“Ah, he’s no left foot” said the old fella in the seat in front of me early in tonight’s first half. I expected to see him in the concourse at full-time getting some sauce to aid digestion of his words, as incredibly he was talking about Gareth Roberts. He may have stumbled to cross the ball inside the opening ten minutes but he proved emphatically that he was in possession of both feet as his left foot free-kick ricocheted off the near post and into the Forest net fifteen minutes from time.
In fact, just three minutes after the above statement was made the mythical left foot of Gareth Roberts almost set up an opening goal for Jason Price; Roberts gloriously floated cross headed towards goal by Jason Price and tipped over by Paul Smith. As Matt in the seat next to me pointed out; had the Afro Goal Machine, been a Shaven Goal Machine then this header may have had enough power to find the net.
Had Price lived up to his self proclaimed nickname he may have had a hat-trick; instead he showed all the attacking prowess of a narcoleptic goldfish and wasted two glorious chances in the second half. Firstly, ten minutes in he put through by Roberts only to try for goal too early and instead find Row T of the South Stand; moments later Paul Heffernan set Price up for the sort of chance the phrase ‘gilt-edged’ was invented only for him to slice it so finely it almost dropped into the far corner of the goal.
Whilst Price’s finishing let him down, his strike patner Paul Heffernan was suffering an untypically off day in front of goal himself. A through ball from Paul Green in the first half failed to come down for Heffs and was struck high into the sizable away following, whilst late in the second the forward failed to take the chance to double the lead when given space in the area; Smith able to save with his feet. In fact but for Smith and an off day for Rovers’ finishing this could have been a much more emphatic win.
Forest had little effective possession of their own and failed to cope with the constant harassment from Rovers hard working side when they did have the ball. As such their chances were few and far between; their best, and arguably their only real chance should have resulted in them taking the lead. Nathan Tyson fed substitute Lewis McGugan but somehow from seven yards out he pulled his shot even further wide.
Its nights like this that leave you wondering why we’re not currently looking over our red and white hooped shoulders at Swansea rather than tonight’s lacklustre opponents. Rovers showed just how on their day they can knock the football around with such ease that nothing but a victory seems possible; it leaves you wondering where such days have been for the past three weeks.
Tonight also showed how the Keepmoat Stadium can finally feel a bit like home once it has a sizable crowd in it. Twelve and a half thousand, nine and a half of which were Doncastrians, braved the cold and the larger percentage were rewarded with a great performance played out before a decent atmosphere. Forget your aging rockers and your car boot sales this is the sort of thing that will bring the folk of Doncaster to their community stadium.
Man of the Match; Credit where it’s due from viva rovers to Brain Stock. Often criticised for the lack of physicality in his game the midfielder threw himself into tonight’s match, and into any challenge he met within it with impressive commitment. Obviously a week spent rubbing shoulders with top internationals like Sam Ricketts and Richard Duffy has rubbed off on him.
Doncaster Rovers line-up (4-3-1-2): Neil Sullivan; James O’Connor, Matt Mills, Adam Lockwood, Gareth Roberts; Richie Wellens, Brian Stock, Paul Green; Jamie Coppinger (Stephen Roberts); Paul Heffernan (Gareth Taylor), Jason Price (Lewis Guy)
subs not used: Sean McDaid, James Hayter
Nottingham Forest line-up (4-4-2); Paul Smith; Luke Chambers, Wes Morgan, Kelvin Wilson, Julian Bennett; Chris Cohen (Lewis McGugan), Ian Breckin, Sammy Clingam, Matt Thornill (Junior Agogo); Brett Ormerod (Emile Sinclair), Nathan Tyson
subs not used: Gareth McLeary, Mark Byrne
booked: Julian Bennett (foul)