Inside the Bristol Rovers dressing room and what happened when referee took players off pitch
The fan favourite goalkeeper gave an insight as to what happened when play was paused at the Mem on May 7
Bristol Rovers’ 7-0 win over Scunthorpe United on May 7 was a day that many will say ‘I was there’ after what can be described as one of football’s greatest moments.
The Cobblers ended up suffering play-off heartache to Mansfield Town whilst Rovers can prepare for life in the third tier next season.
The final day itself at the Memorial Stadium was something that even Hollywood executives would refuse to believe could be possible but Rovers did it.
As a five goal gap became seven 15 minutes into things, Rovers turned on the style in the second half after being 2-0 up and Northampton conceding a goal from Josh Kay before the break.
Aaron Collins and Antony Evans both scored braces before loan hero Elliot Anderson netted with five minutes to go to level the goal difference and put Rovers ahead on goals scored.
Appearing on One Rovers Vlogs, a YouTube channel hosted by Charlie Hayne, Belshaw gave an insight into what happened when the referee Charles Breakspear ordered the players to come off the pitch after the on-loan Newcastle man’s goal sparked a pitch invasion.
He said: “The seventh goes in and it’s just pandemonium. You see everyone on the pitch, there’s a lot been said about stuff on the pitch recently but the emotions were obviously so high.
“We went off and it was a weird sort of feeling to be taken off the pitch. We’re in the changing rooms and we’ve had this adrenaline shot. We’re back in the changing rooms and the doors are opposite each other.
“It’s all kind of kicking off a bit, everyone has an opinion and everyone is shouting stuff. They got us in, shut the door and everyone is just on their phones watching the Barrow score.
With play delayed for 15 minutes, Rovers knew the task in hand after Northampton had finished their home game at Holker Street, finishing 3-1 with no change in the scoreline from half-time.
No further goal came from the East Midlands’ side who also saw their first choice goalkeeper Liam Roberts sent off for a handball, which would prove costly in the playoffs.
After much deliberation including the need for manager Joey Barton and chairman Wael al-Qadi to persuade fans to take to the stands again and behave appropriately to complete the match, the referee began proceedings again.
It was a situation that of course benefited Rovers as they knew what would need to be done, which was to avoid conceding and Belshaw was their last line of defence.
He admitted: “We gained an advantage from it as we knew that the Barrow game had finished so we didn’t need another Barrow goal.
“At that point my focus switches. My goalkeeping coach (Tony Warner) comes up to me and says switch on switch on, they could have a shot. I’m like just chill out and relax, let me go out and play.
“The referee came into both changing rooms and said ‘lads I’m playing eight minutes all in’ and I think he ended up playing six or seven because we kept the ball. For me as a goalkeeper I was like I’ve got eight minutes to do what you’ve done. I think I touched the ball a couple of times. You see the referee blow the whistle and I was looking at him for the last two minutes as everyone was just waiting.”
After a later finish to the match because of the pitch invasion, another one would take place, this time after the final whistle, in better spirits.
Fans would flock to the pitch to revel in the moment and celebrate what at one point looked like a far-fetched dream. Supporters to their best ability would lift up the manager and numerous players aloft on their shoulders.
It’s a moment that Belshaw has previously said will be spoken about for years to come and he provided what it was like for him when the whistle blew on a long gruelling season.
“That feeling if you could, you’d bottle it up and sell it for millions,” he said.
“You see everyone sprinting and I said to Jed (Jed Ward), if we go up you’ve got to make sure you get to me first. If you watch the videos you just see Jed bombing across to me.
“You can’t see anything because I’ve got people around me, you can’t see the lads. So then you get put on someone’s shoulders. You see Azza (Aaron Collins) and everyone on the fans shoulders. You have that kind of moment.
“I got put back down and back up again. I see my old man and my brother there, you see they’ve got on the pitch to see me. It was incredible.
“We were third for five minutes for the season. Someone sent something to me, I think we spent three or five days in the bottom two and five minute in the top three.”