And things had been going so well too. Alas after the joy of Saturday’s local derby victory at Scunthorpe Rovers were brought back to earth by Derby County, or perhaps more specifically by the frailties of their own squad. In the wake of a wave of injuries Rovers were forced to field a makeshift and inexperienced defence, including emergency signing Joseph Mills, and were promptly picked apart by their opponents.
Doncaster had the game’s first chance with Billy Sharp bringing Frank Fielding into the game from distance, but it would be Derby who had the better of the half, with attacks down the Rovers flanks proving notably effective. Neil Sullivan had already been at full stretch to intercept an Alberto Bueno centre, before a John Brayford cross just evaded Luke Moore. A Dean Moxey cross from the left did pick out Moore quarter of an hour in, but Sullivan was on hand to save.
Rovers had a brief glimpse of goal moments later as Jamie Coppinger got in a strike from outside the area, but Fielding saved. Within a minute though the visitors’ got more than a glimpse of goal as they took the lead, again Bailey crossed from the left, but this time Moore side-footed the ball beyond Sullivan. 1-0 up Derby continued to press and within sustained pressure Bueno forced Sullivan into a save with an effort from distance. A bad half got worse for Rovers as Simon Gillett limped from the action seven minutes before half-time, indeed the ref’s whistle for the interval was arguably the highlight of the first 45 minutes.
Thankfully Rovers made a better start to the second half as they worked a neat opening for John Oster who’s fierce shot was beaten away by Fielding, with Brian Stock driving the rebound wide. It was a good spell for Rovers, as Stock and Woods both got in efforts on goal in the following few minutes, however it wouldn’t last as Derby doubled their lead just before the hour mark. Mills’ clearance going straight to Paul Green who fed Kris Commons breaking forward and he found the roof of the net for 2-0.
Just as it seemed Rovers were done for Dean Shiels enlivened the match up no end with a clinical two-minute spell. Within six minutes of County doubling their lead Oster, Sharp and Shiels combined to feed Shiels and he found the back of the net to reduce the deficit. Within a couple of minutes Shiels would strike again to ensure the Keepmoat would remain on it’s feet; Sharp won the ball in the corner and fed the Northern Irishman and he beat a defender before finding the corner of the net from the angle of the box.
Unfortunately for Rovers fans the buzz of two quick goals would be duly killed by a third for the visitors just a three minutes after the equaliser. Green fed Commons on the left and he hit an unstoppable strike beyond Sullivan to put Derby back in front. Rovers pressed for a third goal throughout the closing quarter of an hour but despite penning the visitors in their own third they were unable to find it and slumped to a disappointing defeat.
Doncaster Rovers line-up (4-3-2-1); Neil Sullivan; Mustapha Dumbuya, Sam Hird, Byron Webster, Joseph Mills (Adam Lockwood); Brian Stock, Simon Gillett (Martin Woods), John Oster (James Hayter); Jamie Coppinger, Dean Shiels; Billy Sharp
subs not used: Gary Woods, Brad Grayson, Aaron Jones, James Husband
booked: Joseph Mills, Jamie Coppinger, Brian Stock
Derby County line-up (4-4-2); Frank Fielding; John Brayford, Dean Leacock, Shaun Barker, Dean Moxey; Kris Commons (Russell Anderson), Paul Green, Tomasz Cywka, Alberto Bueno (Rbbie Savage); Luke Moore (Shefki Kuqi), James Bailey
subs not used: Gareth Roberts, Ben Pringle, Conor Doyle, Ross Atkins
booked: Luke Moore, Shaun Barker