If I could some up Rovers’ league season thus far in a single word then that would most likely be ‘frustrating’. The reason for selecting that word above all others, is the very strong belief that a full strength Rovers side would most likely be undefeated at this point. It’s likely that the threat of Billy Sharp would have brought another goal at Brighton as the hosts stretched themselves for an equaliser; West Ham, after an admittedly strong opening half hour, looked quite ordinary and now Nottingham Forest have gone skipping back down the M1 with something of a smash and grab victory stuffed in their back pocket.
Though they sit second bottom and pointless there really is little that Rovers are doing wrong on the field with the resources they have at their disposal, and that was certainly the case in this fixture as they went at Forest from the outset. Jamie Coppinger was first to try his luck, driving a fierce shot from just outside the corner of the area which just missed Lee Camp’s far post. Minutes later Kyle Bennett carried the ball forwards to hit a similarly well-struck shot from outside the area, only for it to be nudged over the bar, without even the reward of a corner as the referee failed to spot the deflective touch.
Forest attempted to hit back around the quarter of the hour mark, but their best chances came from set-pieces. A cross in from a free-kick on the left was hooked just wide of the post by Wes Morgan, and then Andy Reid tried his luck with a free-kick in a central position – curiously awarded after Sam Hird was adjudged to have brought down David McGoldrick using his head – but it was hit straight at the wall. From a similar dead ball at the other end Giles Barnes would go closer for Rovers, his effort beating the wall, but Lee Camp was always behind it.
Rovers continued to look the better side and the one more likely to take the lead, Bennett creating space again but his shot was always going wide. Simon Gillett was having another fine game in midfield and it was from great work and a neat pass by him that Barnes was given the opportunity to get in a shot from the corner of the area, but his low strike was saved by Camp, diving to his right. The footwork of Bennett was also proving dangerous as Forest failed to read him on several occasions and he almost picked out Chris Brown with a cross from the left only for Camp to collect just inches from the striker’s forehead.
Of course Rovers luck currently so far out that is actually away backpacking central Asia, and so there was something of a disappointing inevitability when the visitors took the lead through their first effort on target on the half hour mark. Just before the goal Matt Derbyshire went down very easily in the box when in close quarters with George Friend, and the referee (unswayed by his dramatic arm movements and arched-back, which suggested Friend had taken him out with a bowling ball to the base of the spine rather than the potential trip there may have been) waved away the appeal. However Forest quickly regained possession and from Brendan Moloney’s deep cross, Chris Gunter out-jumped Mustapha Dumbuya to head the ball through the grasp of the diving Gary Woods and into the bottom corner.
Typical. Rovers attempted to hit back before the break as Jamie Coppinger hit a dipping volley from inside the box which Camp was at full-stretch to turn round the post. The lead had clearly enthused the visitors and though they didn’t create much more before the end of the half they did seem much more effective at closing out Rovers in all areas of the field. Before the interval Barnes broke across the box, but his shot was scuffed and bobbled apologetically to Camp. And on the stroke of half time Rovers did earn a corner, though half-time had indeed stroked before they were able to take it.
In the second half chances would be more fleeting as Forest defended their lead well, though Rovers did get an early sight of goal as Barnes made space for a cross from the left, but Gillett at the far post couldn’t quite connect with the volley and the ball flew harmlessly wide. It was probably the only foot the sleeveless jumper mogul put wrong all night. From a cross on the other side by Bennett, Barnes too had a sight of goal, but with little power on the ball in Barnes could only loop his header into the hands of Camp.
The closest Rovers came to an equalising goal was an opportunity from a corner ten minutes time; Jamie Coppinger’s ball flighted into the space at the near post was met perfectly by the head of the onrushing Gillett, but Camp was again on hand to beat the ball away to safety. Rovers continued to work the ball well around the edge of the area, but the telling final touch or ball in, or that bit of luck with a dropping ball in the area continued to elude them all night and Forest, though they created little themselves, defended resolutely enough to see out the victory.
Man of the Match: Simon Gillett got the official nod, and whilst he and Kyle Bennett both had very good games in midfield, our vote goes to John Oster. The former Wales international continues to show his ability on the ball and has now combined that with a renewed determination to win the ball back when out of possession too. Currently Rovers best player this season.
Doncaster Rovers line-up (4-2-3-1): Gary Woods; Mustapha Dumbuya, Sam Hird, George Friend, Tommy Spurr; Simon Gillett, John Oster; Jamie Coppinger, Kyle Bennett (Reece Brown), Giles Barnes (James Baxendale); Chris Brown
subs not used: Neil Sullivan, Richard Naylor, Mark Wilson
booked: Sam Hird (clumsy foul on Robbie Findlay)
Nottingham Forest line-up (4-4-2): Lee Camp; Brendan Moloney, Luke Chambers, Wes Morgan, Chris Gunter; Jonathan Greening, Chris Cohen, Radoslav Majewski, Andy Reid (Joel Lynch); David McGoldrick (Ishmael Miller), Matt Derbyshire (Robbie Findlay)
subs not used: Paul Smith, Lewis McGugan