Saturday, 8 April 2017

Doncaster Rovers 1 v Mansfield Town 0 - EFL League 2

Saturday 8th April 2017
SkyBet EFL League 2
at the Keepmoat Stadium
Doncaster Rovers (0) 1
Tommy Rowe 74
Mansfield Town (0) 0
Admission £20. Programme £3.
Attendance 9,903 inc. 2,010 away fans
Match photos NOT in chronological order
And here it is, in glorious technicolour; the exact moment that Tommy Rowe's seventy fourth minute looping header from James Coppinger's corner, sank the hard working Stags and clinched promotion for Doncaster Rovers, in front of their own fans, after they had spent just one season in the basement division.
The Stags had contained 'Donny' well for long periods of the game and had good reason to feel that they might have grabbed a point, with both Alfie Potter and Danny Rose having chances cleared away off the line, while Potter was denied what looked like a blatant penalty inside the final minute of the scheduled ninety, when Mathieu Baudry pushed him to the ground with both hands.
In my opinion, the referee bottled it when he waved the visitors appeals away, because there were already a good number of Rovers fans virtually encroaching the touchline at the far end of the ground, who could barely contain their eagerness to invade the pitch in celebration on the full time whistle... and a few scuffles breaking out in the visitors end of the Keepmoat, where the stewards and police weren't being quite as accommodating.
Jake Kean, the Stags goalkeeper was forced to take a goal kick with a shortened run up (see above) late in the game, because the overrun stewards were actually on the pitch by now, trying to keep the excited home fans at bay.
That isn't meant by way of any kind of excuse for this defeat on the road for Mansfield Town, because Kean had by far the busier afternoon of the two keepers, but it is this key decisions that can sometimes make or break a team's league campaign... and they usually go in favour of those who are at the top of the league.
Besides which, Rovers had a goal chalked off, but the former Stags player, Matty Blair, hadn't realised his effort had been disallowed, as he ran to celebrate with the 'Donny' fans.
Mathematically, the Stags season isn't over, but the back to back Easter fixtures have become critical now, in light of this afternoon's setback, because although Steve Evan's side are still only four points off of a play off berth, there are a lot of other clubs in the same boat as the visitors, who slumped to thirteenth place in the table today.
Ultimately their fate isn't solely in their own hands now, and as they try to muster as many points as possible during the run in, they are also depending on results elsewhere going their way.
But one mustn't loose sight of the fact that the league table doesn't lie and Doncaster Rovers are at the top of it on merit and are the best side in the division.
2,010 Stags fans
Sure, they made hard work of it today against a side who had obviously run the rule over the South Yorkshire club and approached their task accordingly, but 1-0 was probably... just about, a fair reflection on the overall balance of play.
Mansfield could make the short journey home with their heads held high, secure in the knowledge that they hadn't just turned up at Rovers party to make the numbers up, having kept the crowd on the edge of their seats right up until the final whistle.
But, in the final analysis, the promoted side had just that bit extra about them, that helped them to edge their way past the finishing post, by two lengths and a nose (a horse racing pun for Grand National Saturday).
For example, imagine having the massive boost a double attacking spearhead of the calibre and quality of James Coppinger and Alfie May, chomping at the bit on the bench, waiting to come on and force the issue from the bench.
And that is exactly what they did after being introduced into the game just before the hour mark by Darren Ferguson. And such was their impact, Coppinger was even awarded with the accolade of man of the match.
I was actually delighted that Coppinger wasn't in the starting line up. He is a great player to watch in action, who gets better with age, but I wouldn't have minded if he'd sat this one out.
Rovers now hold a six point lead at the top of the table, over second placed Plymouth, with five games left to go and even if they are going to sacrifice some of their attacking flair to grind out results to claim the points that are still available to them, I think that they'll fonish top. It would take a collapse of cataclysmic proportions to stop them going on to win the title now, but however things pan out, they are definitely going up now... and deservedly too.
The Stags face an awkward run in from now on in. The only team that they will face in their remaining five games who aren't above them in the table are Crawley, who of course were previously managed by the current Mansfield boss and would love to put one over on him on the final day of the season.
Other than that, Mansfield face Wycombe on Friday at Adams Park, who muscled them out of the Checkatrade Trophy in January, Portsmouth, who are in an automatic promotion place themselves alreay, and Stevenage and Luton who both currently occupy the top two play off spots.
No one ever said it was going to be easy!