Now don’t get me wrong, I prefer the BBC’s football coverage significantly to that of ITV or S**, but they really need to put more effort into their research. The summariser on the Football League Show has the cheek to refer to this match as “something of a derby”. Not only is it a derby, but it is arguably the fiercist rivalry Rovers have maintained in the past fifteen years. Forget your pretenders; Leeds, Hull, Mansfield even, or Scarborough, its this and Rotherham as far as I’m concerned, and whilst a draw in a match where Rovers end with nine men will always be a point gained, I’m majorly disappointed that we did not hammer the iron.
It had all started so well too. In for Rovers had come Sam Hird, Mark Wilson, Jamie Coppinger and last week’s goalscorer Quniton Fortune and the acute tactical changes to Sean O’Driscoll’s midfield and attack seemed to prove just what was needed to take the game to a Scunthorpe side on something of a roll. Billy Sharp and Adam Lockwood had already had headed chances when thirteen minutes in Rovers won a penalty. John Oster worked the ball inside to Martin Woods who picked out the feet of Coppinger just inside the area, as did the clumsy boot of Jordan Spence. Coppinger sent tumbling and the referee pointed to the spot. Woods took the penalty and blasted it into the bottom corner for the opening goal.
Scunthorpe tried to hit back with a couple of corners, but from the second Rovers almost broke to double their lead; Sharp released down the left and his cross turned over the bar by Coppinger. Martin Woods also came close from distance and a disjointed start for the home side was compounded as they were forced to make two changes in the opening thirty five minutes; David Mirfin and Jonathan Forte both forced to leave the field. Having seemingly done their homework on Rovers Scunthorpe seemed keen to attack from the flanks and almost equalised but for a clearing James Chambers header when a Paul Hayes croos had eluded Neil Sullivan.
Scunthorpe were beginning to force chances toward the end of the first half as Sullivan was called on to make a straight forward save from a Josh Wright header. A couple of free-kicks from Sam Togwell and Michael O’Connor caused momentary panic in the Rovers area, whilst Togwell also headed over late in the half. Still for all their late pressure it was Rovers who came arguably closest to adding to the first half score with Coppinger only denied a second Rovers goal by a Joe Murphy save with his legs.
Early in the second half it was time for the man in yellow to move from his position in the wings and edge towards centre stage with a flurry of yellow cards, three to Scunthorpe players on and around the hour mark. Just after the last of these cards Rovers doubled their lead; Woods whipping in an angled left foot cross and Sharp flicked in a header from eight yards in front of the Rovers fans. Unsurprisingly the Doncastrians behind the goal went crazy, but they were no match for Sharp himself who came over all Bruce Banner, taking off his shirt and hurling it to the floor in celebration. It resulted in an inevitable booking, but there were over 1,000 folk behind that goal who’ll happily pay the fine.
It was all going incredibly well, but it was not to last. With twenty minutes to go Grant McCann appeared on the sideline receiving treatment to a facial injury, and after a conversation with the linesman it was deemed that said injury was caused by a John Oster limb and the Rovers midfielder received a straight red card. Within a couple of minutes Scunthorpe had made their extra man count as a near post corner from McCann was flicked beyond Sullivan by Cliff Byrne to pull a goal back for the Iron. Understandably Rovers were now on the back foot and Byrne came close again as he shot over the bar whilst Sullivan was forced to make two good saves.
The second of those saves, from a close range Hayes header, caused the ball to roll free of the area where Fortune and Byrne went for what should of been a routine hefty 50:50 challenge. Instead Fortune arrived a little later than Byrne and clumsily high making it something nearer 80:20. It didn’t look pretty and referee Keith Stroud agreed, Fortune’s reckless challenge earning him a straight red card and Rovers were down to nine men. Though backed up against the proverbial wall so much Rovers were at times fielding a back eight, they still could have secured the win as Woods fired just wide early in injury time.
But there was plenty of said injury time and in the fourth minute of it Woods went from almost hero to nearer villain as he jumped to block a short corner and the ball struck him on the arm. Stroud pointed to the spot once more and Scunthorpe had the opportunity to snatch a late late equaliser. Grant McCann took the spot kick and sent Sullivan the wrong way to secure a 2-2 draw. Disappointment for Rovers who looked more than in control with eleven men and it could be a testing few weeks ahead with injury to Brian Stock now coupled with suspensions for Fortune and Oster.
Scunthorpe United line-up (4-4-2): Joe Murphy; Marcus Williams, Rob Jones, David Mirfin (Cliff Byrne), Jordan Spence; Sam Togwell (Garry Thompson), Grant McCann, Michael O’Connor, Josh Wright; Jonathan Forte (Martyn Woolford), Paul Hayes
subs not used: Sam Slocombe, Niall Canavan, Andrew Wright, Matt Sparrow
booked: Jason Spence, Michael O’Connor, Martyn Woolford
Doncaster Rovers line-up (4-4-1-1): Neil Sullivan; James Chambers, Adam Lockwood, Sam Hird, Gareth Roberts; Mark Wilson (James O’Connor), John Oster, Quinton Fortune, Martin Woods; Jamie Coppinger (Byron Webster); Billy Sharp (Paul Heffernan)
subs not used: Ben Smith, John Spicer, Dean Shiels, Wade Fairhurst
booked: Martin Woods, John Oster, Billy Sharp
sent off: John Oster (unseen bid for a middleweight bout), Quinton Fortune (a lunge the epitomy of the word ‘reckless’)