Sporting bygones: Doncaster Rovers set off on the road back from oblivion

Doncaster Rovers' Dino Maamria: Played in first Conference match for the club.
Doncaster Rovers' Dino Maamria: Played in first Conference match for the club.
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Wherefore to Dover? Wast thou not charged at peril.

The above alludes to a famous line spoken by villainess Regan in William Shakespeare’s tragic play King Lear, with the embattled monarch seeking a refuge in the coastal gateway, away from his monstrous daughters.

For Doncaster Rovers, the Kent port was the destination for the on-pitch metamorphosis of the club following the reviled Ken Richardson era, with a new period beginning for the club at the Crabble Ground two decades ago on August 15, 1998.

Rovers’ historic first game in the Conference may have ended in a 1-0 defeat to Dover Athletic, but while they were beaten, they were unbowed.

At the end of that Spring, there were genuine fears that the club would go under following their exit from the Football League.

Mercifully, Richardson sold out to the Westferry company during the summer and Rovers were alive and kicking.

Rovers supporters John Ryan and Peter Wetzel assumed control of the footballing side of the operation and former Belle Vue favourite Ian Snodin was appointed manager, with brother Glynn soon arriving as his No 2.

But a colossal amount of work lay in store as Rovers attempted to get themselves ship-shape for the new Conference season, just a few weeks on the horizon.

When Snodin arrived on August 1, Rovers had just five players, with it representing a minor miracle that the club managed to field a competitive side at Dover.

Snodin and Ryan not only had to hastily assemble a side, but do plenty more besides. This being a club with no staff personnel, kit and even goalposts and footballs, with thousands of pounds also needing to be spent on Rovers’ rotting Belle Vue home in order to secure a safety certificate.

It was literally a club starting from scratch again.

Slowly, but surely, a town started to believe once again. A very healthy following of Rovers fans made the long trip to Dover on a day which saw one player in Kevin McIntyre famously introduced to his new mates for the first time when he boarded the team coach at Watford Gap services en route to the game.

The Rovers side who lined up that day read: Andy Woods, Simon Shaw, Kevin McIntyre, Lee Warren, Mark Hume, Colin Sutherland, Mark Bradley, Shaun Goodwin, Tommy Wright, Dino Maamria and Scott Maxfield.

The game turned out to be the only appearance for the club for Scottish midfielder Bradley, with the match settled by a 34th-minute goal from home player Scott Daniels.

But the result was secondary to the fact that Rovers were back after a near-death experience.