Regular readers of Viva Rovers will appreciate that in more than a year and a half of doing this website I am yet to heap blame on a match referee. I have to this point treated them as a simple matchday variable, something trivial that occasionally affects the game, like the weather or the crowd atmosphere. Well, all good things must come to an end; Mr Walton take a bow.
Despite a failure on Rovers part to convert a number of chances there was one key talking point from this game that cannot be glossed over and that is the aforementioned Mr Walton’s failure to award Rovers a penalty midway through the second half. Richie Wellens let fly with a fierce shot from the edge of the box that was blocked by the hands of David Livermore. The South Stand appealed for a penalty, Mr Walton put his whistle to his mouth and play stopped; however the sound of a whistle never came. The referee had inexplicably changed is mind and play resumed with a distracted Brian Stock dispossessed and an Oldham counter-attack. If one swallow can make a summer, then this one decision could equally break Rovers’ season.
It had all started so promisingly, albeit from one of the most unobtrusive first halves the Keepmoat has hosted in its existence. Despite an early and now customary defensive communication breakdown that nearly let in Leon Constantine for what has recently been renamed ‘an Owusu moment’ the match settled into a soulless dirge for much of the first half. Amongst the quiet tedium came chances for the Rovers, and unluckily for Oldham at least one of these fell to Paul Heffernan; a man on fire, Heffernan lashed home from Mark McCammon’s knock down for his fifth goal in six games. It could’ve been more convincing had an early Matt Mills header not been diverted from its goalbound track by a defender.
The early part of the second half hinged on Mark McCammon; first the Barbadian was unlucky with a glancing near-post header that just missed the other upright. However moments later he was less convincing in the air and gave Oldham a free-kick midway into Rovers with a needless push. Rovers defence has recently looked as comfortable facing set pieces as Alan Shearer attempting a metaphor and so there was a sense of resignation when too unconvincing defensive headers dropped the ball at the feet of Jason Jarrett and the Oldham sub volleyed home through a crowd of confused hoops.
Understandably the rest of the match was more or less passed in the Oldham half with Rovers desperately chasing a way to regain the lead. Matt Mills came close but for the second time his goalbound header from a corner was cleared off the line by an Oldham defender. James Hayter also came close in the final ten minutes as he headed a mistimed back-pass over the Oldham keeper only for the ball to bounce back halmlessly off the base of the far post. Despite further chances and possession Rovers never capitalised; any conviction they once had taken from them by the penalty that never was.
Two more home games follow for Rovers in nine days that could have a massive say in how this season pans out. Nottingham Forest on Friday followed by Leeds United. Its a long way from the likes of Forest Green and Leek Town, but these are winnable games all the same and Rovers must ensure they are won to stay in the promotion frame.
Man of the Match: On one of those days when nothing really went for Rovers and no-one truly shone man of the match undoubtedly goes to a defender; Gareth Roberts got the official nod and for me he should share his accolade with his namesake Stephen Roberts who was a welcome returnee.
Doncaster Rovers line-up (4-3-1-2): Neil Sullivan; Matt Mills, Stephen Roberts, Adam Lockwood, Gareth Roberts; Paul Green, Richie Wellens, Brian Stock; Jamie Coppinger (Gareth Taylor); Paul Heffernan (James Hayter), Mark McCammon (Jason Price)
subs not used: Lewis Guy, Sean McDaid
booked: Matt Mills
Oldham Athletic line-up (4-4-2): Richard O’Donnell; Neal Eardley, Reuben Hazell, Stefan Stam, Kelvin Lomax; Matt Wolfenden (Jason Jarrett), Mark Allott, David Livermore, Deane Smalley; Chris Taylor, Leon Constantine
subs not used: Ashley Kelly, Paul Black, Josh Ollerenshaw
booked: Jason Jarrett