Alas it seems that ligthning does not strike twice. Rovers have to some extent exorcised the demons of last season’s first round Carling Cup exit at the hands of Notts County, by restoring the status quo with a 1-0 win of their own. It was by no means easy, and as with last year’s tie at this stage of the competition there was for much of the match, little to seperate the two sides. However, in the second half Rovers reflected the divisional hierachy of the fixture by striking the game’s only goal.
As expected Sean O’Driscoll made changes to his line-up from Saturday’s trip to Watford. Sam Hird and Brian Stock were rested completely, Paul Heffernan, James Hayter, John Spicer, James Chambers and Neil Sullivan reduced to a place on the bench. In came Ben Smith in goal, with James O’Connor in for Chambers at right back and Byron Webster, finally given international clearance from the Czech FA, began at centre back. Mark Wilson and John Oster lined-up in midfield at the expense of Spicer and Stock, whilst Jamie Coppinger was also handed a start, along with Lewis Guy up front.
Perhaps given do many changes in personnel it was unsurprising that the home side, fresh off the back of a 5-0 opening day victory and still riding the Sven factor like an FA intern, enjoyed the better of the opening forty-five minutes. Ricky Ravenhill at least got the game off to a predictable start, committing the game’s first foul twenty-three sconds in. In the early exchanges Karl Hawley in particular caused the Rovers back-line problems and perhaps should have done better when found by Jamie Clapham but his close range effort sailed over the bar. Indeed County were putting the pressure on the Rovers goal, but thanks to some timely defensive interventions they were struggling to register genuine efforts on goal.
It was to be thirty minutes before Rovers finally began to create chances of their own. Martin Woods firing wide of the goal from distance on the half-hour mark with Dean Shiels also shooting wide minutes later. But County again hit back and five minutes before the break they came close to opening the scoring as Clapham shot from close range but was denied by the frame of the goal. First half to the hosts then, but thankfully Rovers would improve in the second period.
Rovers had already tested the County back-line’s resolve with a number of balls into the box before they did take the lead nine minutes into the half witha flowing attacking move. Wilson turned his man in midfield before spreading the play with an excellent low pass to the left. Out wide Guy neatly layed the ball inside with a first time pass and Coppinger met it, dropping the shoulder on a covering County defender before hitting an excellent low shot into the corner of the net. An excellent goal and one which forced a decent period for Rovers as Guy, Coppinger and Shiels all brought saves from Russell Hoult in the following ten minutes.
At the other end County had introduced Lee Hughes immediately after the goal and he was starting to spark some life into the home side’s attack. Hughes himself was twice denied by Ben Smith, as was full-back Brendan Moloney. County continued to push for an equaliser in the latter stages of the game but Smith was equal to anything on target and with time running out Moloney pulled the home side’s last effort wide of the post to ensure a victory to Rovers.
As well as the result and the avoidance of a potential, and presumably gold plated, banana skin, there were further reasons for Rovers to be happy about tonight’s game. In defence Byron Webster impressed many with his all round performance on his competitive debut, whilst Jamie Coppinger put in an excellent display just behind the forwards. As well as his goal Coppinger was at the heart of everything good about the Rovers attack after the break and can perhaps expect inclusion in the starting XI to face Preston at the Keepmoat this Saturday as a result.
So revenge on a small scale for Rovers at Meadow Lane as they progress to the Carling Cup second round, the draw for which takes place at the completion of tomorrow’s remaining 1st round ties.
Notts County line-up (4-4-2): Russell Hoult; Brendan Moloney, Mike Edwards, John Thompson, Jamie Clapham; Matt Hamshaw (Craig Westcarr), Ricky Ravenhill, Neal Bishop, Stephen Hunt; Karl Hawley, Luke Rodgers (Lee Hughes)
subs not used: Kevin Pilkington, Graeme Lee, Sean Canham, Ben Fairclough, Delroy Facey
booked: Mike Edwards (unsporting behaviour)
Doncaster Rovers line-up (4-3-2-1): Ben Smith; James O’Connor, Adam Lockwood, Byron Webster, Gareth Roberts; John Oster (James Chambers), Mark Wilson, Martin Woods; Jamie Coppinger, Dean Shiels (John Spicer); Lewis Guy (James Hayter)
subs not used: Neil Sullivan, Rob Clarke, Paul Heffernan, Waide Fairhurst