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Bristol Rovers' manager does 'a Van Gaal' just before Conference play-off penalty shootout

The tactic worked a treat as Darrell Clarke’s side beat Grimsby to return to the Football League.

Image: Nigel French/EMPICS Sport

THERE WAS PLENTY of drama in the Vanarama Conference play-off final at Wembley today as Bristol Rovers booked their place in the Football League for next season after a nail-biting penalty shootout win over Grimsby.

The game finished 1-1 after 90 minutes but as a nervy extra-time ebbed toward conclusion, Rovers’ boss Darrell Clarke had one last trick up his sleeve.

Drawing on Louis van Gaal’s eye-catching strategy at last summer’s World Cup, when he replaced regular goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen with replacement Tim Krul right just before the whistle went to signal a penalty shootout, Clarke did likewise.

Off came Will Puddy and in his place came Steve Mildenhall – who saved a penalty for Grimsby in the 2006 play-off decider against Cheltenham.

Though Mildenhall didn’t save any kick, the tactic may have had an effect on Grimsby’s Jon-Paul Pittman who put his effort over the bar.

Gavin Cooney
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Rovers were impeccable when the pressure was on, scoring each penalty. Moments after Pittman’s miss, Lee Mansell stepped up and made no mistake, securing his side’s place in the Football League for next term.

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