Well, come on, you didn’t really think Rovers would beat Newcastle United did you? Not even much reported infighting can derail the Magpies quick return to the Premier League, as Andy Carroll, playing with a hand injury sustained when his fist came into contact with Steven Taylor’s jaw, struck the only goal of this fixture. It suggests that the brief fall and rise of Newcastle United has been aptly bookended by two 1-0 results at the Keepmoat Stadium. A year and a half ago Rovers gave Newcastle fans a taste of what was to come as they notched a relatively straight forward 1-0 win over the Magpies. Tonight it was the North East club’s turn to win 1-0 and it looks likely to be their last visit to Doncaster for some time.
As you may expect from the league leaders Newcastle took the game to Rovers from the start and enjoyed the better of the opening twenty minutes. But for all their time in Rovers half of the field the Magpies struggled to engineer genuine chances, their first coming as Carroll blazed over Neil Sullivan’s bar five minutes in. Quarter of an hour in a Ryan Taylor delivery from a right wing free-kick caused a few South Stand hearts to raise towards mouths as it flew right across the face of the goal but no-one managed to get the killer touch.
After twenty minutes Rovers finally managed to make their own presence in the game felt with their first chance on goal. Mark Wilson fed John Oster on the edge of the box and he played the ball in to Billy Sharp in the area. Sharp side-stepped his man and hit a good low left foot shot but Steve Harper managed to get down well to save with one hand and Danny Simpson managed to beat James Hayter to the rebound to hoof the ball to safety. On the half hour mark Rovers again threatened as they ran at Newcastle United with Dean Shiels breaking forward before laying the ball wide to Hayter on the right, his first time cross was missed by Shiels’ air-kick but reached Sharp who again hit a low left foot shot, and again was denied by Harper.
Chances steadily petered out in the run up to half time with the two teams cancelling out in midfield, however there was opportunity for Newcastle to force another good opportunity before the break as Oster was caught in possession and Wayne Routledge played in Carroll, but his shot from just inside the area was well saved by Sullivan. So goalless at half-time with Rovers starting to match their opponents, but perhaps missing the outlet of Jamie Coppinger in the final third.
Rovers began the second half in reasonable form, but were being restricted to long-range efforts on Harper’s goal. Martin Woods brought a save from the Newcastle keeper with a central free-kick, and later the same player fired wide when given opportunity to shoot from thirty yards. And then, just before the hour mark Newcastle took the lead, as they capitalised on a rare error from Mark Wilson. The midfielder’s attempted pass to Gareth Roberts on the left was intercepted by Routledge and he fed Carroll, the forward latched onto the ball and after holding off James O’Connor, managed to send Sullivan the wrong way with a drop of the shoulder before slotting the ball home.
A deflating blow for the home side, but Rovers thought they had found the perfect reply within a couple of minutes. Hayter found space down the left and his low shot from the corner of the area was saved by Harper, but he could only beat the ball into the path of Sharp who fired it into the roof of the net. However Rovers’ joy was to be short-lived as the official on the West Stand side flagged for offside and the goal was ruled out. Martin Woods was next to threaten with another wayward long-range effort. Though Rovers were on the front foot the threat of a second Newcastle goal remained and Rovers were thankful to Sullivan who saved from Nolan’s effort from the edge of the area and minutes later Nolan again brought another opportunity as he burst through down the right but his low pull back was comfortably intercepted by Roberts. Rovers pushed for an equaliser, but it was not to come, a relatively easily saved header from substitute Jay Emmanuel-Thomas was to be as good as it got.
Doncaster Rovers line-up (4-3-2-1); Neil Sullivan; James Chambers, James O’Connor, Shelton Martis, Gareth Roberts (Jordan Mutch); John Oster, Mark Wilson (Jay Emmanuel-Thomas), Martin Woods; James Hayter, Dean Shiels (John Spicer); Billy Sharp
subs not used: Ben Smith, Adam Lockwood, Sam Hird, Sean McDaid
Newcastle United line-up (4-4-2); Steve Harper; Ryan Taylor, Fabricio Coloccini, Tomas Kadar, Danny Simpson; Wayne Routledge (Fabrice Pancrate), Kevin Nolan, Nicky Butt, Danny Guthrie (joey Barton); Jonass Gutierrez, Andy Carroll
subs not used: Tim Krul, Ben Tozer, Jose Enrique, Leon Best, Nile Ranger
booked: Ryan Taylor, Danny Simpson, Kevin Nolan