You just knew Rob Earnshaw would find the net in this game. Before his golden chance to level against England at Wembley had even landed somewhere in amongst the home fans, you sensed he would make amends in his next outing. And typical of our luck when travelling to face Cardiff, that next opportunity would present itself against Rovers. Add a vengent Earnie, to a talismanic Craig Bellamy debut and a Neil Sullivan flap and there lie three successive Doncaster defeats in the City of Cardiff Stadium.
The international break may not have given enough time for Brian Stock and Shelton Martis to recover from injuries, but it had at least allowed James Coppinger to regain fitness, and he returned to the Rovers starting line-up. Not that Coppinger could do much to prevent Cardiff having the better of the opening exchanges, which saw them almost take an 8th minute lead. A low shot fumbled by Gary Woods appearing at the feet of Earnshaw, who’s shot on the turn rebounded off the base of the post. Next to threaten for the home side, was Rovers own George Friend, the defender getting a foot onto a through ball, to prevent it reaching Earnshaw, but only just missing his own goal in the process.
Rovers began to find fortune on the flanks, but successive deliveries, from Mustapha Dumbuya and Kyle Bennett failed to find anyone other than home keeper David Marshall. Midway through the half Marshall was finally tested by a shot as Bennett let fly from distance and the City stopper had to turn his effort round the post. Dumbuya would also try his luck from distance, but his effort from 25 yards was always flying over, whilst James Hayter almost profited from a long kick downfield from Woods, beating the home defence to the ball, but denied by Marshall at his near-post.
Going into the second half Rovers shuffled the pack with the introduction of Milan Lalkovic at the expense of Richard Naylor in an attempt to see more of the ball in the City third. However, it was the hosts who again made the better start, as Earnshaw got the better of O’Connor but saw his shot deflected behind for a corner. From the set-piece Anthony Gerrard rose highest, but his header was straight at Woods. That would prove to be something of a range-finder for Gerrard as five minutes later he met a free-kick from the right much more emphatically to leave Woods no chance and put Cardiff ahead.
Rovers responded well enough to going behind, but just could not turn possession in the City half into a genuine sight of goal, and thus the inevitable came to pass, fifteen minutes from time. Friend’s timely challenge on the edge of the box robbed Kenny Miller, but only succeeded in finding Peter Whittingham in the centre, who was initially blocked by Tommy Spurr, only to roll the ball to the unmarked Earnshaw who doubled the City lead.
Rovers would fashion a couple of efforts on goal in the closing minutes, firstly as a slaloming Friend run fed Coppinger, but his long-range effort flew over the bar, and secondly as a free-kick from Giles Barnes met a similar fate. In time added on Cardiff twice came close to extending their lead only to be denied by Woods as the Rovers keeper saved first from Whittingham after a decent run by Kevin McNaughton and then finally from substitute Rudi Gestede.
Cardiff City line-up (4-4-2); David Marshall; Kevin McNaughton, Mark Hudson, Anthony Gerrard, Andrew Taylor; Don Cowie, Darcy Blake (Aaron Gunnarsson), Peter Whittingham, Craig Conway (Filip Kiss); Kenny Miller (Rudi Gestede), Robert Earnshaw
subs not used: Tom Heaton, Joe Mason
Doncaster Rovers line-up (4-2-3-1); Gary Woods;James O’Connor, Richard Naylor (Milan Lalkovic), George Friend, Tommy Spurr; John Oster, Simon Gillett; Mustapha Dumbuya (Mark Wilson), James Coppinger, Kyle Bennett (Giles Barnes); James Hayter
subs not used: Neil Sullivan, Sam Hird
booked: Kyle Bennett