When it comes down to it Rovers fans are as reactionary as magnesium. For most of our support it often seems there is no middle ground, their outlook possessing all the greyness of Just For Men packaging. It’s all defined as black or white, great or shit, with nothing in between. Therefore the club’s current run of results is playing havoc with a number of Doncastrian dispositions; sublime against Queens Park Rangers, woeful at Nottingham Forest and now professionally resolute against Crystal Palace. Doncaster Royal Infirmary’s Cardiac Ward should probably be on high alert for Tuesday’s coming derby game.
Since Rovers last won a league game away from home, I have come out of a relationship, wound up my own business, moved house… twice, begun a new job at the opposite side of the country and also lost and resurrected this website. It’s been a long time, so long in fact that I had stopped counting down to the next one and begun to look at Rovers away wins as a source of nostalgia. Remember when there were only four television channels? Remember buying pick and mix at Woolworths? Remember when Rovers won at Plymouth?
Thankfully all these convoluted introductions have now been brought to an end with an emphatic and unexpectedly resounding away win at Selhurst Park. If you’re going to kick-start your winning record again then can be few more enjoyable ways to do it than over an axis of footballing evil. I know that sounds harsh, but no matter how endearing I genuinely find Palace as a club I can never truly escape the fact that they harbour Neil Warnock and Simon Jordan in their set-up.
Throughout the eight months Rovers have gone without a win on the road they have never been shy of taking the game to their opponents and that was certainly the case of this fixture. John Oster shrugged off the jeers of the home support to hit an effort from distance two minutes in. Oster’s effort was wide, but the first effort on target was not long in coming. Jamie Coppinger released James Hayter down the right and his low cross was met by the foot of Dean Shiels but Palace ‘keeper Julian Speroni saved comfortably.
Rovers impressive early spell jolted the home side into life; Palace began to threaten Neil Sullivan’s goal and indeed should have taken the lead thirteen minutes in. The Eagles worked the ball down the left flank and it took a combination of Sullivan and Jason Shackell to block a smart shot from Johnny Ertl, but the ball fell right to the feet of Neil Danns. However, luck was on Rovers side as somehow with the goal begging Danns slotted his effort wide from all of four yards out.
Palace continued to attack as Victor Moses tested Sullivan with a low strike from distance and Danns fired over from distance. In between these efforts Darren Ambrose came within inches of scoring for the eight consecutive game. A deep cross from Danny Butterfield was kept in at the far post by Ertl to enable Danns to strike at goal. His effort was saved by Sullivan but the ball ran across goal to the feet of Ambrose, but before the Palace striker could register where it was Gareth Roberts managed to inadvertently block and Sullivan smothered it.
With Crystal Palace unable to take their chances Rovers were able to capitalise as they took the lead five minutes before the break. Billy Sharp began the move as he lay the ball off for Roberts who in turn played it short to Oster. The Welsh midfielder then carried the ball infield from the left before feeding James Chambers on the right and he worked his way in to the area to deliver a low cross which was volleyed home by Sharp from eight yards out.
The second half began with a new referee (owing to an injury to the original man in the middle) and seemingly a renewed sense of vigour from the home side. Moses struck over the bar inside the opening minute whilst Ambrose brought a save from Sullivan after directing a long-throw goalwards. Jose Fonte had also fired over from distance, before a goal-line clearing header from Coppinger effectively signalled the end of what had been a strong but ultimately fruitless ten minutes.
Storm weathered Rovers collectively stubbed out their cigarettes and set about finishing the job in hand. Chambers almost doubled the lead as he ran onto a lay-off from Sharp but his effort clipped the top of the crossbar on its way into, what I have learnt from a typically detailed opening gambit on the Rovers’ official website as, the Whitehorse Lane End. Soon after though the second goal did arrive as Oster and Coppinger exchanged passes on the right with the former feeding Sharp and his lay-off was met by Martin Woods whose left footed effort found the far corner of the net.
Firmly in control of the game Rovers mirrored the scoreline from their last away fixture when they grabbed a third goal with quarter of an hour to go. Woods turned neatly in the centre circle to pick out Shiels who carried the ball forward and played in Hayter with a perfectly weighted pass. The Rovers forward took one touch to control and a second to place it beyond Speroni. Palace tried to hit back, and for all the unbridled joy in the away end they may actually have done so. Ah well, who cares. Time to break out the “I Saw Rovers Win Away” t-shirts.
Crystal Palace line-up (4-4-2): Julian Speroni; Danny Butterfield, Claude Davis, Jose Fonte (Freddy Sears), Clint Hill; Shaun Derry (Nick Carle), Neil Danns, Johnny Ertl, Darren Ambrose; Victor Moses, Alan Lee (Calvin Andrew)
subs not used: Alassane N’Diaye, Ryan Smith, Sean Scannell, Nathaniel Clyne
Doncaster Rovers line-up (4-2-2-2): Neil Sullivan; James Chambers, Jason Shackell, James O’Connor, Gareth Roberts; John Oster (Mark Wilson), Martin Woods (Sam Hird); Jamie Coppinger (John Spicer), Dean Shiels; James Hayter, Billy Sharp
subs not used: Ben Smith, Byron Webster, Simon Gillett, Lewis Guy