GAS CHOKE ON BIG OCCASION
DARRELL Clarke failed to hide his tears as Bristol Rovers suffered the “darkest day in the club’s history” after being relegated out of the Football League.
The 36-year-old manager, who took the job on when the vastly experienced John Ward was controversially moved to become director of football in March, was inconsolable after a nightmare afternoon for the Bristol club.
It ended with police horses summoned to deal with a pitch invasion from angry fans after the final whistle.
A first-half goal from Colin Daniel condemned Rovers to Conference football next season. With Northampton Town and Wycombe Wanderers both winning, even the support of a 10,000-plus crowd was not enough to keep the Pirates in League Two.
A devastated Clarke said: “Words cannot sum up how I feel. I have picked the team for the last eight games and we didn’t get the required points so I take responsibility.
“In the dressing room afterwards I asked all the players to look at themselves and be honest about whether they had done enough over the course of the season.
“I can only apologise to our fantastic supporters. They have given us tremendous backing and it is awful not to have rewarded that.”
Rovers chairman Nick Higgs also faced the press and said: “It is the darkest day in the history of our club, but I can assure fans that we will be back.
“Our plans for a new stadium will not be affected and we were already planning a lot of changes for the summer, so that will not be altered either.”
The goal home fans were dreading came on 36 minutes when Anthony Howell crossed from the left and Daniel found space to hook a volley in off a post from 12 yards.
Rovers threw everything at their opponents in the second half and hit the woodwork twice through a David Clarkson header and a Mark McCrystal volley.
There were countless other near misses for a Rovers team who were unlucky on the day and saw an unbelievable save by Lewis Price on 56 minutes to keep out a Clarkson shot.
Mansfield boss Paul Cox said:“You don’t enjoy seeing grown men cry on the pitch at the end of the game. I asked my lads to play with pride, but we respect Bristol Rovers as a big club and I am sure they will be back. “I know Darrell Clarke and can only imagine what he is going
through his head.”
FLASHPOINT: Police horses keep the peace as Bristol Rovers fans invade the pitch after being relegated
DOWN AND OUT: Darrell Clarke breaks down at full-time
STAR MAN DAVID CLARK