I’m quite jealous of Crystal Palace fans right now. Who wouldn’t be? Imagine being able to be in a position to say goodbye to Neil Warnock. Imagine the joy you would feel knowing that you wouldn’t have to see the hypocritical opinionated moronic clown at your club again. The only thing which could top it really would be if he was to walk out of Palace only for QPR to change their mind about approaching him. Warnock is not a great character, he is not a breath of fresh air. What he is, is a blight on the game, the sort of person who if you encountered them in any other walk of life you would only ever do one of two things, ignore him or hit him. So if you are reading this as a Palace fan, and you are genuinely disappointed that Warnock is leaving your club, I suggest you seek professional help… soon.
But thats enough on the person I despise most in football (and he’s done well to top an ever increasing list) and instead on to the match itself. With Brian Stock injured Rovers were lacking a creative edge to their game as they drafted in Sam Hird in the captain’s place, and as with any match against a Warnock side this was to prove a scrappy fixture for long periods. The opening twenty minutes saw little of chances on goal, though both Jamie Coppinger and James Hayter did bring saves from Palace keeper Julian Speroni in this time.
Midway through the first half Hayter did beat Speroni to find the net, but the linesman’s flag was up and the strike was ruled out for offside. John Oster almost broke the deadlock in fortunate style a minute later as his cross from the right almost inadvertently found the far top corner of the Palace net. The ball was in Speroni’s goal once more within a few minutes but again it was not to be a goal, this time the referee spotting a foul by Billy Sharp to rule out the strike. Oster threatened once more himself as Coppinger and James Chambers worked the ball his way, but his shot was deflected wide.
The visitors were struggling to muster any kind of threat, with Neil Sullivan only called into action once thus far to tip away an inswinging cross, before Nick Carle had Palace’s second effort of the game, a strike from the edge of the area which flew safely over. Doncaster had been in control and ten minutes before the break they struck a deserved opening goal. Coppinger received the ball from a throw-in on the right flank and cut inside, side-stepping a couple of chances across the top of the box, before hitting an unstoppable left foot strike into the far top corner of Speroni’s goal. Rovers could have increased their lead before the break as they ended the half with a succession of chances. Hayter and Sharp seeing efforts blocked whilst Wilson and Coppinger again were both denied by Speroni.
Palace started the second half and spent its opening minutes on the attack, but despite the game being played out in the Rovers half the visitors were only able to engineer shots from distance, with both Carle and Darren Ambrose firing over the bar. Having survived this pressure Rovers began to edge their way back into the fixture with defenders Elliot Ward and Gareth Roberts both hitting ambitious efforts from distance just off target. Hayter had an effort from much closer in, but didn’t get enough behind the ball and Speroni saved comfortably,a s he did from Sharp minutes later.
Approaching the midway point of the second half and Palace began to put pressure on the home defence again. Firstly Nathaniel Clyne went down the left wing but his low cross evaded everyone in the area and went out to safety, then on the opposite side Jonathan Ertl broke forward but he fired wide from outside the area. And then from the next attack came the Palace equaliser as Darren Ambrose fought his way into the danger area and his low cross was turned in at the far post by Kieran Djilali. If the Rovers support were disappointed by the goal, within a minute their mood was better labelled incensed as Sharp was brought down by Hill when in on goal but the Palace man escaped with just a caution.
Rovers pushed on to try and re-establish their lead in the latter stages in the game, but struggled to break down a resilient Crystal Palace defence. A long ball from James O’Connor found Sharp on the left edge of the Palace area and he fired in a firm shot which Speroni beat away and then smothered at the second attempt to prevent Hayter from turning in the rebound. Late in the game Rovers had significant appeals for a penalty as Mutch was upended in the Palace area, but the referee ignored the appeals to let play continue and Rovers struggled to threaten again. It ended in stalemate and Rover subsequently drop a place to fourteenth in the Championship.
Doncaster Rovers line-up (4-1-2-2-1); Neil Sullivan; James Chambers, Elliot Ward, James O’Connor, Gareth Roberts; Sam Hird; John Oster (Jordan Mutch), Mark Wilson (Dean Shiels); Jamie Coppinger, James Hayter (Jay Emmanuel-Thomas); Billy Sharp
subs not used: Ben Smith, Mustapha Dumbaya, John Spicer, Lewis Guy
booked: Elliot Ward
Crystal Palace line-up (4-4-2); Julian Speroni; Nathaniel Clyne, Claude Davis (Lee Hills) (Jonathan Ertl), Matt Lawrence, Clint Hill; Danny Butterfield, Shaun Derry, Nick Carle, Kieran Djilali (Calvin Andrew); Alan Lee, Darren Ambrose
subs not used: Shaun Scannell, James Comely, Alassane N’Daiye, Charlie Mann
booked: Lee Hills, Nathaniel Clyne, Alan Lee