After the disappointment of being stooges to the Craig Bellamy Show in Cardiff last weekend, and the subsequent gloom and doom-mongering on messageboards, what Rovers really needed ahead of the international break was something to brighten the mood. Thankfully it arrived in the form of a much-enjoyed 3-1 win over local rivals, as Ian Drury called it “Reasons to be cheerful, 1, 2, 3”.
It wasn’t just the scoreline that has given a sense of enthusement to the swingometer that is the mood of your average Rovers fan, but also a key comeback. John Oster might not be rated by his international manager, but last season he was Rovers best player and today, after missing the opening weeks of the season through injury he was back. Whilst the capture of Billy Sharp in the summer got the headlines, the signing we most anticipated here at Viva Towers was the recapture of John Oster who plays what we have come to term the Point Guard role just in front of the back-four with a notable enthusiasm and experience.
Oster was back in that familiar position today, next to his captain and countrymen Brian Stock, but the two had not been side by side long before they were able to celebrate a goal. With barely more than a minute gone and Rovers had taken the lead as Simon Gillett swung in an angled cross from the right and Martin Woods just inside the area managed to get his head on the ball and send it looping over Matt Duke and into the net. If you want an indication that things are going to go your way then a headed goal from Woods is probably it.
Woods came close to doubling Rovers lead five minutes later as he drove a free-kick goalwards only for Duke to this time beat his effort away. And from almost two goals to the good, within a minute Rovers had instead been pulled level. John Bostock slid a through ball between the Rovers defence and Nick Barmby squeezed his diminutive frame through the gap with it to get onto the pass and slot it past Neil Sullivan for the equaliser, with still less than ten minutes on the clock.
The game was set to follow this end to end style for much of the first half. Both Oster and Woods threatened for Rovers in the following ten minutes, the former shooting wide from distance and Woods bringing another save from Duke with a fiercely struck volley. Hull’s best chance also brought the goalkeeper into action as Bostock saw an effort from distance turned away by Sullivan.
Rovers were arguably having the best of the chances and had already seen Sharp have a shot blocked and Oster head just over before they earned a corner in the final minute of the half. Woods swung in the deadball and it struck the arm of Hull defender Ian Ashbee as he tried to prevent Shelton Martis meeting the cross and the referee pointed to the spot. Sharp took the penalty and for the second home game in succession he scored from the spot, giving Rovers a 2-1 lead at half-time.
Doncaster made the better start to the second half enjoying much of the possession in the opening ten minutes, though this spell would only bring one chance as Stock volleyed high and wide from the edge of the box. But for an unproductive corner it was past the hour mark before Hull threatened to draw level again as a long ball from Nolberto Solano was met by the head of Barmby, but Sullivan was on hand to save.
The next goal came soon after, and it went the way of Rovers to effectively settle the outcome with twenty minutes to play as James O’Connor’s cross from the right was cushioned into the path of Woods by Jamie Coppinger. Woods got to the byline before chipping the ball back into the danger area for Coppinger to volley home from eight yards to put Rovers 3-1 in front. But for a brilliant save by Duke a few minutes later that lead could have been increased even further but somehow the Hull Keeper managed to turn away a well struck shot from Sharp.
At the other end Hull continued to pose something of a threat as Solano tested Sullivan with a free-kick. The Rovers keeper would know less about his next key save though as confusion in the home penalty area saw the ball cannon off Martis to Jay Simpson who fired goalwards only to see his strike blocked by the chest of Sullivan. Hull continued to attack in the final ten minutes but could not find a way through, with a late header cleared from the line by O’Connor as close as they came. A satisfying win for Rovers and an enjoyable international break ahead before a tough week of three games in seven days on their return to action.
Doncaster Rovers line-up (4-2-2-1-1); Neil Sullivan; James O’Connor, Shelton Martis, Adam Lockwood (Sam Hird), George Friend; Brian Stock (Ryan Mason), John Oster (Dean Shiels); Simon Gillett, Martin Woods; Jamie Coppinger; Billy Sharp
subs not used: Gary Woods, Mustapha Dumbaya, Mark Wilson, Waide Fairhurst
Hull City line-up (4-4-2); Matt Duke; Nolberto Solano, Kamit Zayatte, Andy Dawson, Ian Ashbee; Liam Cooper, Nick Barmby (Jay Simpson), Robert Koren, John Bostock (Tom Cairney); Richard Garcia, Mark Cullen
subs not used: Anthony Gardner, Kevin Kilbane, Mark Oxley, Will Atkinson, Jamie Devitt
booked: Andy Dason, Kamit Zayatte, John Bostock, Ian Ashbee