Following on from yesterday’s Top Ten Goals of the past twelve months today we complete our review of the year by bringing you our Top Ten Rovers Moments of 2010. Admittedly we have stretched the meaning of the word ‘moment’ within this article, but indulge us won’t you, it’s the holidays after all.
10. John Oster’s Posh Winner
Some clubs seem to score many more late winning goals than others, and Rovers are firmly in the ‘others’ category of that statement. As such any last-minute goal scored by Doncaster would be a contender for this top ten, but this strike from John Oster at Peterborough was even more special for three reasons. Firstly, as it came at London Road it gave Rovers fans a rare opportunity to leap around giddily on a terrace. Secondly, it catapulted the club up to eighth in the table and in to the realm of genuine play-off contenders. And finally it represented the first time Rovers had come from behind to win a game since victory over Derby in February 2009.
9. Copps and Healy Take it to The ‘Wall
After two goals in three minutes had taken them from a goal down to a goal up at home to Millwall Rovers were suddenly brimming with confidence; all neat touches and assured lay-offs. This confidence was beautifully typified by a piece of exhibition play from Rovers’ longest serving player and its newest. The latter, David Healy, released Jamie Coppinger on the flank with a neat back-heel for the midfielder to turn his man with a similar trick and then flick the ball back to the striker who checked his man and curled an effort goalwards that sadly went wide. Had it gone in, I would have been tempted to stand up and leave knowing that things would be unlikely to be as good as that moment ever again.
8. Brooker is Back
Back in May the club announced that Steve Brooker would feature in the pre-season fixtures. Having been out injured since he joined Rovers in January 2009 we’d forgotten what he looked like, to the extent where we asked our readership to draw us a picture of him. But, cometh July, cometh the man. Brooker featured in Rovers final three pre-season friendlies, making him finally, for the first time since joining the club on a permanent basis almost twenty months previously, an actual Rovers player. His competitive appearances may have been sparse, but he brings the attack a much-needed second option. The instant reward reaped from his cameo at Fratton Park as he came off the bench to set up Healy’s winner showed what an asset he can be to the team and we’re delighted that his opportunity has finally come.
7. Out Chiming Pompey
Prior to November’s match at Fratton Park Rovers have always had a difficult time in Portsmouth. With Pompey on a run of form this visit to the South Coast was expected to go much the same way as the others, but Rovers instead imposed themselves on the first half emphatically. Goals from James Hayter and Jamie Coppinger gave Doncaster a 2-0 lead against another side who had promised in the matchday programme not to underestimate us, but appeared noticeably surprised by what they encountered. With a shell-shocked ground uncharacteristically quiet a lone voice from the Rovers’ end called out to the neighbouring home fans; “Yes that’s right. All that you’ve read about us is true.” Though Portsmouth drew back level in the second half, a fantastic David Healy strike eventually provided a memorable victory and arguably the most raucous celebrations of the year.
6. JET Powered Showboating
As Rovers fans we’ve been treated to some fantastic flowing football in recent years, but for all the neat touches and lay-offs we have rarely been able to enjoy a true showman. Enter Jay Emmanuel-Thomas on loan from Arsenal. Having torn Bristol City apart with Billy Sharp at Ashton Gate on his first start he went on to take centre-stage against Derby a week later as he ran through his party pieces; nutmegging Jay McEveley with ease, and then one glorious trick where he faked an inside pass with his right foot only to play in the overlapping Jamie Coppinger with his left foot, all in one movement. At Blackpool on Easter Monday JET pulled off an incredible piece of footwork on the byline that not only left me laughing in disbelief but sent Steve Crainey so far the wrong way the full-back had to pay to get back in the ground. I watch a lot of football but few players have made me genuinely laugh in amazement and enjoyment the way Emmanuel-Thomas did in that instant.
5. Going Fourth
On September 13th I had a quick look on a couple of the Rovers supporters’ messageboards and everything was all doom and gloom. The defence wasn’t good enough. The squad wasn’t strong enough. Ticket prices were too high. There was no money to strengthen the squad. And the general consensus was that the current side had no chance of threatening the top six of this division. And then lo and behold, one day later, Rovers rolled past Norwich with a Jamie Coppinger hat-trick and were suddenly in the Championship’s top four, the club’s highest league position ever. Football eh?
4. Rocking The Robins
Rovers travelled to Bristol City in March with the BBC online preview noting how neither club had scored many goals in the opening quarter an hour of games. So you can imagine their web editor’s delight as Bristol City levelled the scores again to make it 2-2 just fifteen minutes in. By half-time this game was an incredible 4-2 to the Rovers with the Robins just unable to cope with the combined threat of Billy Sharp and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas in Doncaster’s very attack-minded 4-2-3-1 formation. The match would ultimately end 5-2 to Rovers though it could quite easily have finished 9-4, a fantastically thrilling game and the first opportunity I’ve had to chant “We want six” at a Rovers away game since Scarborough in the Conference on Boxing Day 2003.
3. The Rise of Mustapha Dumbuya
OK so not strictly a ‘moment’ as such, more a succession of them. In the summer Mustapha Dumbuya was just a bit part player who had been plucked from the amateur leagues to make just two sub appearances. By December the club were struggling to manage without him. From unwanted non-league journeyman to second tier stalwart in eighteen months, it’s a trajectory which is all too rare in modern football. A fantastic and exciting player to watch, he is also a refreshingly humble professional footballer too. A welcome addition to any squad, and we can be truly grateful that it is ours he is part of.
2. Sharp Signing
At Championship level Rovers are a small club and so I had come to accept that ultimately the players needed to properly compete at this level, as oppose to hold your own, were financially beyond us. In July this year I had cause to reassess that. Viva Rovers will always advocate the sensible cost-effective approach to football, but I must admit that seeing Rovers’ three directors club together to fund a record-obliterating one-off transfer to make Sharp a full-fledged Rover, made me feel like a kid who’s just caught first sight of the ocean on a summer road trip to the beach. Sharp’s signing showed us that if needs be, and if the player and time is right, the (financially) big three directors will be selfless. That’s bloody good to know. The-likes-of-Doncaster have spent just over £1million on a player. Anything really can happen.
1. Not SO’Ding off. Sean O’Driscoll Stays Put
The best moment from the past twelve months can also be seen as the most important for the club. At midday on Wednesday 13th January, after two days of speculation and rumour the official club website finally confirmed that Sean O’Driscoll would not be taking up the vacant manager post at Burnley. The importance of retaining O’Driscoll cannot be overstated especially given that amongst the names being touted on messageboards as possible replacements should he have left were Kevin Keegan, Neil Warnock and Simon Clifford. Yes we have great players, and much talent but how could we seriously look to replace a whole footballing philosophy. Little did we known in January that the year would end as it began, with Rovers fending off another suitor in the form of Sheffield United. Though this time that attention would seem to have less basis in fact and much more in idle journalistic speculation and wishful thinking. Either way, I have breathed no greater sighs of relief as a Rovers fan than that I exhaled at my desk in mid-January.