11th August 1980
Football League Cup 1st Round 2nd Leg
Bristol Rovers (A):
Shoot-out glory for Thomas
By ROBIN PERRY in the Bristol Evening Post
BRISTOL ROVERS 1. EXETER CITY 1
Aggregate 2-2 Rovers won 7-6 on penalties.
Martin Thomas was mobbed by jubilant team-mates as his heroic saves put Bristol Rovers into the second round of the League Cup for the first time in five years.
Not even the torrential rain could dampen the drama of the penalty com- petition that finally decided a first-round tie in which Rovers and plucky Exeter City finished all-square after 210 minutes of gruelling cup football. Thomas faced spotkicks from eight Exeter players. Four times he pulled off great saves but twice international referee Clive Thomas ordered the penal- ties to be retaken. Tony Kellow and ex-Rovers man Phil Roberts made no mistake the second time. But the save from John Delve stood and - so did the one from David Pullar, which finally ended the contest after it had gone into the sudden-death stage and stood at 7-6 to Rovers. But, just as important, was the save Thomas made to deny Dick Forbes a winner for Exeter in the final minute of extra time. The 20-year-old Welshman hurled himself across the goalmouth to turn a ferocious drive around his left- hand post. Without that piece of international-class goalkeeping Exeter would have pulled off the unexpected win manager Brian Godfrey predicted they would gain. "Penalties are not the way to end a tie after all the work and effort both sides put in," said the former Rovers skipper. "But I am not despondent. If we play as well in the Third Division as we have in the two games against Second Division opposition, we will be knocking on the promo- tion door."
Rovers player-boss Terry Cooper felt sorry for Exeter. "But, at this stage of the season, two legs are enough I wouldn't want a replay on top," he said. "Frankly, after five years of trying, I'm just glad we have survived the first round at last. I don't care how we did it. Reaching the second round is pro- gress for the club and that's what I am after." The second leg was as well-matched as the first at St James Park, with Chic Bates and Tony Kellow again the scorers.
Kellow cashed in on a collision between Rovers defenders to give Exeter the lead after only six minutes following a right-wing cross from the always-dangerous Steve Neville. Stewart Barrowclough hit an Exeter post just after, and Bates had a goal dis- allowed for offside before he equalised in the 34th minute after a Mark Hughes shot was palmed out by Ian Main. Rovers, forced to reshuffle as winger Mike Barrett suffered a recurrence of his foot injury, looked at their most vulnerable in the early stages of the second half. Thomas did well to smother a shot after Neville broke clear of the defence and then manager Cooper headed off the line from Pullar.
But, in the final 15 minutes of ordinary time, Rovers missed two great chances. Bates shot wide with only Main to beat. He was through again just after, decided to square the ball because he was at an angle on the left and Barrowclough missed from a few yards out.
Jones missed for Rovers