At the risk of going all official website Dickensian prose on your ass, I do feel compelled to mention the weather within the opening to this match report. Twenty-nine degrees is no weather for football, let alone football in October. I have never been so grateful for a stand roof than I was this afternoon; and on the subject of stadia, what a delight to be back on a terrace watching football. Corrugated tin roof, mates’ heads obstructing your view, concrete dust on your arse for the second half. That’s football that is.
Indeed as we sat on the steps wilting at half-time the general mood was one of concern. Rovers had, for the first forty-five minutes, been absolutely abysmal. Had you told me at that point that they would go on to win the game, I’d have laughed and thanked you for lifting my spirits with that timely joke. Dean Saunders deployed two men up front from the off for Rovers, but unfortunately, even considering our position stood behind the opposite goal, they appeared to be increasingly distant. Doncaster struggled to get the ball to the Jon Parkin and Billy Sharp double act, and as the half went on it became more and more difficult to see how they would manage to do so.
Peterborough had started brightly, indeed Craig Alcock, Emile Sinclair and George Boyd all had opportunities within the first five minutes which thankfully went off target; Sinclair in particular should have really done better as Rovers defence was caught napping, but he somehow turned his shot wide from just eight yards. Eventually the home side’s pressure paid off in the twentieth minute as a free-kick from the right was unconvincingly cleared and the ball fell to Grant McCann on the right. the midfielder hit a firm shot that beat Neil Sullivan at his near post to find the top corner and give Posh the lead.
There was a suggestion Sullivan could have done better with the goal, as he did get a hand to it, but he would more than make amends during the remainder of the half. Lee Frecklington had already fired just off target before McCann threatened again from a free-kick just beyond the corner of the box; his curling effort this time turned onto the post by Sullivan. Five minutes later Boyd perhaps should have doubled the lead as he got into the area on the left, but he somehow skewed his effort wide.
At the other end Rovers were really struggling to create, but for a couple of unsuccessful corners and blocked efforts from Jamie Coppinger and George Friend they had mustered nothing to force home keeper Paul Jones to consider putting his fag out. Approaching the break Sinclair was next to threaten for the home side as they broke forward, inside the penalty he fired a low shot across Sullivan, but the keeper got a good enough hand on the ball to turn it wide of the far post. Before half-time McCann would put another chance over the bar from distance. To say we were concerned was perhaps an understatement.
Characteristic of Saunders’ opening two games in charge has been a significant boost ten minutes into the second half through the introduction of Sharp. Today, with Sharp already on the field, that boost arrived again at the same time, but took a very different form. Jon Oster nudged the ball into the path of Brian Stock and from thirty yards the midfielder let fly with an absolute Exocet of a shot that was only ever going to hit the back of the net. A glorious strike, out of nothing, and suddenly Rovers had life.
Again Rovers swept down the right, where James O’Connor and Coppinger were starting to link up well and give much-needed width. The former squared for Simon Gillett on the edge of the area and he too rolled ita cross into the path of Parkin who struck a curling effort which bounced down off the underside of the bar and away. Rovers attacking options had been boosted by the introduction of Kyle Bennett, on for Sharp, the forward gave a much more mobile outlet for Rovers on the left, and his pace and ability on the ball was to prove too much for Posh.
Just five minutes after coming on Bennett struck his first Rovers goal. A lifted ball into the left channel from Oster caused a moment’s hesitancy from home defender Ryan Bennett and it was all his name-sake needed to pounce; taking the ball off the defender’s toe, Kyle Bennett cut back inside his man then slotted beneath the keeper to give Rovers an unlikely lead. Defending the advantage would take an awful lot of luck for Rovers as twice in the closing twenty minutes the home side struck the post; a quickly taken free kick enabling Boyd to get in and hit the upright before five minutes later Sinclair struck the other post following neat play inside the Rovers area.
Rovers had fleeting chances on the break; Gillett hit a long range effort which clipped the bar on its way into the visiting support, and then Oster and Parkin linked to allow the latter a low shot at goal which Jones saved it fairly comfortably, but most of the remaining time was spent defending their own area. In the final minute came a big appeal for a penalty as James Hayter tracked his own mis-control and crossed paths with Boyd resulting in the latter hitting the deck. Rather than give the spot-kick the referee cautioned the Posh player for simulation and also booked Richard Naylor who decided to involve himself in all manner of unnecessaries with the player too. As it was this would be the last real talking point and Rovers held out for all three points in a smash and grab win, or if you write the official website “collected a famous victory.”
“A much improved second half gave the home team a dose of their own medicine in regard to possession and in finishing” is the peculiar way in which the official Rovers website summarises its match report. Had Rovers given Peterborough ‘a dose of their own medicine’ in terms of finishing then they certainly wouldn’t have won. Posh created a lot more, and but for good saves from Sullivan and a failure to capitalise on opportunities could have been out of sight before the break. Rovers are picking up points, but continue to ride their luck to do so. Perhaps we were due some, but we’re unlikely to receive a season full so hopefully the international break will allow for a more considered approach than the understandable ‘damage limitation’ we’ve thus far season.
Man of the Match: Brian Stock, scored a spectacular goal, but also brought both bite and calmness in possession to the middle of the field.
Peterborough United line-up (4-4-2): Paul Jones; Mark Little, Gabiel Zakuani, Ryan Bennett, Craig Alcock; Grant McCann, Lee Frecklington (Daniel Kearns), Tommy Rowe,George Boyd; Paul Taylor (Ryan Tunnicliffe), Emile Sinclair
subs not used: Joe Lewis, Scott Wootton, Joe Newell
booked: George Boyd (simulation – apparently)
Doncaster Rovers line-up (4-4-2): Neil Sullivan; James O’Connor, Richard Naylor, Shelton Martis, George Friend; James Coppinger, Brian Stock, Simon Gillett, John Oster (James Hayter); Billy Sharp (Kyle Bennett), Jon Parkin
subs not used: Gary Woods, Sam Hird, Milan Lalkovic
booked: Brian Stock (scything down Grant McCann), George Friend (clumsy foul on Paul Taylor), Richard Naylor (being the sort of annoying clown who starts one of those big hand-bags style arguments for no reason after a player has been cautioned for simulation)