A GANG of 20 hooligans armed with baseball bats attacked Swindon Town fans before the team's crucial match with Bristol Rovers.

The unprovoked violence took place at the Inn on the Green pub in Horfield, Bristol, at about 1.30pm as about 30 Town fans gathered for a friendly pre-match drink before the crunch encounter.

Fans caught up in the terrifying ordeal have described the attack as premeditated.

Karen Norton, 22, of Wantage, was among the Town fans targeted in the pub's beer garden. She said: "We were just sat in the pub garden and all of a sudden these blokes came in with baseball bats and started throwing glasses and bottles at us.

"It was completely unprovoked as we were just enjoying a quiet drink, there were even some Rovers fans there who we were getting on with. I got put behind a group of blokes for my own safety, but then a glass only just missed my face.

"The blokes with the baseball bats were just attacking the Swindon fans - there was blood everywhere. I was just crying my eyes out. I have never seen anything like it in my life."

One eyewitness said the gang were contacted via mobile phone by one man who then singled out the fans that were attacked.

Chris Doore, 33, also from Wantage, said that the yobs crashed through the beer garden's fence to make their escape.

He said: "The fence was demolished in the beer garden as they legged it. After about five minutes six or seven riot police arrived and I said you're a bit late.' "There must have been between 20 and 30 blokes in casual clothes and one of them was shouting they're over there' pointing to the Swindon fans.

"I saw one bloke get hit in the face and there were quite a few others who were injured."

Chris Chadwick, 18, of Old Town, was inside the pub when he heard glasses smashing in the beer garden.

"We looked outside the window and there were loads of what I assumed to be Rovers fans," he said. "Some of them had a lot of wood and they were throwing bottles and glasses at the Swindon fans.

"They came into the beer garden from the rear gate.

"It's the first time I have ever seen anything like that so it was fairly scary. The Swindon fans were coming back into the pub to get away from it all.

"One of the blokes that came in was holding his arm and he was in agony so I think he must have broken it, but there were a lot of people with gashes and cuts. I've been against the ground share from the start and what happened on Saturday makes me even more against it."

The landlord of the Inn on the Green confirmed the trouble had taken place, but declined to comment further.

Around 150 police officers were employed for the derby game and the Adver understands they were equipped with rigid Arnold batons for the first time in 10 years.

PC James Neighbour, Swindon police football liaison officer, said that he was aware of the violence at the Inn on the Green and said it was one of several flashpoints involving rival supporters before the game.

But he said the perpetrators of the violence would be dealt with by Avon and Somerset police.

He said: "As far as I am concerned, I'm aware that there was trouble in various different locations in Bristol.

"Avon and Somerset police are also aware and the matter will be dealt with accordingly.

"I thought Swindon fans were well behaved. What I can say is that small groups of Swindon fans were being picked off by larger groups of Bristol Rovers risk' supporters, in other words hooligans.

"It was disappointing to see, but there was a police helicopter with a camera, police units with cameras and lots of footage taken so we can arrest those responsible."