Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Doncaster Rovers 3 v Notts County 1 - EFL League 2

Tuesday 12th March 2017
SkyBet EFL League 2
at the Keepmoat Stadium
Doncaster Rovers (1) 3
James Coppinger 43, 
Mathieu Baudry 47, 
Andy Williams 90+5
Notts County (1) 1
Richard Duffy 20
Admission £20. Programme £3. 
Attendance 5760
Doncaster Rovers: 
Lawlor, Blair (Lund 72), Baudry, Butler, Alcock, Grant, Mason, Coppinger (McSheffrey 71), Rowe; May (Williams 88), Marquis. 
Unused subs - Marosi, Middleton, Evina, Longbottom. 
Notts County: 
Collin, Tootle, Duffy, Hollis, Bola, Grant, Yeates (Hewitt 55), O’Connor, Milsom (Forte 79); Smith (Ameobi 60), Campbell. 
Unused subs - Loach, Campbell, Clackstone, Dickinson.
An Andy Williams goal on the hour, was enough to separate these two sides when they met on Boxing Day, in front of a crowd of 5,826 at Meadow Lane.
Since that fateful afternoon, when Williams grabbed the corner flag in celebration and belted out a few bars of : "Can't take my eyes off of you", in front of the celebrating away supporters, Rovers have sustained their promotion/championship quest, and kicked off tonight just a fortnight away from reaching the impressive milestone of not having lost a game at home for a whole year, since Blackpool picked up all three points at the Keepmoat in March 2016.
The Magpies, by contrast, have had a torrid season, and though a recent revival in form as seen them claw themselves away from the bottom two relegation spots, that the respective owners of Leyton Orient and Newport County seem hell bent to keep a stubborn vice like grip on.
Alan Hardy's recent takeover of the club and Kevin Nolan's appointment a player manager, seem to have steadied an otherwise sinking ship and given the County fans more cause for optimism than they would even have dared to dream about not so long ago.
Formed in 1862 and widely acknowledged as the oldest existing club to be playing at professional level in the world; in 1888, Notts County, along with eleven other clubs, became founding members of the Football League.
They finished that first ever league season in eleventh place (Stoke were bottom), so by that token, one would imagine that their fan base have a pragmatic foothold by now as regards a realistic outlook of the 'Pies hopes and aspirations... "155 years of hurt, never stopped me dreaming!", to recycle and amend a line from that truly dreadful 'Skinner & Baddiel' Euro '96 cash in song (and it's subsequent rehashed releases, that, if anything, were even worse).
The Magpies club anthem is about owning a wheelbarrow, that lost it's wheel (no, seriously, it is).
I don't really need to add anything more to that statement, do I!?!?
No! It's not the programme. But I can recommend 
that you subscribe to this worthy tome. I do! 
Rovers by comparison are a mere 138 years old.
To their immense credit, they survived a drop out of the Football League and the crazy reign of Ken 'Twisted Firestarter' Richardson, who is by far the worst imaginable club chairman to have existed in the entire history of the game. Anywhere, at any time, ever!
I am loathe to use such bad language and profanities on a family orientated blog, but the man was a complete cunt.
I hope he got buggered to hell and back in prison, while he was incarcerated for setting Doncaster's old ground, Belle Vue, on fire, in a bodged attempted insurance swindle.
The home side's manager Darren Ferguson, had hinted in his pre-match 'presser', that although he would like to be able to send teams out to play with a cavalier approach, but as the business end of the season approaches fast, the priority is points, not flamboyant performances.
Teams have been arriving at the Keepmoat and getting ten men behind the ball of late, inviting Rovers to come at them and leaving themselves vulnerable to counter attacks.
But in the event, there was an element of the kidology  that his dad used to employ to such good effect, when he played the media game so well, but I doubt if County would've been hoodwinked into expecting anything other than a pressing display from a team that contained James Coppinger, Alfie May and John Marquis on their team sheet, especially with Matty Blair providing them with a supply of ammunition form out on the right.
Although Rovers only showed their attacking intent sporadically during the first half as they struggled to get to grips with taking the initiative while the visitors made a half decent job of containing them.
In fairness, Notts only kept eight men behind the ball for long spells and left Tahvon Campbell and Alan Smith up the front, until the latter was replaced by Shola Ameobi around the hour mark.
County arrived in South Yorkshire, eight points above the relegation places, which is nosebleed territory compared with where they were at the turn of the year. A group of their supporters in the Belle Vue Bar under the West Stand, said prior to the game, that they would be happy to grind out a draw tonight. So, although they were hopeful and perhaps a little over optimistic, they were realistic too.
After the game the same travelling 'Pies suggested that the referee had been a homer... I thought I recognised him from somewhere. D'oh!
In truth, I was expecting a tonight's game to game built on strategy as opposed to a gung-ho re-enactment of the 'Charge of the Light Brigade', but football, like the beautiful mistress that it is, comes in many different shapes and sizes and all of it's curves and wobbly bits are there to be studied closely and appreciated fully, warts and all, by the eager connoisseur.
Y'know, people just like you and me.
Football voyeurs of the world unite.
Maybe the burden of expectation is beginning to weigh heavily on Doncaster's shoulders, but they made a slow start and were forced to defend the first corner of the game inside the opening minute, when Rob Milsom's right wing delivery was scrambled away to safety and just moments later, Jorge Grant stole possesion thirty yards from the Rovers goal and drilled a shot just past the upright
Matty Blair began to make some in roads down the right flank and Adam Collin had to deal with two low crosses into his six yard box with Alfie May diverting the ball past the back stick from one and James Coppinger following the ball in from the other as the Magpies keeper smothered the ball at his feet.
Free inside every programme tonight, a
1985 Canon League facsimile edition.
But it was the visitors who took the lead on twenty minutes, when Rovers struggled to deal with a cross from out on the left,following a short corner and Richard Duffy was on hand to force the ball past Ian Lawlor.
It was a scrappy goal, but then, it was a scrappy opening half too.
The Keepmoat fans favourite, Coppinger, fired a free kick over the crossbar from twenty yards out and almost released Alfie May with a dipping pass from out on the right wing, that the 'Donny' number thirty nine, narrowly failed to get his head to at the back stick.
Coppinger again, slipped a pass to John Marquis who quickly laid the ball off to Craig Alcock who unleashed a shot from the edge of the area that was blocked by Marc Bola in the congested County goalmouth.
A minute before the break, Notts resistance was finally broken, when Coppinger (inevitably) provided the finishing touch to a Matty Blair cross with an angled finish into the left hand corner of the net, after John Marquis had feigned a goal attempt but let the ball run on
And in stoppage time Coppinger almost gave Rovers the lead, but he shot straight at May from the edge of the area, who couldn't get out of the way and inadvertently provided the visitors with an extra defensive option.
HT: Rovers 1 v County 1
Having drawn level right at the end of the first half, the home side took the lead two minutes into the second, when Mathieu Baudry leapt above the visitors defence to power a header past Collin, from Coppinger's right wing cross.
Incredibly, Coppinger, who has made over five hundred appearances for Rovers and is likely to be the only player to ever reach such a total for the club, is currently enjoying his thirteenth season with the club (which includes a six game stint at Nottingham Forest during the 2012-13 season) and at thirty six years of age, he still appears to have the reserves of stamina to carry on doing what he does for a good few years yet.
Football is a team game, but if you had to pick out a man of the match tonight, he'd be on a shortlist of one.
You would have expected the league leaders to turn the screw on their visitors now, but if anything, it was County who were making all of the running for a while.
Notts centre half Duffy, found himself in a goal scoring position again and directed a header just wide of the upright, from Michael O'Connor's left wing free kick.
And from the 'Pies next attack, Haydn Hollis got in between the first defender and Lawlor to head the ball into the back of the net from O'Connor's corner kick, but as the referee pointed to the centre circle and awarded a goal, his assistant flagged to inform him of a foul inside the six yard box and Mr Miller reversed his decision and ruled the equalising goal out.
To say that the County manager, Kevin Nolan was displeased with the officials, is quite some understatement.
Lawlor did well to to keep out Jonathan Forte's effort from a tight angle, but the visitors were fired up now having been denied a second goal and they piled forward looking to restore parity before thge full time whistle.
The home sides goal led something of a charmed life in the closing stages, with Notts peppering the final third with a string of crosses, corners and forward passes.
In the fifth minute of stoppage time, Adam Collin left his own goal and joined his teammates in the Rovers area as County won a last ditch corner.
'Donny' cleared their lines and hooked the ball up the field, Gary McSheffery played it forward quickly to Andy Williams and despite a lung busting run back from the Notts right back Richard Tootle, Williams kept his composure and tucked the ball into the unguarded goal to make it three one.
Long time no see Gav Simmonite :-)
It had been a brave effort by the visitors, but they were heading back down the A1 empty handed, while Rovers cemented their lead at the top of the table, with a slightly disjointed performance. 
But that won't bother them unduly, three points is three points, especially when news filtered through that second placed Plymouth Argyle had been held to a 1-1 draw at Wycombe Wanderers.
FT: Doncaster Rovers 3 v Notts County 1
Rovers travel to bottom club Leyton Orient on Saturday, who were beaten 5-0 at Accrington Stanley tonight, while Notts face Barnet at home on Sunday.
The following weekend Doncaster have a Sunday date with destiny, when Plymouth visit the Keepmoat.