Coming into today’s game Ipswich hadn’t beaten Rovers since 1957. I read that statistic at about 1:30pm and knew as soon as I did it was a record I’d just doomed to end. And end it did, as Rovers went down 3-2 in Suffolk, to suffer a third defeat in eight days. At least in consolation we can say that after half a century’s inferiority to Doncaster, Ipswich were due this win.
Rovers started the better of the two sides at Portman Road and it was they who created the game’s first chance. James O’Connor getting to the byline before putting in a cross which reached Billy Sharp, and the Doncaster forward struck the post with his strike. In the week Sean O’Driscoll had urged Sharp to channel his anger into his play, rather than at fans, team-mates, inanimate objects and anything else which may cross his path, and it was to pay off just a minute later. This time it was Jamie Coppinger who got the ball in to the box and Sharp met this deep angled delivery to control the ball and find the net and put Rovers 1-0 up.
Ipswich attempted to hit back and created a couple of decent chances in the ten minutes after the goal. David Norris was denied by the legs of Neil Sullivan and then minutes later saw an effort from range fly wide. Also bringing a save from Sullivan was teenage striker Connor Whickham, but the Rovers ‘keeper was well placed for a straightforward save, as he was minutes later as he collected a header on goal from Colin Healy.
Rovers were moving the ball the better of the two sides and just before the half-hour mark they had the ball in the net again through Sharp, but unfortunately he had strayed offside and the goal would not stand. Dean Shiels also threatened to extend the Rovers lead as he cut in from the left, but Town ‘keeper Martin Fulop saved comfortably.
The hosts were not out of the game as Whickham brought another save from Sullivan and Tamas Priskin headed over, but the last chance of the half would be Doncaster’s. Matt Kilgallon meeting a corner with a firm header, but Carlos Edwards was on hand on the goal-line to clear and prevent Rovers from extending their lead before the break. As it was they had to make do with a 1-0 advantage, but it was no less than they deserved from an impressive first-half display.
Of course there is no guarantee that a Rovers team leading at half-time will be in front come the game’s end and it took just four minutes for folk in the away end to start mumbling “Here we go again.” Ipswich midfielder Norris moving into the area at the right time to volley Tamas Priskin’s cushioned header into the back of the net and level the scores. Duly revitalised Ipswich now held the momentum and on the hour mark the home side went ahead. Healy crossing from the left picked out Whickham six-yards from goal and he headed home to make it 2-1.
On BBC’s Final Score as the reporter talked to Gabby Logan of an unexpected Ipswich lead, in the background the South Yorkshire portion of the press-box could be heard exploding into life. Straight from the kick-off Rovers had levelled the match; Coppinger the provider once again edging his way down the right wing to deliver the cross and Sharp the beneficiary, meeting the ball with a diving header to make it 2-2.
And still the goals were not done, as within four minutes of the score being 1-1 it became 3-2 to Ipswich. Edwards from the ride tried his luck with an ambitious shot from distance and his powerful drive took a deflection to leave Sullivan with no chance as it found the net via the inside of the post. Ipswich created further opportunities with Norris firing wide again, and Lee Martin also off target from the edge of the area.
In the final minutes Rovers pushed for an equaliser as John Oster saw an effort on goal hoiked away by Damian Delaney whilst James Hayter could only hit the side net with an effort five minutes from time, and Kilgallon was denied by the home ‘keeper. As the game edged into injury-time there was one last chance for Billy Sharp, but he could only hit his shot at Fulop and the hosts closed out the game to give Paul Jewell a 3-2 win on his first home game in charge.
The conclusion? Well, whilst a third successive defeat is not a crisis, it’s certainly a disappointment, particularly having surrendered a half-time lead, something which is starting to happen with frustrating regularity. Still, the reports of the first-half suggest Rovers played the better football and could well have been 3-0 ahead. O’Driscoll is a man who talks of performances over results and the improvement on the last two outings will hopefully help put the team in the right frame of mind for Tuesday’s upcoming South Yorkshire derby with Barnsley.
Ipswich Town line-up (4-4-2); Martin Fulop; Gareth McAuley, Martin Delaney, Grant Leadbitter, Darren O’Dea; Carlos Edwards, Lee Martin, Colin Healy, David Norris; Connor Whickham, Tamas Priskin
subs not used: Arran Lee-Barratt, Jamie Peters, Tommy Smith, Luke Hyam, Luciano Civelli, Mark Kennedy, Jason Scotland
booked: Gareth McAuley, Connor Whickham
Doncaster Rovers line-up (4-3-2-1); Neil Sullivan; James O’Connor, Adam Lockwood, Matt Kilgallon, James Chambers (Waide Fairhurst); Mark Wilson (Sam Hird), John Oster, Dean Shiels (Ryan Mason); Jamie Coppinger, James Hayter; Billy Sharp
subs not used: Gary Woods, Dennis Souza, George Friend, Paul Keegan
booked: Mark Wilson