finish.

Manager Frank Northwood had called for his team to win the game in style – and that’s exactly what they did.

Littlehampton were confident that they would win the tie 3-0. They had won all their previous home Vase games, scoring at least two goals in the process.

But they reckoned without the Rovers’ determination and passion. Widely travelled striker Paul Acklam bagged an eighth minute opener which calmed the nerves – and afterwards he spoke of his anxiety about whether it would be allowed: “I went in front of my man for a free kick, got my head to it and it hit the bar. I looked straight at the linesman because I could see that it had gone in, but sometimes the officials don’t give it. Fortunately he had his flag up for the goal.”

From then on there was only one team in it. Stuart Stokes hit a 21st minute penalty after Acklam had been sent tumbling. Steve Bates’ header from the 32nd minute Littlehampton corner didn’t prove to be the catalyst for a Marigold revival – it merely stung Gresley out of any complacency that might have crept in.

For Gil Land, an FA Trophy finalist with Burton Albion, and Carl Rathbone a runner-up two years ago with Tamworth, it’s a second trip to Wembley. “We’ve just got to go there and enjoy it now, irrespective of the result,” said central defender Land.

“We’ve been playing well all season at the back and most of their efforts were restricted to long range. Not many of them were on target. It was one of the quietest afternoons we’ve had.”

And striker Rathbone is grateful to go back after getting on at Wembley as a Tamworth substitute: “I’m looking to prove I’m still capable of doing it. I never expected to be down the same road again. It’s incredible, but there’s a lot of guts and character in this side and it showed today.”

Four weeks on Saturday, Church Gresley should resemble a ghost town as the whole place will no doubt be going to Wembley – the most important day in the 108 year history of a club steeped in tradition.

The team may be going simply to enjoy the day out – but I’ve got a sneaking suspicion it will be Gresley, not Guisley, returning home with the FA Vase.
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12 Peterborough Sports 42 -8 51
13 Spalding United 42 -10 50
14 Loughborough Dynamo 42 -17 49
15 Sheffield FC 42 -19 45
16 Belper Town 42 -44 45
17 Gresley 42 -42 43
18 Kidsgrove Athletic 42 -20 42
19 Carlton Town 42 -10 41
20 Newcastle Town 42 -24 39
21 Market Drayton Town 42 -46 39
22 Romulus 42 -37 35

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