Joey Barton said he was “so proud” of his Bristol Rovers team after they crushed Scunthorpe 7-0 to seal automatic promotion from League Two in the most dramatic of styles.
Rovers snatched third place from Northampton on goals scored after netting five times in the second half, with Elliot Anderson’s decisive seventh in the 85th minute sparking a pitch invasion by delirious fans.
After a 16-minute delay the match resumed, with Rovers seeing it out to make up their goal difference deficit on the Cobblers, whose 3-1 win at Barrow was not enough.
“There’s been some highs and lows and there’s been some tough moments but one thing that can’t ever be questioned is the character of our team,” said Barton.
“And then as a direct consequence the fanbase have turned up and supported them. They really give everything for the Quarters and you get special football days if you get that recipe. I’m so proud.
“I didn’t expect us to win 7-0 today. I don’t think anybody did. But, again, were we going to do it any other way?
Anderson’s cross was put into his own goal by the Iron’s Oliver Lobley after 18 minutes to give the hosts an early lead.
Connor Taylor headed in another Anderson cross four minutes later, but it was after the break when the Gas really hit top gear.
Aaron Collins drove in from the edge of the area in the 53rd minute, with Anthony Evans rifling in to make it four nine minutes later.
Evans’ sublime free-kick after 76 minutes gave the home side belief the unthinkable might just be achievable.
That increased when Collins tapped home seconds later before Anderson sent the home fans into dreamland with the seventh.
Barton, who intends to build a good squad to compete in League One next year to capitalise on the momentum, said achieving promotion was something he would never forget.
“This is definitely up there,” he said. “I think my first promotion as a coach I’ll always remember, especially as I had two mad court cases in the middle of it.
“We’ve got a fantastic group and all we can do is give the blue half of Bristol something to believe in.
“The world’s tough. If we can give a little bit of an oasis on the weekend to people then that’s where football’s at its best.”
Scunthorpe manager Keith Hill said his side “got a footballing lesson”.
He said: “I wanted them to enjoy this experience, but from a footballing perspective they were miles better than us.
“They’ve done it over 46 games of the season. We haven’t.
“Because of the [transfer] embargo, it’s evident that ourselves and Oldham have been cut adrift somewhat this season.
“I hate losing and I’ve hated listening to them celebrate today. It’s not happened to me in my career before.
“We have to change the culture and make sure we breed a winning environment to turn things around.”