After all the talk, the hype and the build up Rovers put their ability where their mouth is to inflict a deserved defeat on Leeds at Elland Road. In the match programme, in place of the latest standings, Leeds United have printed ‘the real league table’ which has Leeds pulling clear at the top. The visit of Rovers was supposed to be insignificant to Leeds; just another three points against inferior little local rivals. Sorry Leeds, what realism there was at Elland Road was dealt to United not in words, but in an emphatic Rovers performance on the pitch. Little Doncaster Rovers have beaten Leeds; and they more than deserved it.
I had been looking forward to this fixture for some time, but with the anticipation came two fears. Firstly that Rovers would not live up to recent form, and secondly that as a result the travelling crowd would become restless with the object of affection. These fears went unrealised and instead were emphatically crushed as 3,300 travelling Doncastrians roared on the Rovers players to a fantastic performance. Despite half a century of a polar opposite footballing existence for the two sides this match was still a derby, a fact enforced as the first free-kick came to Rovers after just one second of play; Jason Price wrestled to the ground twenty yards away from the kick-off.
Both teams battled and fought, both sets of supporters sang. The difference between the two sides slowly began to show as out of the mud and the hefty sliding challenges Rovers managed to commence and maintain the midfield passing game that had brought them up the table. The breakthrough came after twenty minutes as a surging Richie Wellens run was brought to an end on the corner of the Leeds penalty area and Brian Stock stepped up to curl the resulting free-kick through the wall and in at the near post. In a fairly even first half both sides had chances for Rovers Mark McCammon headed straight at Casper Ankergren whilst Neil Sullivan was on hand to hold two efforts from the home side; a well struck volley from Jermaine Beckford went straight at the Scottish keeper and just before half time a Leeds corner settled in the mud of the six yard box and Darren Kenton could only backheel it to Sullivan.
One nil up against a team with a fearful record of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat many would expect a backs to the wall of a second half. However, thats not been Rovers style of late and it was the South Yorkshire side who toook the game to United in an effort to cement the three points. Rovers’ belied the pitch conditions to spread the ball well and created opportunities to put the match beyond the home side. Rovers rolled the ball around the edge of the Leeds box as they waited for the right opportunity to pounce; Mark McCammon denied by Ankergren again and the Leeds keeper was on hand moments later to turn a deflected Jamie Coppinger shot round the post. Richie Wellens had been making the difference in midfield and he almost scored a glorious second goal as he cut in from the left only to be denied by the Leeds keeper. Gareth Roberts and McCammon had other chances but unfortunately Rovers could not quite convert their posessional advantage to goals.
Leeds however, failed to make Rovers pay. As time ran out the home side pushed forward and but the pressure on Rovers but failed to amass much in the way of a threat on Neil Sullivan’s goal. The Rovers keeper stood firm and managed to pick out a couple of crosses before his only real call into action came as he saved a Tresor Kandol effort from distance. And so it was the red and white clad South Stand of Elland Road that bounced around at the final whistle to a deserved victory. Rovers won this match in midfield where they harrassed Leeds on the ball and once it was in our posession it was moved swiftly and purposely. A deserved league victory at Elland Road was unthinkable for the Rovers as little as five years ago… today it became an emphatic reality.
Man of the Match: No bones about it Richie Wellens was fantastic today, but as he is putting this sort of form in consistently at current I’m going to give Mark McCammon the nod. Not only a handfull for the Leeds backline, but he worked so tirelessly that on two occassions he was on hand to clear as Rovers’ last man.
Wilson Watch: Another late sub appearance for our man Mark Wilson, but he did an effective job replacing Richie Wellens in a holding role to help break up Leeds’ late pressure.
Leeds United line-up (4-4-2): Casper Ankergen; Frazer Richardson, Paul Huntington, Bradley Johnson, Andrew Hughes; Peter Sweeney, Ben Parker, Darren Kenton (Matt Heath), Neil Kilkenny (Curtis Weston); Tore Andre Flo (Tresor Kandol), Jermaine Beckford
subs not used: David Prutton, Alan Thompson
booked: Neil Kilkenny
Doncaster Rovers (4-3-1-2): Neil Sullivan; James O’Connor, Stephen Roberts, Adam Lockwood, Gareth Roberts; Richie Wellens (Mark Wilson), Brian Stock, Paul Green; Jamie Coppinger (James Hayter); Jason Price (Matt Mills), Mark McCammon
subs not used: Lewis Guy, Martin Woods
booked: Brian Stock (late challenge), Jason Price (dissent)