All right I’ll come clean. In the run up to this game I predicted a 2-0 defeat to Rovers, and never expected the side to pick up anything more. I shall never doubt again. The unexpected return of captain Brian Stock may have been the only personnel change from the shot-free loss at Swansea on Saturday, but the shift in attitude and performance was notable. Whether that was down to the return of the captain is debatable, though Stock did by all accounts show his class, but from the start Rovers looked a more determined outfit.
From the opening exchanges it would perhaps have been difficult to tell which was the side missing 14 1st teamers as Doncaster went at the home side. By the sixth minute John Ruddy had already had more to do that Dorus De Vries faced in a whole 90 minutes on Saturday. George Friend’s free-kick delivery from the left forcing the keeper to come and claim, whilst just a couple of minutes later Mark Wilson had a shot on goal, on target and everything, which Ruddy had to hold.
Rovers best chance of the half came soon after with the visitors within inches of taking the lead. John Oster on the centre spot fed Franck Moussa breaking forward and he ran at the Norwich defender, beating Zak Whitbread before getting in a shot that deflected off Eliott Ward and bounced up over Ruddy, just clearing the City crossbar. As the half progressed Norwich would begin to assert themselves in the match and on the half hour mark, with their first shot of the game, City took the lead. Adam Drury’s nicely weighted diagonal ball into the box from left back picked out Grant Holt racing towards the far post and the striker did well to volley past Neil Sullivan.
Down but not out Rovers tried to hit back, but though they succeeded in forcing a couple of corners they were unable to make either set-piece count. Instead, they almost went in at the interval further behind. Drury was played through by Henri Lansbury on the left edge of the area, the full-back overlapping to deliver a low cross into the area. Drury’s pass was straight to the feet of Holt 10 yards out, but he fired over.
Norwich had the first sight of goal in the second half too as Lansbury had a shot blocked and then following the resulting corner Aaron Wilbraham shot wide. But Rovers were still in the game and had a chance to equalise seven minutes into the half; Wayne Thomas’ high ball forward was neatly cushioned into the path of Moussa by Jason Euell and he controlled well before shooting from the edge of the area. However his shot, a little tame, was comfortably fielded by John Ruddy. Joseph Mills too had the Norwich defence concerned as a great run down th left saw him beat a couple of yellow shirted players only to be dispossessed before he could get a shot off.
Just after the hour mark Grant Holt had a chance to double his tally for the game as Lansbury picked him out in the area; the centre forward chesting down the cross from the left, but could only volley the ball high into the Barclay End. Holt’s strike partner Wilbraham would have a better chance to wrap up the points just minutes later via a cross from the other wing. Russell Martin’s delivery picking out Wilbraham six yards out, and though the forward got a firm header on goal Sullivan was on hand to beat the ball away.
Still Norwich continued to press as Martin picked out Holt alone in the right channel. The froward cut the ball back for Andrew Crofts on the edge of the area, but the midfielder skewed his shot wide. The more chances came and went for Norwich though, the more sense there was that Rovers could nick something here. ANd with just over six minutes to play that is exactly what happened. Oster’s inswinging corner glancing off the head of Adam Drury and beating Ruddy at his near post to draw Rovers level. Cue glorious celebration in the away end, and a set of very scared neighbours either side of Viva Towers in Worcester.
The drama was still not over with some frantic moments inside the Rovers penalty area, and indeed Doncaster could have won it themselves with Ruddy denying Euell on the volley from Oster’s cross, but the walking wounded managed to hang on in for the draw. It may only be a point, but it could well be one of the most important points Rovers pick up this season. A great result.
Norwich City line-up (4-4-2); John Ruddy; Russell Martin, Elliott Ward, Zak Whitbread, Adam Drury; David Fox (Andre Surman), Andrew Crofts, Henri Lansbury (Korey Smith), Wes Hoolahan (Simeon Jackson); Aaron Wilbraham, Grant Holt
subs not used: Jed Steer, Mathew Gill, Rob Edwards, Marc Tierney
booked: Wes Hoolahan, Elliot Ward
Doncaster Rovers line-up (4-3-2-1); Neil Sullivan; Sam Hird, Wayne Thomas, George Friend, Joseph Mills; Paul Keegan, Mark Wilson, Brian Stock (Dean Shiels); John Oster, Franck Moussa (Dennis Souza); Jason Euell
subs not used: Gary Woods, Byron Webster, Matt Kilgallon, Bradley Grayson, James Husband