Friday, 29 December 2017

Doncaster Rovers 2 v Rochdale 0 - EFL League 1

Friday 29th December 2017
SkyBet EFL League 1
at the Keepmoat Stadium
Doncaster Rovers (2) 2
Ben Whiteman 4, Alfie May 27
Rochdale (0) 0
Admission £10. Programme £3
Attendance 7,997 (inc. 364 away)
When these two sides met at Spotland in the reverse league fixture back in September, Rovers
appeared to be on their way to a narrow win when John Marquis put them ahead with a quarter of a hour of the game remaining; but Rochdale carried out a smash and grab raid in stoppage time and turned final outcome of the game on it's head, when Mark Kitching thumped a ninety second minute volley past Ian Lawlor, moments before Steve Davies turned the ball over the line from close range after 'Donny' had struggled to clear their lines from a Joe Bunney corner.
Last month Dale, who return to the Keepmoat Stadium for a FA Cup Third Round tie next weekend, knocked Darren Ferguson's side out of the Checkatrade Trophy on home turf, by means of a penalty shoot out win, after Liam Mandeville had cancelled out Matty Gillam's penalty strike for the home side just after the hour mark.
Anyway, fast forward to tonight, which marks the occasion of my final game of 2017 (my total amount of games attended during this calendar year is 192, I really need to get out more) and it's a bargain at the Keepmoat Stadium, where, for one night only, you could watch League 1 football just for a tenner, as Rovers adopted a generous and sensible price structure in the midst of all the seasonal over the top financial burdens and excesses elsewhere.
Tonight's saw Rovers claim their third win in a row and their fourth unbeaten league game in a row, to move up to tenth in the League 1 table, on place behind local rivals Rotherham United and five points away from the team who are currently in the last play off berth, namely: Peterborough United, Doncaster's next opponents, away at London Road on Monday.
Rochdale are only one place off of the foot of the table, but in spells, showed glimpses of being a half decent side, who move the ball around well and get forward quickly, but on this showing, good fortune seldom favours teams who are struggling at the wrong end of the table.
The game was just four minutes old, when Ben Whiteman connected with the ball in the D on the edge of the Dale area after John Marquis set up the opportunity from Alfie May's sideways touch, and swept a sweetly struck half volley, just inside the right hand post and into the top corner of the net, giving the visitors keeper Josh Lillis no chance.
James Coppinger forced a save out of Lillis and both John Marquis and Mathieu Baudry had efforts charged down by the visitors defence, before Coppinger fired wide with an angled shot from eighteen yards.
But besides absorbing some early pressure from Rovers, Rochdale were also advancing into the Rovers half and finding their rhythm, Matt Done and Joe Bunney both had chances to pull the game level, suggesting that a one goal margin wasn't going to be enough.
Ian Henderson danced past two challenges on the right hand side of the hosts area and delivered a great ball across the face of the goal that Andrew Cannon somehow put over via the bar.
And to rub it in, Rovers responded immediately to their let off and were two goals ahead within thirty seconds of Cannon's miss, when Jordan Houghton played in Alfie May whose shot clipped Kgosi Ntlhe and looped over Lillis into the Dale net, in the twenty seventh minute.
Just before half time, Harrison McGahey did well to see off the attentions of two Rovers players before threading the ball through to Cannon whose shot as blocked by Tyler Garratt.
HT: Donny 2 v Dale 0
The visitors upped the ante after half time, but could only reiterate the point that there is an unwritten  law that teams near relegation zone aren't allowed to have any luck whatsoever.
Dale captain Ian Henderson ad Calvin Andrews were both denied in quick succession by Lawlor, while Bunney diverted the ball wide of the post after good work by Done on the left.
Cannon's delivery from Callum Camps free kick was cleared before it could reach Andrews, as Rovers continued to frustrate their lively opponents.
With the visitors committing to chasing the game, Rovers had the opportunity to kill the game off on the counter attack, but in spite the home crowd willing them to put the game to bed once and for all, they were going tohave tosettle for the brace of first half goals tonight.
With time running out for Rochdale, Oliver Rathbone tried his luck from the edge of the area, but Lawlor comfortably gathered his shot.
Inside the last two minutes of the scheduled ninety, Cannon advanced on Lawlor's goal, but shot wide, which just about signalled the end of Rochdale's spirited second half comeback attempt.
FT: Doncaster Rovers 2 v Rochdale 0
Rovers picked up their third win in a row and to be fair, still seemed to have plenty in reserve in doing so, but maybe they could have asserted themselves a bit more after the break to put the game beyond the visitors lead, but in the final analysis, they had done enough. Keith Hill's Dale side gave a good account of themselves, but need to start finding the net as well as putting in a great amount of work and playing some aesthetically pleasing football.
Donny Rovers have a car park named after the Comedian Charlie Williams, who used to play for them (and Skegness town) mi' owd flower!