Saturday 2 May 2009: The greatest day in Gloucester City’s history?

It was about this time 11 years ago, Saturday 2 May 2009, 13 year old me was getting ready for what was one of the biggest games in the history of Gloucester City AFC: The Southern League Premier play-off final.

Cherrywood Road was the setting, Farnborough were the opponents. The 68 years of association with The Southern League would be over come 5pm that afternoon if The Tigers could defeat the side that were so close to going up as champions that season only to throw it away.

The previous season City had just missed out on the play-offs. During 2008/09 however, led by the mastermind duo of Dave ‘Boris’ Mehew and Tim Harris, the team were good enough for a third placed finish that year and a play-off berth.

The semi-final win over Cambridge City was a breeze, I never once felt like City wouldn’t win. I wish I could say the same for the final itself though. There were a few anxious moments in the run up to the game itself that weekend as City fans awaited news on Lee Smith’s injury that he suffered in the semi-final, but thankfully he was good to go on Saturday.

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So the big day rolls around and I still to this day maintain that I have never felt an atmosphere or a tension in the air as palpable as it was that day. My dad and I arrived down at Meadow Park to a sea of Gloucester supporters ready to board the four coaches that were arriving at the same time as us. On we get, straight to the back of the bus, obviously.

Now as I’m sure you could imagine, the ‘refreshments’ were well and truly flowing amongst City faithful and even 13 year-old me had a sip of a can of lager – sorry mum!

Skip forward to the game itself and there’s only really about three moments I can remember from what was an incredibly scrappy and cagey 90 minutes of football. The first would be Tom Webb going down injured relatively early on to concerned and anxious looks from the travelling support; he’d been immense all season and the general feeling was City would crumble without him there.

Luckily that didn’t happen and soon after, following a long throw, the ball dropped to Matt Rose inside the box and, well, just watch for yourself…

From then on the rest of the day is just a blur, with one final hairy moment in the last minute as Kev Sawyer was grateful to see a looping shot nestle on the roof of his goal when it looked for all the world that it was dropping in.

Sawyer then sent the following goal kick up the field and following three, high pitched shrieks of the referee’s whistle that was it – Gloucester had done it! Promoted into the Blue Square Conference against all the odds with no home ground, a shoestring budget and mostly local players; pandemonium ensued as City fans streamed onto the pitch to celebrate with their team, with their heroes.

It was an incredible moment for the club that, in my opinion, has not been bettered since and it may well take something special in the future to actually top it.

I think it was made all the sweeter by the circumstances actually surrounding the game. Farnborough had thrown money at their efforts that season to get promoted and they were so close to doing so but couldn’t get over the line.

Gloucester turned up on the day and were just expected to roll over almost as if the game was a foregone conclusion and what followed was one of the worst games of football of the season, but one of the best moments in the club’s history.

What are your memories of that day 11 years ago? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook or leave a comment below. You can also listen back to Matt Rose give his perspective on In The Spotlight w/Ryan Butler.