OK, so what kind of mood are you in? Life-affirming or despondent? Glass half full or half empty? I ask as it will have a significant affect on how you view Rovers’ season so far. Three league games in now and Doncaster are still unbeaten, or conversely three games in and Rovers still have not won. That’s how the basic facts read, and they are down to interpretation, but those who have been able to attend should be toasting a half full glass at this stage as from game to game the football has improved.
Admittedly it helps that the last two matches were at home, giving Rovers more impetus to take the game to their opponents, but let it not be forgotten that last season Sean O’Driscoll’s side were often at their free-flowing best when on the road. That the team are creating chances home and away is a positive, and the match stats suggest that it was Rovers going at the league leaders last night rather than being put on the back foot, but after last season the concern remains. Will a lack of luck in front of goal ultimately harm us?
Sean O’Driscoll made changes for this fixture with Paul Heffernan and John Spicer making way for Dean Shiels and John Oster respectively to give a formation that was more 4-3-2-1 than Saturday’s 4-3-1-2, if an O’Driscoll formation can ever be defined in these terms. It was one of these additions to the side who inadvertently gave the visitors’ the match’s first chance as Oster’s stray pass found Leon Best, but the Coventry forward finished his break with a weak wayward effort. Ten minutes in came a first genuine chance for Rovers as Martin Woods hooked the ball out to Jamie Coppinger in space on the left; Copps jinked his way inside the area, but curled his shot beyond the cross bar of Kieran Westwood’s goal.
Rovers were arguably on top with Coventry just having a blocked Michael McIndoe strike to show for their efforts as Rovers continued to force corners and Shiels and Brian Stock both forced Westwood into saves. Westwood has always produced excellent performances against Rovers and he showed that he was on course do so again five minutes before the break as he got across to his left to turn an excellent free-kick from Stock round the post. Rovers all-round play was impressive, neat and fluid as we have come to expect, but at half-time it still lacked the ultimate outcome of a goal.
Coventry began the second half a little more lively than the first, but were still notably bereft of genuine chances on goal, as the closest they came was from a Stephen Wright cross from the by-line which Neil Sullivan had to turn over his crossbar. At the other end Coventry were decidedly busier and the Sky Blues’ back line had to be alert to block efforts from Coppinger and James Hayter, whilst Westwood was in the right place to collect a volley from Shiels. Rovers were beginning to up the pressure in the match’s closing stages and Westwood again turned away a Shiels effort and also, just about, saved from Stock again.
In injury time Rovers continued to press and almost found a spectacular winner through a neat corner routine; Shiels hitting the dead ball straight to Stock twenty-five yards out and the captain controlled the ball before hitting an excellent half-volley which just missed the top corner. Still Rovers pressed and a late Dean Shiels effort flashed low past the far post as eventually the home side just ran out of chances. An encouraging performance and certainly plenty of positives if this game was taken on face value, but you just cannot escape the nagging doubt brought on by last season’s early form, that these missed chances could ultimately cost us. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy with Rovers start to the season, but just in a slightly paranoid way.
Doncaster Rovers line up (4-3-2-1): Neil Sullivan; James Chambers, Adam Lockwood, Jason Shackell, Gareth Roberts (Sam Hird); John Oster (Paul Heffernan), Brian Stock, Martin Woods (Quinton Fortune); Jamie Coppinger, Dean Shiels; James Hayter
subs not used: Ben Smith, Mark Wilson, Waide Fairhusrt, Lewis Guy
booked: Jamie Coppinger (dissent – kicking the ball away)
Coventry City line-up (4-4-2): Kieran Westwood; Stephen Wright, Patrick Van Aanholt, Martin Crainie, Ben Turner; Isaac Osbourne, Sammy Clingan, Aaron Gunnarsson, Michael McIndoe; Clinton Morrison, Leon Best
subs not used: Dimi Konstantopoulos, Adam Walker, Ahsley Cain, Jermaine Grandison, Jordan Clarke, Sean Jeffers, Nathan Cameron