Doncaster rounded off an unbeaten pre-season with a draw against Premier League Wolves at the Keepmoat Stadium. The match was officially a testimonial for Rovers’ popular Director of Football Mickey Walker (pictured above – and fear not Jamie Coppinger hasn’t piled on the pounds in the summer, thast just a fat mascot in the background), and though a fitting cause the match attendance was a little disappointing with less than 3,000 in attendance. However those who were there did give fitting tribute to Walker and also to Bobby Robson with an impecable minute silence in memory of the former England manager before kick-off.
As for the game itself there was much encouragement for Rovers fans to take, particualrly in the appearance of James O’Connor and James Chambers who return from injury. Though Matt Mills was not on the field he was present in the stands at least and reportedly had some choice words to say about Nottingham Forest’s recent advances. Also in action were Rovers’ collection of trialists; Quinton Fortune, John Oster, Byron Webster and Mustapha Dumbaya with speculation suggesting that three of this quartet will join the club next week. Despite finding the net twice in his trial spell Barrow’s Jason Walker was not in the Rovers squad having returned to Cumbria where he struck the only goal in a 1-0 win for Barrow over Morecambe.
Back to South Yorkshire and it was a Rovers player who threatened to break the deadline first, albeit for the visitors, as Sam Hird headed just over his own crossbar. Rovers then began to threaten the right end though as Dean Shiels forced a first, yet comfortable save from Wayne Hennessey and John Spicer fires over from distance. Wolves’ Nenad Miljas also tries his luck from distance, with his twenty-five yard strike turned over by Neil Sullivan.
Midway through the half Shiels forces a save from Hennessey as he connects with a high Woods’ cross, but the next ten minutes belong to the visitors with a succession of chances. Miljas and Steven Ward both test Sullivan whilst David Jones can only put his effort over the bar following Greg Halford’s well-timed lay-off. Rovers have a couple of chances before the break as Hird has a header, this time at the right end, saved and Spicer has an effort blocked by Kevin Foley, but the game is goalless at the break.
The second half begins with a mass change of personnel for Rovers and a rotation of match officials too as Mark Halsey takes over from Uriah Rennie; the latter joining international referee Howard Webb as assistant in an impressive triumphant of officials. At this stage the game is as good as those reffing it too as Christophe Berra almost breaks the deadlock a minute in but is denied by Sullivan. At the otehr end Rovers come close too as Lewis Guy forces Hennessey to turn the ball round his post.
Four minutes in the deadlock is broken; Robbie Clark gets to the right byline and feeds Jamie Coppinger who in turn lays the ball off for Mark Wilson to crash home the opening goal from the edge of the area. 1-0 almost becomes 2-0 instantly as Coppinger makes space only to see his shot go inches past the post. Rovers are on top at this point and Coppinger remains the main threat, flashing another effort across the goal on the hour mark, while young Robbie Clark also comes close as he shoots into the side-netting.
Two minutes later though Wolves are level through Matt Jarvis; Andy Keogh’s cross picks out Jarvis on the edge of the box and he takes one touch to control the ball and a second to find the back of the net to make it 1-1. The visitors create further chances with twenty minutes to go; first as Sylvain Ebanks-Blake forces a save from Sullivan and secondly as Karl Henry fires wide from the edge of the area.
But for a late effor from Andrew Surman which was saved by Rovers’ sub keeper Ben Smith that was about that for the goalmouth action as the game ended 1-1. Doncaster can take encouragement from the fact that without spending any money they have matched a Wolves side now a division higher. Additions may be made to the squad this week, but even if they are not there is still much cause for optimism in Docnaster.
1st half line-up (4-3-1-2): Neil Sullivan; James O’Connor, Sam Hird, Byron Webster, James Chambers; John Spicer, Brian Stock, Martin Woods; Dean Shiels; James Hayter, Paul Heffernan
2nd half line-up (4-3-2-1): Neil Sullivan (Ben Smith); Mustapha Dumbaya (Charles Fisher), Byron Webster (Sam Hird), Adam Lockwood, Gareth Roberts; Quinton Fortune, Mark Wilson, Robbie Clark; Jamie Coppinger, John Oster; Lewis Guy