The Maestranza Bullring. That’s probably the only place you’ll here more olés of a Saturday afternoon than the Keepmoat Stadium if Rovers keep up this sort of form. If you look up ‘Total Football’ in an online encyclopedia you’ll see Doncaster Rovers name under the heading alongside the likes of Ajax and Barcelona. Never mind that it was put there by a Rovers fan with Wikipedia editing rights, the sentiment is true enough. What I love about Doncaster under Sean O’Driscoll is that whenever you begin to doubt, or start to get worried the team puts it one of those performances that brightens not just your weekend, but your general outlook as well. Our pub team can play football as good as anyone, and when they do its fantastic to watch.
Having said all that, the opening paragraph of this report may look a little too hyperbole if you only caught the first half of Saturday’s game. Despite the return to fitness of Jason Shackell, Sean O’Driscoll left his back four unchanged from the defeat at Plymouth a fortnight ago will full-back James O’Connor partnering Sam Hird in the centre. And there was a further surprise in midfield as Quinton Fortune not only came into the starting line-up but did so wearing the captain’s armband. Rangers got the match underway and it was they who had the fixture’s first real opportunity as the ball was cleared as far as Jay Simpson, but his shot was never likely to trouble Neil Sullivan.
With QPR looking to consolidate a good run of form and Rovers keen not to extend a bad one chances were a little hard to come by as both teams spent the opening half an hour sussing one another out. John Oster had Rovers first chance on quarter of an hour as his free-kick had to be turned round the post by Radek Cerny and from the resulting corner the Rangers’ ‘keeper was again on hand to deny Dean Shiels. Still though the majority of the action was in the central third and whilst the visitors did force another chance as Mikele Liegertwood fired wide, they had failed to test Neil Sullivan at any point. Cerny was having a busier afternoon though and again saved from both Shiels and Oster before the first half came to a goalless conclusion.
Rovers often seem to up their tempo when attacking the South Stand and in the second half they did just that. Though QPR forced an early half chance for Simpson the next twenty-five minutes was all Rovers as they took the game to the visitors. Shiels in particular was carrying on his good recent run of form and he was again denied by Cerny five minutes in as he struck from just outside the area. Billy Sharp was also threatening and had already been denied one chance by the Rangers defence when he came close with another; Rovers putting pressure on the visitors with Simon Gillet feeding Sharp on the edge of the box and the forward turned and struck the ball well but his effort was deflected just wide of the top corner.
No matter though as from the resulting corner Sharp got his goal. Fortune taking it quickly and low to find Shiels in the box and his low cross was volleyed home by Sharp on the turn from six yards out. Celebrations in the stands and bizarrely on the pitch too as Sharp earned himself a tenner from some show on some channel or other by bench pressing the corner flag. Far from sitting on their lead against one of the division’s in form teams Rovers continued to press and Shiels this time capitalised on some nervy Rangers defending. The Northern Ireland international winning the ball twenty-five yards out a skipping past two challenges before hitting a shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the area. Rovers were 2-0 up and clearly enjoying it.
Adel Taarabt has been in impressive form for QPR of late, and he can take some encouragement perhaps that it was he who struck Rangers only effort on target of the whole match; cutting in from the right he hit a low effort from twenty-five yards but Sullivan was behind it all the way and the Rovers keeper was down to his right to make a relatively routine stop. With quarter of an hour to go Rovers took it on themselves to show Rangers how the game is played and to the olés of the home crowd strung together a neat move of thirty-five consecutive passes, until the London club had three goes at ending it with crude challenges, the last one by Leigertwood on Sharp as the forward threatened to break bringing a caution.
Rovers were very unlucky not to have the chance to add to their tally from the penalty spot ten minutes from time as Oster’s corner was clearly handled by the wildly flailing arm of Kasper Gorkss, but despite the referee being just ten yards away he somehow failed to spot it. Though the initial appeals were loud enough thankfully it was not to make any difference to the match outcome. Rovers had other chances to extend their lead as Shiels was again thwarted by Cerny, whilst both Sharp and Coppinger had shots blocked but the game was already well won and deservedly so. Victory skips Rovers from 20th to 16th in the Championship table and suddenly everything looks a lot brighter in Doncaster.
Doncaster Rovers line-up (4-3-2-1); Neil Sullivan; James Chambers, James O’Connor, Sam Hird, Gareth Roberts; John Oster (John Spicer), Quinton Fortune (Jason Shackell), Simon Gillett; Jamie Coppinger, Dean Shiels (Mark Wilson); Billy Sharp
subs not used: Ben Smith, Lewis Guy, James Hayter, Paul Heffernan
Queens Park Rangers line-up (4-4-2); Radek Cerny, Matt Connelly, Mikele Leigertwood, Kasper Gorkss, Tom Williams; Wayne Routledge, Steven Reid, Alejandro Faurlin (Adel Taarabt), Ben Watson; Akos Buszaky (Patrick Agyemang), Jay Simpson (Allessandro Pellicori)
subs not used: Shane McSweeney, Peter Ramage, Damion Stewart, Hogan Ephraim
booked: Mikele Leigertwood (spoilsport ending our fun)