If only the whole of 2007 could have been this upbeat. A third win in a row means Rovers finish the year in their highest position for as long as this writer has been alive; Happy New Year folks, Doncaster are up to fourth. Life is good in the Keepmoat concourses at the moment; people are smiling again. Rovers are playing football again, Rovers are winning again. Whilst Leeds grab the headlines whatever they do, a mini Christmas revolution forty miles south has edged Rovers into the position of genuine promotion contenders.
Today Rovers added the seventh, eighth and ninth points of an impeccable festive run and threw in the seventh, eighth and ninth goals too for good measure. In the whole of the 2003-2004 Champion season Rovers managed three goals from corners; today they scored as many as that in just the first half in front of the Keepmoat’s North Stand.
Things hadn’t started well for Rovers with Adam Lockwood hitting the deck in innocuous looking circumstances within the first minute. I’ve no idea what treatment was given to Adam Lockwood, but if possible it should be marketed as within minutes of grimacing on the West Stand touchline the Rovers skipper had headed his team in front nodding home Brian Stock’s corner via the underside of the bar. Posession wise Rovers had the best of the opening fifteen minutes so there was wide spread surprise when Southend had the nerve to equalise as Charlie McDonald glanced home Mark Gower’s cross.
This was perhaps Southend’s best spell of the game but all they had to show for it was a booking as Leon Clarke was pulled up for a foul and disagreed in emphatic style to earn the match’s only caution. After half an hour Rovers doubled their lead after a corner from the right hand side; Jason Price’s initial effort was blocked but Paul Green’s follow up had no such problem finding the back of the net.
Back in the lead Rovers’ recent confidence returned and the ole’s were soon sounding around the Keepmoat seats. Five minutes before the break a sweeping move involving Richie Wellens and Jamie Coppinger resulted in Price forcing a great save from Steve Collis. The keeper’s relief was short-lived as from the resulting corner Doncaster grabbed their third goal. The initial delivery was cleared, but was soon flying back in the opposite direction as Gareth Roberts met it with an unstoppable left foot volley from the edge of the box.
Like Boxing Day the match had been won by half-time, producing something of an anti-climactic forty-five minutes as Rovers prevented the visitors from finding a way into the game. Southend’s only clear opportunities came in the final ten minutes as first substitute Gary Hooper pulled an effort wide of the far post and Peter Clarke struck wide from distance. As the final whistle sounded so did cheers and singing in the South West corner of the stadium; a far cry from the boo’s of recent weeks.
Man of the Match: Credit to Paul Green, he got the sponsors nod for this accolade and who am I to disagree? Rovers longest serving player has been on the periphery for much of this season, but his return to the starting line-up has seen nine points from nine thus far over Christmas, and today he capped a hard working performance with a goal too. Great to see him back in the side.
Wilson Watch: A non playing substitute meant Wilson’s action was limited to a few jogs down the West Stand touchline and some banter with Craig Nelthorpe.
Doncaster Rovers line-up (4-3-1-2): Neil Sullivan; James O’Connor, Adam Lockwood, Stephen Roberts, Gareth Roberts; Paul Green, Richie Wellens (Martin Woods), Brian Stock; James Coppinger (James Hayter); Jason Price (Lewis Guy), Mark McCammon
subs not used: Mark Wilson, Craig Nelthorpe
Southend United line-up (4-4-2): Steve Collis; Simon Francis, Peter Clarke, Adam Barrett, Lewis Hunt; Tommy Black, Nicky Bailey, Kevin Mahar, Mark Gower (Dean Morgan); Charlie McDonald, Leon Clarke (Gary Hooper)
subs not used: Franck Moussa, Kerrea Gilbert, Darryl Flahavan
booked: Leon Clarke (comical dissent)