The most satisfying aspect of this game was Rovers 90th minute equaliser. Not the goal itself though that did cause some obvious jubilant scarf waving, but the fact that said goal was missed by infamous moaning fan Geoff. For those new to this site ‘Geoff’ sits next to us at the back of the West Stand as is eternally displeased. Now matter how well things are going for Rovers he will inevitably find something at which to loudly and irrationally voice his displeasure. He’s essentially the physical embodiment of a Daily Mail editorial. Martin Woods is the usual target of Geoff’s vitriol though he kindly extended his net this week to the whole of the midfield. By the midway point of the half Geoff had already extended an invitation for so much of the side to “come and sit up here with me out the way” that we could have formed an impressive human pyramid on the back row. Anyway Geoff decided he’d had enough with two minutes to go, and duly missed Billy Sharp’s late strike. It was a very satisfying strike.
I think I said in the preview of this match that both sides have looked much more gung-ho than in the previous seasons where this fixture had brought two goalless stale-mates with an emphasis on the ‘stale’. For once, I could not have been proved more right as the two sides delivered a thoroughly entertaining game at the Keepmoat Stadium which produced six goals and several thousand sore throats.
Coming into this match Blackpool had gone three games without conceding a goal, but it took Rovers just five minutes to blemish that record with an excellent move on the counter attack. Martin Woods intercepting a pass on the edge of the Rovers area and breaking down the centre of the field before feeding John Oster on the right. Oster brought it forward to the edge of the box before whipping in a low cross that the onrushing Woods met on the volley to find the corner of the net. Where as in past seasons Rovers may have sat back today they continued to press, with Dean Shiels and Simon Gillet both shooting wide as Doncaster remained on the offensive with a succession of corners.
Ian Holloway has assembled an impressive side at Blackpool this season and his knack for bringing in impressive players was shown in Jay Emmanuel-Thomas who’s neat footwork inside the Rovers area forced the corner from which Blackpool equalised midway through the first half. The dead-ball delivered to the far post where Ian Evatt glanced it goalwards and Brett Ormerod’s toe did just enough to divert it between the legs of Neil Sullivan. In one word; ‘soft’.
But Rovers came back again and forced a couple of good chances, both going the way of Billy Sharp. First Simon Gillet’s through ball released the Rovers forward but he got it stuck beneath his feet and Blackpool keeper Matt Gilks was able to smother the effort. Second as Gareth Roberts brought the ball forward and played it to the feet of Jamie Coppinger on the top of the Blackpool area; Copps played in Sharp with a neat one touch pass but again Gilks managed to block the striker’s effort. In first half injury time Blackpool broke through David Vaughan to force a late corner and Sullivan had to react quickly to keep out a close range effort from Ben Burgess on the stroke of half-time.
Half-time then and the cue for debatale entertainment which consisted of a fancy dress contest and a bizarre Pink-tribute act clad in nothing but a sheer lycra half cat-suit and cleverly positioned red heart to protect her modesty. Luckily for Rovers PR department said singer’s heart was in the right place throughout even if here pitch wasn’t. Meanwhile at the back of the West Stand we engaged in our own interval game; Halloween themed Rovers players. The pick of the bunch being; Waide Scarehurst, Simon Gillet-ine, Paul-bearer Heffernan, James Chambers-of-Horrors, Jamie Coffin-ger, Byron Spiders-Webster and Sam Hird-a-creepy-noise-downstairs.
Thankfully the unco-ordinated entertainment was to prove of higher quality and even came with a big entrance as well. Just twelve seconds after the second half began the ball was in the back of the Blackpool net. The visitors not getting a kick as Woods brought the ball forward and fed Sharp. He in turn knocked it back to Gillett who released Gareth Roberts down the left and the full-back crossed for Sharp to turn the ball home at the near post for 2-1. Rovers seemed to be enjoying taking the ball to Blackpool at pace and perhaps should have added to their lead five minutes later as Woods broke from the edge of the Rovers area and carried the ball the length of the pitch, but his eventual shot was tame and easily fielded by Gilks.
Blackpool were not out of things though and on the hour mark came close to an equaliser as a free-kick found its way to Burgess unmarked in the centre of the area but he fired straight at Sullivan. They didn’t have to wait much longer to draw level as just a couple of minutes later the visitors did draw level. Emmauel-Thomas controlled a clearance on the edge of the Rovers area and with a neat change in feet glided through three Rovers players as if they were slalom poles before hitting a low shot into the far corner of the net to make it 2-2. No time to pause though as the next chance came at the other end with Gilks palming a firm strike from Woods over the bar as the midfielder rode a couple of challenges on the edge of the area.
Woods’ effort marked the start of a spell of decent pressure for the Rovers as a minute later James Chambers whipped in a cross from the corner of the area that evaded everyone and almost found the corner of the net but for a good hand from Gilks. The visitors’ keeper was having agreat game and was on hand again midway through the half to smother an effort from Coppinger after the midfielder had beaten the centre half to a through ball; Sharp blazing the rebound over the bar.
As the match became increasingly open Rovers became guilty of over-committing themselves and before you could quite say “we’re starting to leave ourselves a bit open here” they found themselves a goal behind (and I know this because I was saying just this at the time). Burgess receiving the ball to feet with his back to goal twenty-five yards out before turning and curling agreat effort into the far top corner of Sullivan’s goal. A great strike and one which sent the impressive travelling support understandably crazy. Sean O’Driscoll reacted by bringing on Mark Wilson to try and regain some shape before then throwing on the strike force of Paul Heffernan and James Hayter for the final ten minutes.
However the cutting edge continued to desert Rovers until the final minute when a long angled ball from Wilson picked out Hayter in the area and he nodded across the box for Sharp. The Blackpool players thought he was offside, indeed so did most of the home crowd, but the flag stayed down, the ball hit the net and eventually the home supporters erupted, with the exception of Matt to my right who remained frozen convinced the linesman was going to flag any minute. Back level, Rovers almost went onto win the game in a pulsating injury time. Coppinger carrying the ball down the left before laying it inside to Heffernan who beat his man but steered his shot just wide of the post. In the final minute Blackpool had a last chance to win it themselves with a free-kick but the dead-ball struck the wall and the final whistle sounded to a collective intake of much-needed breath in the Keepmoat Stadium.
If you wanted to surmise this game in one word then ‘entertaining’ was probably it. Whilst I’d be a very happy man if Rovers were to grind out 1-0 wins in each of their home games such is the cost of watching football at this level then its nice to be able to leave the ground knowing that you can justify every penny spent. Yes Rovers were a little lapse in defence at times, and yes occasionally some of the passing was wayward and some of the options taken by players were the wrong ones, but thats football, and thats Rovers. On the whole the quality of what we get to watch on a weekly basis is good and you shouldn’t take every under-hit through ball as personally as Geoff seems to do. If any Rovers players are reading this the moral is simple, pass, run, shoot as you see fit for whatever you do, you will never please the likes of Geoff. Some people just like to moan. But then those people have usually left when late goals hit the net. Football can be karmic like that.
Man of the Match: Gareth Roberts was back in the side today and made a notable difference down the left, got forward well on a number of opportunities including delivering a great cross for the second goal.
Doncaster Rovers line-up (4-3-2-1): Neil Sullivan; James Chambers, Sam Hird, Jason Shackell, Gareth Roberts; John Oster (James Hayter), Simon Gillett (Mark Wilson), Martin Woods; Jamie Coppinger, Dean Shiels (Paul Heffernan); Billy Sharp
subs not used: Gary Woods, James O’Connor, John Spicer, Lewis Guy
booked: Martin Woods (clumsy challenge), James Chambers (foul)
Blackpool line-up (4-3-3): Matt Gilks; Alex Baptiste, Ian Evatt, Marcel Seip, Stephen Craney; Keith Southern, David Vaughan, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas; Brett Ormerod (Gary Taylor-Fletcher), Ben Burgess, Jason Euell
subs not used: Paul Rachubka, Billy Clarke, Joe Martin, Al Bangura, Rob Edwards, Louis Almond