I’d been excited about this game for some time. Not because of any perceived rivalry between Leeds United and Rovers, because as we stated in our preview we don’t see it ourselves, but because a win for Doncaster would take them second. Bloody second. So though I was stuck at my desk at work watching it on an internet stream as odd as it was illegal I was still quite enthused about this Yorkshire derby and what it could represent.
It seemed I wasn’t the only one enthused either as Rovers flew forward with their first taste of possession. Jamie Coppinger was released down the right and managed to drill a low ball into the box for Billy Sharp at the near post whose close range effort was deflected over the bar. The resulting corner heralded the start of a solid four minutes of pressure from Rovers but it would sadly end without a decent sight of goal. Subsequently Leeds too threatened in the fifth minute with a low cross, but Neil Sullivan was equal to Max Gradel’s delivery.
What was noticeable, even watching from Worcester with Tony Gubba commentating away all on his own, was the crowd noise. A significant atmosphere in the Keepmoat, something which happens far too rarely these days, with the audible chant of “Did you cry when Hayter scored?” well picked up by the pictchside microphones. On the field though chances remained scarce as Coppinger scuffed a long-range effort for Rovers, whilst Neil Collins headed wide from a Leeds corner.
The visitors were the first to pick up a booking as Bradley Johnson was deservedly cautioned for a hefty challenge on Coppinger on the right. But Leeds were able to play a bit too and a decent move from United midway through the half saw David Somma in enough space to drive a shot goalwards that Sullivan managed to turn onto the bar. Not to be outdone Rovers then hit the woodwork themselves before the half hour mark; Dean Shiels making space for himself on the corner of the area before curling a shot which struck the far post.
Tony Gubba had clearly done his research on Rovers, to the point where I was suspecting he was really a Doncaster fan. In fact didn’t he give a sleeve quote or a few lines for Ian McMahon’s The Only Way Is Up? Eventually though Gubba’s research did let him down as he proclaimed “here’s James O’Connor, one of the Irish boys in the side“.
Five minutes before the break and Leeds had a great chance to take the lead as Somna got on to the end of a through ball and moved into the area only for Sullivan to advance off his line and make an important save. Mustapha Dumbuya subsequently delivered his own take on ‘clearing the danger’ as he skipped pas four challenges to carry the ball thirty yards away from goal. Late in the half Rovers had a couple of half chances from st-pieces with George Friend heading just wide and Simon Gillett seeing a drive from the edge of the box deflected wide but the half ended goalless.
At the break I took the brave decision to try and find a more reliable internet feed so sadly bid Tony Gubba goodbye for coverage that wasn’t five minutes behind what was going on. I succeeded in that goal, and another as I found a bottle of beer in the office fridge. You’d be surprised how effective a bottle opener a staple remover can be.
Rovers kicked off the second half but it was to bring their worst spell in the game as they lacked any sense of cohesion and Leeds subsequently enjoyed the better of the possession and the chances with Somna hitting an effort wide of the far post. Gradel too threatened again as he hit a firm strike from the right channel that Sullivan had to turn behind at his near post. From the subsequent corner Sullivan was called in to action again saving from Ross McCormack as the forward put the ball back into the area.
In the final quarter of an hour Leeds thought they had edged in front as Somna found the net. The forward pounced to turn in the rebound after Sullivan saved Johnson’s initial shot, but the forward had been offside when the initial effort was struck and the ‘goal’ was rightly ruled out. With ten minutes to go Rovers introduced Brian Stock whilst Leeds also shifted to a more defensive formation and Doncaster were allowed to carry and move the ball more in the opposition half as a result. However, clear-cut chances continued to evade them and the match ultimately ended goalless.
Man of the Match: Mustapha Dumbuya; another excellent game from the player who looks like he’s been playing in the Championship all of his life rather than a week.
Doncaster Rovers line-up (4-3-2-1); Neil Sullivan; Mustapha Dumbuya, James O’Connor, Shelton Martis, George Friend; John Oster (Brian Stock), Martin Woods, Simon Gillett (Ryan Mason); Jamie Coppinger, Dean Shiels (Waide Fairhurst); Billy Sharp
subs not used: Gary Woods, Adam Lockwood, Sam Hird, Mark Wilson
Leeds United line-up (4-4-2); Shane Higgs; Andrew Hughes, Alex Bruce, Neil Collins, Aidan White; Max Gradel (Sanchez Watt), Neil Kilkenny, Jonathan Howson, Bradley Johnson; Davide Somma, Ross McCormack (Robert Snodgrass)
subs not used: Richard Naylor, Luciano Becchio, Lloyd Sam, Amdy Faye, Jason Brown
booked: Bradley Johnson (foul on Jamie Coppinger)