Post-match, with an expression etched across his face worthy of the cover of Exasperation Monthly, Sean O’Driscoll told the assembled press conference; “There are 14 games to go, but I haven’t got a team… I must have run over a black cat. In fact, I must have run over a litter of black cats.” Even that might be selling himself short. To endure the sort of woeful luck with injuries currently befalling his team the Rovers manager would need to drive a JCB through the front of th local Cats Protection League shelter.
There is seemingly no end to the injury crisis which is smothering the club and dragging it toward the relegation zone. In the stands at the Liberty Stadium the Rovers crowd chanted “We’ve got no players left,” and it wasn’t that much of an exaggeration. A bad situation edged toward farcical as Jamie Coppinger pulled up in the warm-up to become the 14th Rovers first team player struck with injury. It left O’Driscoll with a 15 man squad, featuring two starting debutants, signed on Thursday afternoon and the morning of the game respectively, and a bench containing a goalkeeper and three centre-backs.
The upshot was a home performance so dominating that Rovers failed to muster a single shot, on or off target, in the whole match. Rumours that a Liberty Stadium steward wandered out onto the pitch to check Swansea goalkeeper Dorus De Vries’ ticket and encourage him to take his seat, are sadly unfounded, but its safe to say he’s been given a more taxing 90 minutes by the Hollyoaks omnibus than he was by Rovers in this fixture.
City opened the scoring just six minutes in, and the 250 boisterous travelling Doncastrians would have been expected to fear the worst at this point. Angel Rangel got away down the Swansea right and his low ball into the area was turned in by the unmarked Scott Sinclair. An already long afternoon had just got considerably longer. Rangel, scorer of the late equaliser when the sides met at the Keepmoat Stadium, would have a chance of his own minutes later as Nathan Dyer flicked the ball into his path, but the right full-back fired his shot the wrong side of Neil Sullivan’s near post.
Twenty minutes in Dyer looked to have doubled the Swans’ lead as he got onto the end of a perfect lofted through ball into the right channel. The winger lifted the ball over the advancing Sullivan, but Sam Hird was covering and managed to get back and head the ball away from the empty net. Despite sustained Swansea pressure they would not double their lead until six minutes before the break. Rangel’s cross from the right was turned goal-wards by Ashley Williams; his initial shot was saved by the feet of Sullivan, but he made no mistake with rebound, reacting impressively quickly to connect with a firm diving header. 2-0 to City, and the tenth goal Rovers had conceded without reply in eight days.
After the interval Rovers offered a little more for the home side to be concerned of with a few spells inside the Swansea half, but they were unable to bring them to anything approaching a threatening conclusion. Instead, what chances there were continued to go City’s way. Stephen Dobbie brought Sullivan into action as he ran at the Rovers defence and let fly from the edge of the area, but the Doncaster ‘keeper turned his shot over the bar. Twelve minutes from time though Swansea did add another to their tally as Darren Pratley carried the ball forward from midfield before feeding Luke Moore just inside the area. The forward took one touch to control the pass and a second to sweep the ball home for his first Swansea goal in seven games.
Rovers will now patch themselves up and the remaining pieces of the squad will hit the road again on Tuesday to travel to Norwich for the next game in a relentless late winter schedule that will ultimately have seen them play two games a week for all but two of the first ten weeks of the year. That this punishing run of fixtures could come at the same time as the club’s worst ever injury crisis is as cruel a twist of fate as many Rovers fans have ever witnessed.
Swansea City line-up (4-4-2); Dorus De Vries; Angel Rangel, Ashley Williams, Alan Tate, Neil Taylor; Scott Sinclair, Joe Allen, Mark Gower (Leon Britton), Nathan Dyer; Stephen Dobbie (Darren Pratley), Luke Moore (Craig Beattie)
subs not used: Cedric Van der Gun, Albert Serran, Ashley Richards, Yves Ma-Kalambay
Doncaster Rovers line-up (4-3-2-1); Neil Sullivan; George Friend, Sam Hird (Byron Webster), Wayne Thomas (Matt Kilgallon), Joseph Mills; Paul Keegan (Dennis Souza), John Oster, Mark Wilson; Franck Moussa, Dean Shiels; Jason Euell
sub not used: Gary Woods