15 years ago on Saturday 3rd May 2003 Bracknell Town travelled to Tooting & Mitcham United needing a win to guarantee safety in the Isthmian League Division 1 South (then known as the Ryman, now the Bostik League).
It was twelve months after former Farnborough Town boss Alan Taylor had swept in to Larges Lane and transformed the club on the pitch, leading a young hungry side to promotion out of Division 3 at the first attempt.
The 2002/03 season was a strange one. Bracknell had effectively jumped two divisions after an FA reorganisation (you’d think they’d have it all sorted out by now wouldn’t you?) reduced the Isthmian League from four in line divisions to a Premier, Division One North and Division One South as well as a Division Two that was effectively left in limbo for several seasons.
There was jeopardy in the tie, the bottom two sides in the 24 team division were up for relegation, but the teams finishing in 23 in the North and South were to play a relegation play-off and Bracknell conceivably could have been one of those two IF they lost at Tooting and the Met Police won (spoiler, the Met were at least 4-0 down at half time but that rather spoils the narrative!).
Bracknell went 2-0 down in the first half at Imperial Fields through Durrand Jemmott and Dean Canoville before Neil Baker pulled one back for Bracknell and the mercurial James Glynn scored twice to complete an unbelievable fightback.
A key member of that side throughout Alan Taylor’s time in charge was Gavin Smith, now a member of the backroom team at Bracknell.
‘Why I got abuse I don’t know!’
Football in Bracknell spoke to the former Robins midfielder and captain. He said: “We stayed up because of that game. James Glynn scored a free kick, I remember him scoring two. My memory of past games isn’t great!
“The one thing that sticks out was I got subbed off near the end and their fans gave me a load of abuse for some reason, I’ve no idea! I must have done something in the game but that’s something I remember as I walked off.
“It might have been that we were winning 3-2 and we were wasting a bit of time or something, why I got abuse I don’t know.”
The match was during the same season goalkeeper Martin Hutt suffered a bad injury after landing awkwardly in a game at home to Windsor (this would have led to one of Stuart Hammonds infamous turns between the sticks). Lee Edwards deputised for the remainder of the season but was injured in the early part of the game, replaced by a young Callum Whitty.
The full Bracknell team for the Tooting match was: Lee Edwards, Neil Baker, Jamie Clarke, Paul Gower, Stuart Hammonds, Giles Marchant, Ben Edwards, Gavin Taylor, Jody Yee, Gavin Smith, Nko Ekoku. Subs were: Callum whitty (for Lee Edwards), James Glynn (for Clarke) and Adam Crittenden (for Gavin Smith).
Smith said: “I remember seeing a photo and I remember Callum being in it!
“The strange thing about our team, we could be teams like Tooting but we could lose to the teams at the bottom.
“We had good players but maybe not the consistency.”
Bracknell’s visit coincided with the Terror’s first season at Imperial Fields having previously played at Sandy Lane in Tooting. Gavin said: “I remember the ground being really nice and the pitch was decent. I don’t know what it’s like now but I’d have thought they’d look after it and it’s pretty good now.”
In case you wondered, Met Police faced Wembley in the Ryman League Division 1 play-off final, a game they won, sending The Lions down to Division 2.
Bracknell and Tooting renew acquaintances on Saturday 24th November 2018.
Main image: Gavin Smith celebrates after Bracknell Town’s win at Tooting & Mitcham United in 2003 by Richard Claypole.
Additional information as always from FCHD.info, Bracknell Town team information from Rob Scully.