OK, so, hands up who saw this result coming then? No, us neither. As we had said in the match preview, Ipswich away looked to be the most daunting of Rovers’ November fixtures, and yet the hosts were done for inside the game’s first half, thanks in no short measure to one El-Hadji Diouf. For all the moral questions over his signing, and the McKay approach in general, it remains quite clear that Diouf really is a bit too good a footballer for the lower reaches of the second tier.
The match got off to a reasonable sedate pace, with almost quarter of an hour passing by before Keith Andrews tried his luck with a shot that ricocheted off Shelton Martis for a corner; the resultant deadball coming to nothing. On the eighteenth minute the deadlock would be broken though as Rovers put a long free-kick into the Ipswich box. The delivery was headed clear, but only as far as Simon Gillett, he fed Jamie Coppinger on the left edge of the area and the midfielder’s cross picked out the unmarked Diouf who headed home.
If Rovers lead was a surprise then folk were even more aghast six minutes later when the visitors doubled their advantage. Coppinger, out on the right this time, twisted and turned his man before delivering a pin-point cross into the middle which was headed home by Billy Sharp. The second goal of a traumatic week for Sharp greeted, as his first had been, with applause from the opposition fans; a genuinely touching gesture.
The home side looked to find a way back into the game, with Michael Chopra their main threat. The forward had already tested Neil Sullivan with a shot just after Rovers’ second goal before a deep cross from Reece Wabara picked him out at the far post to cushion a volley beyond the Doncaster ‘keeper. Chopra’s joy as he turned to celebrate was to be short-lived though, with the assistant referee on the near side flagging the forward offside.
Five minutes before the break Rovers added to Ipswich’s misery by adding a third goal, with their third effort on target. A long ball forward from Brian Stock was cushioned by Sharp and rolled into the path of Diouf. The Senegalese forward carried it forward seemingly unopposed before hitting a low shot from the top of the box into the corner of the net to leave fans of both sides stunned. Ipswich tried a late rally of sorts before the interval; Ivar Ingimarsson headed over from an Andrews corner, whilst a succession of crossed could only pick out the head of Richard Naylor and the arms of Sullivan
Paul Jewell replaced Jimmy Bullard with Josh Carson at the break and the substitute was straight into the action, firing an effort wide inside the opening minute, and then seeing another shot blocked by Gillett. Tamas Priskin was next to threaten though his effort was saved by Sullivan. However, Town’s pressure finally told eight minutes after the interval as Martin got to the by-line to deliver a low cross into the six-yard box and Carson just about controlled it, before stabbing the ball past Sullivan from close-range.
Though the home side had the better of the early exchanges, Rovers enjoyed a productive spell of their own at the half’s mid-point and could perhaps have added to their tally through George Friend. However twice inside a minute the full-back failed to find the target; firstly as he shot over from a Sharp cross, and secondly as he got his head to a ball in from Diouf only to see that too fly wide. From then on the hosts pressed, with the only respite for Rovers provided with long-range efforts from Stock and Coppinger which both flew off target.
Though Ipswich committed men forward and spent much of the closing quarter of an hour inside the Rovers’ half they struggled to create genuine chances and only managed to reduce the defecit deep in injury time. Jay Emmanuel-Thomas delivering an excellent outside of the boot cross from the right which was met by the head of the unmarked Chopra to pull it back to 2-3. It was to prove too little too late .
Ipswich Town line-up (4-4-2): David Stockdale; Reece Wabara, Invar Ingimarsson, Danny Collins, Aaron Cresswell; Colin Healy (Lee Martin), Jimmy Bullard (Josh Carson), Keith Andrews, Grant Leadbitter; Michael Chopra, Tamas Priskin (Jay Emanuel-Thomas)
subs not used: Arran Lee-Barrett, Carlos Edwards
booked: Grant Leadbitter, Keith Andrews, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas
Doncaster Rovers line-up (4-3-2-1): Neil Sullivan; Pascal Chimbonda, Richard Naylor, Shelton Martis, George Friend; Simon Gillett, Herita Ilunga, Brian Stock; Jamie Coppinger, El-Hadji Diouf (James O’Connor); Billy Sharp (James Hayter)
subs not used: Jonathan Maxted, Giles Barnes, Kyle Bennett
booked: Brian Stock, Simon Gillett