On Saturday the Panthers held a team from the British Army's Royal Corps of Signals as part of Bristol Rovers' Remembrance match commemorations.
Not to be deterred by the very firm handshakes from the visitors, the Panthers dug in early with some strong chances from the get-go, with wingback Jonathan forcing an early corner. The military men were clearly stunned by the Panthers' early offence and the Panthers almost took the lead after a Mike Green cross which unfortunately couldn't find a Panthers boot to knock in.
The army managed to rally and started moving the ball more, giving the back three of Charlie, Ross and Pete plenty to chase, and lots of chances to shine with some strong clearances. Charlie looked to reprise his wonder goal against Leicester but sadly the ball drifted wide this time. Tom Marlow had plenty of work to do on the right hand side and enjoyed keeping the army men on their toes! At the other end, Chris Miles found his attempts to add to his scoring tally frustrated too.
In the second half the army had the better of the chances, but neither team really broke through with major threats on goal. The midfielders of Alex Kohnert, Mike Clements, Chris Robinson, Harry and Steve all had plenty to do, with Dean May's fancy footwork helping out on numerous occasions. Some changes at the back saw Chris Miles marshal Rob Alsop, Glenn and Charlie, who between them made sure that the Army didn't threaten the net from their corners.
The final whistle duly blew for a very satisfying 0-0 draw. In particular, the visitors were impressed by how disciplined the Panthers were in keeping their shape against a strong and confident opposition.
While it was a satisfying result for the Panthers, the scoreline was always secondary heading into this match. This was a wonderful opportunity to work with the army to highlight the importance of remembrance and of diversity. Gay people have only been able to serve openly in the British Army since 2000, and during World War 1 gay soldiers found themselves subject to Court Martial. The Army has come a long way in terms of LGBT inclusion, and it was a privilege to help honour that with this landmark game. And, of course, we took the opportunity to remember all those who have given their lives or been injured in the course of military duty - including LGBT soldiers - in a minutes' silence before kick off.
Huge thanks must go to the Royal Corps of Signals team for playing the match in such good spirits. Thanks also to Bristol Rovers Community Trust who set up and hosted the match. And huge plaudits must also go to Panthers' Vice Chairman Pete Davey, who worked very hard to get the match in the calendar at short notice. It was an honour to be a part of such a very special fixture.