Those were the days: The day the Rovers returned

SPORT....10/5/2003

Francis Tierney celebrates his golden goal..

SPORT....10/5/2003 Francis Tierney celebrates his golden goal..

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As Doncaster Rovers supporters come to terms with a difficult season, 13 years ago next week it was a very different story as the rebirth of the club began in the most dramatic fashion possible.

It was on May 10, 2003 that a goal was scored that would go down in club folklore and become the first step in a golden era for a club that had lost its Football League status in depressing scenes five years previously.

Doncaster Rovers celebrate after winning the Conference Play-Off Final in 2003.

Doncaster Rovers celebrate after winning the Conference Play-Off Final in 2003.

As the club tumbled into non-league obscurity at the end of the 1997-98 season under the Ken Richardson regime, many fans feared the club they loved was about to bite the dust.

But on that afternoon at Stoke’s Britannia Stadium, where the final of the 2003 Football Conference Play-Off Final was being contested, Francis Tierney was on hand to score perhaps the most important goal in Rovers history.

It was the fitting finale to a thrilling game against Dagenham and Redbridge, both sides having secured their place after emerging through the end of season play-offs.

The inaugural final attracted a crowd of more than 13,000 to Staffordshire and Doncaster showed their credentials as favourites by going in 1-0 up at the break, courtesy of a strike from Paul Green.

Overjoyed fans celebrate Francis Tierney's golden goal which saw Doncaster Rovers return to the Football League.

Overjoyed fans celebrate Francis Tierney's golden goal which saw Doncaster Rovers return to the Football League.

When Dave Morley added a second, 15 minutes after the restart, supporters were preparing to party - but, Rovers being Rovers, Dagenham fought back in fine style, goals from Mark Stein and Tarkan Mustafa levelling the tie at 2-2 and forcing the game to extra time and the lottery of the golden goal. Whoever scored first would win the match and earn their club promotion back to the Football League.

Cometh the 110th minute, cometh “Sir” Francis, latching onto a cross from Paul Barnes on the left and slotting home to spark wild scenes, pitch invasions, parties that carried on long into the night and all the way back to Doncaster and setting up a remarkable period of success for Rovers over the coming years.