Its hard to think of a Cup night where the phrase ‘magic of the cup’ could have been less apt then tonight. In front of an eerily empty Keepmoat Stadium Rovers suffered an off night and left the FA Cup before the competition had really got going. It wasn’t always this way; for the opening half an hour a subdued and gloomy match report looked far from being the eventual outcome. Inside the first five minutes Rovers had fashioned three chances; Mark Crossley just beating Lewis Guy to a through ball, Brian Stock pulling an effort wide and Richie Wellens forcing a save from Crossley.
James Hayter and Mark McCammon also had efforts on goal before the eventual and seemingly inevitable breakthrough came after twenty-five minutes; Guy crossing and McCammon guiding the ball home with a composed volley. Within a minute the big Barbadian had the ball in the net again as he headed home Martin Wood’s cross. Unfortunately the referee ruled it out for an alleged push from McCammon. Had it counted then it would have been game over instead Oldham took advantage of their reprieve and the game took a very different trajectory.
Oldham pushed forward and five minutes before half time the equaliser looked a certainty as Neal Eardley’s cross evaded everyone to find Gary McDonald at the far post but somehow Neil Sullivan got across goal to turn the ball over the bar. A let off, but only a temporary respite as the equaliser came on the stroke of half-time and in spectacular style; Neil Kilkenny hitting an unstoppable drive from thirty yards to leave it all square at half time.
Four minutes into the second half the Latics were in front; Eardley’s right wing cross looked set to be intercepted easily by Adam Lockwood only for the Rovers’ skipper to slip and leave McDonald with a free hit at goal which he took full advantage of for the second goal. The visitors had the better of the next quarter of an hour but a miss-hit Eardley cross that hit the post was as close as they came.
Rovers meanwhile had lost all fluidity to their game and never really looked set to threaten Athletic’s lead as the right option or right pass just seemed to elude those in red and white hops. Oldham’s Neal Trotman was sent off for a second yellow card late in the game but it made little difference as Rovers best chances, both to cross and to shoot, went sailing off into the empty red plastic of the South Stand.
No matter how many times you repeat the phrase ‘concentrate on the league’ there’s no denying this was a disappointing way to leave the FA Cup.
Wilson Watch: A non-playing substitute role for viva rovers’ Mark Wilson, although he did enough vocal persuasion to the linesman be asked to sit down and behave by the 4th official.
Doncaster Rovers line-up (4-3-2-1): Neil Sullivan; James O’Connor, Gordon Greer, Adam Lockwood, Sean McDaid; Richie Wellens, Brian Stock, Martin Woods (Jason Price); Lewis Guy (Craig Nelthorpe), James Hayter; Mark McCammon (James Coppinger)
subs not used: Mark Wilson, Barry Richardson
booked: Brian Stock, Richie Wellens
Oldham Athletic (4-4-2): Mark Crossley; Neal Eardley, Stefan Stam, Neal Trotman, Mark Allott; Chris Taylor, Gary McDonald, Neil Kilkenny, Matt Wolfenden (reuban Hazell); Deane Smalley, Craig Davies
subs not used: JP Kalala, Lewis Alessandra, Paul Black, Josh Bell
booked: Craig Davies, Neal Trotman
sent off: Neal Trotman (second yellow card)