So it seems lightning does strike twice, albeit ten months apart. In February Rovers recorded their first ever league win over Sheffield Wednesday with a 1-0 victory courtesy of a headed goal from an in-form striker. Tonight, at the next point of asking, they achieved their second ever league triumph over Wednesday winning 1-0 courtesy of a headed goal from an in-form striker. Tonight could go down as the night that Billy Sharp effectively took the place of Paul Heffernan
In the run up to this fixture Brian Laws future as Sheffield Wednesday boss was being brought into question so readily that for the first time since the creation of the internet, anyone Googling ‘under pressure’ would not have been taken to Queen and David Bowie, but to a picture of a pensive looking Laws. An improved performance form the Owls in this fixture, despite the defeat, has preserved Law’s role as manager at Hillsborough; to paraphrase many a Rovers fan tonight, if that was deemed a suitable improvement then they must have been bloody awful in recent weeks.
Sean O’Driscoll described this match as ‘dour’ in his post match interviews and given that he himself was once infamously described in When Saturday Comes as having ‘the appearance of a man who looks like he’s just been told his dog has three weeks left to live’ then you can understand how little of a classic encounter this fixture was. Sheffield Wednesday came to the Keepmoat to shut Rovers down and stop them playing their favoured flowing football. To be fair they did just that, but for all the attacking potential this gave them in return they as well have just remained on the team coach and parked it in the penalty area.
It took twenty-nine minutes of tedium before the game finally threw up a chance of note. Jamie Coppinger won the ball on the right and played it in field to Billy Sharp and he laid it off for John Oster. The midfielder moved the ball onto Dean Shiels who took a touch to control before hitting a curling effort with his right foot from the edge of the area that went just wide of the far post. More of the game was being played in the Rovers half, though Wednesday themselves were unable to threaten Neil Sullivan’s goal, but for a long-range strike from Darren Potter.
Into the last five minutes of the half and the game showed minimal signs of life; a decent cross from Coppinger was cleared out for a corner by the Wednesday defence, whilst a Martin Woods free-kick was struck straight at visiting ‘keeper Lee Grant. Just before the break Wednesday had the best chance of either side to open the scoring as Leon Clarke was released into the area; he jinked past Jason Shackell with a neat drop of the shoulder but his left foot strike was poor and rolled harmlessly across goal.
The early efforts of the second half went Wednesday’s way, firstly as Jermaine Johnson lashed an effort just wide from twenty-five yards and secondly as Marcus Tudgay hit a shot over Sullivan’s crossbar. It wasn’t until after the hour mark that Rovers finally began to threaten the South Stand goal; James O’Connor heading over as he threw himself at a Dean Shiels corner.
Doncaster’s football had not been up to much throughout the game but twelve minutes from time they finally strung a number of passes together on the right and the result was to be the game’s only goal. James Chambers received the ball from Sharp and then fed Simon Gillett on the right and the midfielder’s first time cross was headed home by Sharp from eight yards to put Rovers 1-0 ahead. Wednesday pushed to the end for an equaliser as you would expect, but a volley over the bar from Mark Beevers in stoppage time was as close as they came.
A poor game all round, but for us that matters not a bit. After watching Rovers run rings round sides only to be beaten by a soft goal on numerous occasions in recent seasons it is actually a pleasant experience to see your team win ugly. The difference between the two sides tonight was quite simple’ Rovers had Billy Sharp and Sheffield Wednesday did not. Sharp was the one man who looked likely to pounce on an opportune moment to break the deadlock and he did just that. His fourth goal in four consecutive games means Rovers continue to edge up the Championship table.
Doncaster Rovers line-up (4-2-2-2): Neil Sullivan; James Chambers, Jason Shackell, James O’Connor, Gareth Roberts; John Oster (Sam Hird), Martin Woods (Simon Gillett); Jamie Coppinger, Dean Shiels (Mark Wilson); James Hayter, Billy Sharp
subs not used: Ben Smith, Byron Webster, John Spicer, Lewis Guy
booked: Jason Shackell, James O’Connor, James Chambers
Sheffield Wednesday line-up (4-5-1): Lee Grant; Lewis Buxton, Mark Beevers, Darren Purse, Tommy Spurr; Marcus Tudgay, Darren Potter, James O’Connor (Tom Soares), Sean McAllister, Jermaine Johnson (Etienne Esajas); Leon Clarke (Luke Varney)
subs not used: Frank Simek, Richard O’Donnell, Michael Gray, Warren Feeney
booked: Darren Potter, Darren Purse, Leon Clarke