Monthly Archives: October 2012

New look or not, Rovers might never have a better chance

doncaster rovers just a pub teamLeague One eh? It looks the same, feels the same, but the truth is, it isn’t.  The last time we were here League One was littered with fallen giants, massive budgets and decent football.

Look around now, the names of recent years, Nottingham Forest, Swansea, Huddersfield, Leeds, Charlton, Southampton, Sheffield Wednesday et al have been replaced with a different set of names which currently make up the top third of the table.

Tranmere, Stevenage, Sheffield United, Crawley, Notts County and Swindon make up the current pace setters and whilst they are all indisputably there on merit, with the exception of the Blades none of them could compete with those names of just a few short years ago.

Having been spolit by a stay in the Championship, the quality of football on offer a league below does not bear much comparison.  Even taking into account that Doncaster Rovers are now a slightly bigger fish in a much smaller pond than this time last year, the sight of away teams getting men behind the ball and hitting long percentage ‘passes’ to the front man is now more the rule than the exception.  Last time we were here, the Rovers boasted a midfield of Coppinger, Wellens, Stock and Green.  A midfield that would dominate this league (indeed it would probably dominate the league above too) and one put together for relative peanuts, with only Stock requiring a transfer fee, was only effective enough in those days to warrant a play-off place.

The league has the look of one where any team who is organised and tight at the back and who stumbles across a run of form, will find themselves so far in front even Frankel would struggle to catch them in the final furlongs.

Just a smattering of quality is all that would be required to stand above the rest of the mediocre teams in what will be a nip and tuck league.

The only problem is where is the quality?  Organised and solid we may be at the back, but going forward we are badly lacking.  Can Martin Woods find a glimpse of the player he once threatened to be? Can Bennett and Cotterill  find the consistency to effect games on a weekly basis? Can Robbie Blake lose those last few pounds which would allow him to conformably wear his match shirt, let alone have a creative influence on the team? Or can Saunders find a gem from nowhere which will provide some much needed flair in midfield?
IMG_1378Time will tell, but the truth is that having gone almost back to square one on the playing side, we aren’t too far away.  If there is a final couple of pieces of the jigsaw waiting to be found then who knows?  The frustrating thing is knowing that there may never be a better chance to get out of a usually ultra-competitive, suffocating league, which is unusually low on quality this year.

 

Doncaster Rovers 4 – 3 Manchester City

For all of the games throughout the history of Doncaster Rovers, the game against Manchester City on the 7th October 1950 stills ranks as one of, if not the most exciting and dramatic match ever.

Both sides were new to the second division, albeit their journeys coming from opposite directions.  Rovers had just achieved promotion from the third division whilst City had come down from the first.  Rovers had made a decent start to life at a higher level and had only lost 2 of the first 10 games, recording 3 wins along the way.  City were flying however, and were still unbeaten whilst sitting on the very top of the division, as they visited Doncaster for the first time in the league for nearly 50 years.

The Lancashire side got the perfect start with Syd Bycrofts mistimed header falling perfectly for Smith who had time to control the ball before placing it past Hardwick in the Rovers goal to give the visitors the lead.  City poured forward in numbers, sensing a second goal, and just after the half hour it duly arrived courtesy of another neat finish from City forward Smith. Things went from bad to worse when, with three minutes left to play before half time when a long ball into the Rovers box found Westcott, who’s knock down fell to Smith once more, who poked home to complete a first half hat trick. 

City had been outstanding throughout the first half, showing exactly why they had enjoyed such a great start to the season, and by contrast Rovers had been totally anonymous in a game where they hadn’t even had a chance to get hold of the ball and play with the Rovers defence looking utterly shell shocked there seemed no way back for the home side.  City looked in a different league, and more goals looked likely to follow.

The Rovers fans knew that the team had to start well if they were to have any chance of salvaging something from the second half, and fortunately that’s just what they did.

The players emerged for the second half with the bit between their teeth and within five minutes of the game restarting, Calverly found some room out on the flank and was able to fire a cross into the box towards Harrision.  The Rovers centre forward got to the ball first and directed the ball past City ‘keeper Bert Trautmann to record his fourth goal of the season. 

Barely two minutes later, Irishman Kit Lawlor found some space in sight of the City goal with the ball at his feet and noticed Trautmann had strayed slightly off his line.  Lawlor measured the most delicate of lobs over the goalkeeper and into the net and suddenly with the score back to 3-2, Rovers were in a game again.

There was scarcely chance to catch your breath as just moments later, Rovers’ Lowes fired a shot goalwards, only for City defender Rigby to keep the ball out with his hand.  Up stepped Rovers player manager, Peter Doherty, playing against his former club with whom he had become a legend in winning the league championship some 13 years earlier, and cooly  dispatched the spot kick for his fifth goal of the campaign, and over 30,000 spectators held their breath in anticipation as to what would follow in this incredibly game.

Rovers flooded forwarded and Doherty set of towards the heart of the City defence, jinking in and out of City defenders before letting fly with a drive that flashed past Trautmann from fully 25 yards and incredibly within two minutes of the equaliser, Rovers were ahead 4-3.  Manachester City had been caught cold in a scintillating period of football from the home side that saw 4 goals scored inside a 10 minute spell, with Peter ‘the great’ Doherty’s drive proving the final, decisive goal of an incredible game which handed Rovers the most unlikely of victories and probably the greatest comeback in the clubs history.

Without question, the bumper attendance of 32,937 had certainly got value for money, especially those who were watching from the Rossington end of Belle Vue, as all 7 goals were scored at that end!

Doncaster Rovers 5-0 Scunthorpe 16/2/1980

Doncaster Rovers went into their centenary year having endured another difficult season. The club had been forced to seek re election into the football league following a disappointing ninety ninth year which was defined by a lack of goals scored. The side had lost the likes of Peter Kitchen and Brendan O’Callaghan in the couple of years before and not surprisingly, had struggled to replace them.
It was not all doom and gloom however as the club made changes off the pitch with a new assistant manager in former England coach Les Cocker and appointed a new club secretary to add to the optimism of the prospect of former Leeds Utd legend Billy Bremner’s first full season in charge, having succeeded Stan Anderson a few months earlier. Bremner brought in players including Alan Warboys, returning to the club where he had started his career, from Hull City. Ian Nimmo and Hugh Dowd from Sheffield Wednesday and Billy Russell and John Dowie from Celtic all gave hope that the one hundredth year might yet be a memorable one on the pitch.
An inconsistent start to the league campaign was tragically put into context on the 4th October 1979 when Les Cocker, having completed a morning training session with the players, collapsed and died aged 55.
On the pitch, the players seemed galvanised by events and immediately won eight of the next nine games climbing to seventh place and only two points behind the promotion chasers going into December, however around Christmas the team began to falter. Even the club record signing of Alan Little from Barnsley for £30,000 couldn’t prevent a reverse in fortunes as the club slumped to eleven games without a win.
The supporters were also feeling the strain and the side went into the game against bitter rivals Scunthorpe United in February 1980 with some supporters a little too keen to make their point. In the build up to the game vandals had daubed the slogan “This club has conned the public for too long – Beware” across a wall outside Belle Vue, leaving Bremner to admit it wasn’t the first sign of public discontent “I’ve had a couple of supporters phone me during the week and I’ve had a long chat to both of them and tried to explain things” he said, leaving the team were under pressure from all quarters to deliver as they prepared for the game against fierce local rivals Scunthorpe United.

Coach David Bentley, who had retired from the playing staff to take a coaching role following the arrival of Alan Little, was sensationally restored to the centre of midfield with Steve Lister dropping to centre half and Alan Warboys moving from defence to partner non contract forward Stuart Mell, who made only his second full appearance as leading scorer Ian Nimmo landed a blow by missing out through illness.

A slightly disappointing crowd of 3,304 had turned out for the local derby at Belle Vue which was clouded in an air of frustration and disillusionment, adding the burden on the manager and the players who were under extreme pressure to deliver a result.
Benefiting from Bentleys added experience combined with Little’s tough tackling Rovers had the better of the early exchanges creating an opening when Glyn Snodin found Warboys overlapping down the left but the big striker could not direct his cross into the onrushing Mell.
Rovers were forcing the visitors back and Mell set off on a great run, slipping past two defenders before the ball was poked into touch by Scunthorpe defender Stuart Pilling and Rovers won a corner. Warboys rose highest to head Billy Russell’s cross back into the danger area only for Steve Lister to see his header slip just over the cross bar.
Scunthorpe had been restricted to only the occasional counter attack in the opening ten minutes of the game and so it was of little surprise when the pressure eventually forced a break through after 13 minutes, with the biggest surprise perhaps being the source of the goal.
Alan little won possession with a typically fierce challenge in the middle of the park before finding Bentley. Rovers youth team coach then dropped his shoulder and rode a tackle, striding to within 20 yards of the visitors goal before letting fly with his right foot, unleashing a terrific drive which flew past Jimmy Gordon in the Iron goal and crashed into the top corner giving Rovers a deserved one nil lead with a touch of real class.
Scunthorpe struggled to get a foot hold in the game as the home side continued to drive forward and 15 minutes after the first, Rovers grabbed a second, and amazingly it was Bentley again.
Warboys got clear momentarily down the right forcing big central defender David Dall to drag him back and concede a free kick. Russell’s kick was again directed at Warboys who won the aerial battle and again found Steve Lister with the knock down whose goal bound shot was blocked in the box, with the ball dropping to Bentley who happily smashed a right footed drive through a host of bodies into the net.
Rovers were again playing the football that had lofted them to promotion hopefuls only weeks before and began to outplay the visitors on all areas of the Belle Vue turf, continuing to pile forward with Glyn Snodin almost adding a third when he tried to casually guide an effort into the corner of the goal from 18 yards out, forcing the goalkeeper to scramble along the line and divert his effort around the post.
The tactical change which led to Snodin playing in a more advanced role was certainly paying dividends and Bremner could sit back and watch the fruits of his labour unfold. Snodin again drove forward from midfield, attacking the space out wide on the left before swinging a cross in the box for the onrushing Little to meet and crash his header inches over the bar.
Rovers could sense they could end the game as a contest before half time and continued to press, with Mell making a superbly timed run across the back four onto a ball flicked in behind. He sprinted clear of the back four and got away from defender Steve Deere before cutting inside and flashing his shot narrowly wide of the far post with the keeper well beaten meaning Rovers had to settle for 2-0 at half time.

Rovers came out for the second period in a similar mood to that which they had displayed throughout the first forty five minutes and wasted no time in taking hold of the game again, with Scunthorpe left chasing shadows and becoming increasingly frustrated with Glyn Snodin in particular, pulling the strings in the Rovers engine room and it was Snodin who was clattered by Steve Davy midway in the Irons half. Despite Snodin taking a heavy blow the referee waved for play to continue with Mell alive to the situation, he gathered the loose ball and flicked through the feed the perfectly timed run of Warboys managed to get himself clear of the last man to run through and brilliantly round the keeper to score.
Snodin required some lengthy treatment to allow him to continue following Davy’s challenge, but the midfielder was some back to his feet, and seemingly more determined to drive Rovers on, continually giving the full back Davy a torrid time down Rovers left flank.
Approaching the hour mark and Snodin broke free again he left, combining excellently with Bentley before clipping a superb ball down the inside channel for Warboys to latch onto. Dragging his marker out towards the left with him, Warboys darted back inside and drove to the bye line, working half a yard of space to pull the ball back across the six yard box where Stewart Mell darted in front of goalkeeper Gordon to divert the ball home. It was the 22 year old forwards first goal for the club and the goal ably displayed his instincts and eye for goal in and around the box. The Doncaster fans could scarcely believe what they were seeing as their side produced a terrific display of incisive attacking football and it wasn’t done yet.
Little found time in the middle and switched the play brilliantly on the left to find Snodin, himself in acres of space. Snodin needed no further encouragement, and as the Scunthorpe defence laboured to close him down, he whipped a lovely ball into the box, where Warboys stole a yard Deere to lash at goal from close range, only to be denied from a great instinctive save from Gordon.
Then came two chances in quick succession for Bentley to complete a fairytale comeback. First he rose to direct a header just wide of the far post, before running through on goal unchallenged, only to be denied a hat trick by the linesman’s flag, making way for Jack Lewis in the closing stages receiving tremendous applause from the fans in recognition for a display of real quality and assurance.
There was still time for one last piece of action, and it proved to be a memorable one. The Scunthorpe backline, having endured a terrible afternoon, reacted slowly to a ball dropped in behind them, allowing Warboys to steal a yard, running onto the pass, the tall striker surprised everyone, in particular Keeper Jimmy Gordon, by fizzing a strike goal wards early. Gordon hardly had time to react as the ball whipped over his head and crashed into the back of the net to cap a truly memorable afternoon and seal a fantastic 5-0 win.

Despite such a great victory, Doncaster Rovers were unable to maintain such a level of consistency during the final games of the season, finishing in twelfth place but introducing youngsters who would prove to key figures in the future with the like of Glynn’s younger brother Ian and goalkeeper Willie Boyd turning out for the first team in the latter part of the season, but the result went a way to appeasing the fans, showing a glimpse of what the club were trying to achieve and the standards they could reasonably demand in the future.

Doncaster Rovers 4-3 Mansfield – 22/2/1975

The summer of 1974 brought at least a little optimism about the forthcoming division four campaign. A line drawn under last years disappointments in the league and new hope in the form of a group of talented young players who had matured from the junior side, the likes of Brendan O’Callaghan, Steve Reed and Terry Curran were all players whose potential was certainly grounds for confidence in what might be over the coming months. However the summer also brought financial constraints and only free transfers were brought in and the conviction soon drained out of the side. With O’Callaghan missing from the first months of the season manager Maurice Setters brought in loan striker Bob Lee, a youngster from Leicester who was a factor in Rovers’ decent start to the season, nonetheless with the svelte squad already under pressure the club slipped into the wrong half of the table by October and only managed one solitary point from six outings in November 1974 leading to Setters paying the price, officially placed on ‘suspension’ and the axe had fallen.
Confidence gone along with their manager, the side slipped to second from bottom following a 7-4 reverse at Shrewsbury in February 1975 and were seemingly in freefall, odds on favourites to face re election come the summer. Attendances had slipped to under 1,500 and the board were forced to act. Days later former Middlesbrough manager Stan Anderson was installed as new manager and had an immediate effect on events on the pitch. Days later Rovers comfortably beat mid table Torquay 3-0 and made the short trip to Oakwell the week after with optimism, where it was reported Brian Clough was there to meet them, viewing the game from the stands with a watchful eye on youngster Terry Curran. He and the other 6,450 there that night watched Rovers battle hard, coming under immense early pressure with goalkeeper Graham Brown magnificent, however the hard work was to pay dividends as Brendan O’Callaghan nicked his 8th goal of the season and his goal, combined with an all too rare clean sheet, brought another precious win. Scoring goals had not really been the sides’ downfall throughout the start of the season, along with O’Callaghan’s contribution Peter Kitchen had also notched 12 goals but it was defensive frailties which had been the cause for most concern.
These shortcomings were to be sternly put to the test seven days later as league leaders Mansfield were the visitors to Belle Vue, having lost only 2 of the previous 29 league games and there was certainly no room for the faint of heart at Belle Vue on the 22nd February 1975. Anderson’s arrival had brought with it a rediscovered desire and work ethic but the team went into the game knowing more would be required against a team widely acknowledged as the best in the division, meaning the day could prove pivotal in defining the outcome of the season and the short term future of the club.
Any confidence Rovers had gathered took a robust early blow as within seconds Mansfield forced a corner, swung over by Hodgson and Rovers defenders Uzelac and Brookes could only watch as the ball bypassed everyone on its way to Colin Foster, alone on the back post making the most of the huge space afforded to him by ineffective marking, and gleefully slammed the ball home with exactly 50 seconds of the contest gone.
Rovers refused to lie down preferring to scrap and fight as they had at Barnsley and Curran bustled his way past two defenders only to be stopped by a fierce tackle which won his side a corner as Rovers looked for a foothold. Reed dropped the restart into the box and keeper Arnold could only palm the ball over the bar under immense physical pressure from O’Callaghan which left the Mansfield stopper in the back of the net. The game was beginning to open up with Mansfield having the better of the play and looking dangerous time and time again and McCaffrey got clear of Brookes briefly, but under pressure from Uzelac, Brown in the Rovers goal, was able to make a fine save under pressure.
Mansfield midfielder Hodgson was seeing a lot of the ball in the middle of the park and began to dictate play, cutting the Rovers back four into pieces with a terrific display of astute incisive passing, with only some poor finishing and last ditch interventions preventing the league leaders getting out of sight.
Doncaster Rovers battled on and gradually got back into proceedings, with Kitchen scrapping for a ball in the penalty area, the stags keeper Arnold was left stranded on the floor, but sheer weight of Mansfield defenders prevented Rovers from forcing an equaliser and again, following a superb run down the flank from Curran, O’Callaghan’s header towards goal was scrambled to safety.
The game was still finely poised with Rovers relying on Brown to make two saves in quick succession, the first clawing away Lathans header before making a tremendous save from McCaffrey who must have thought he’d scored after crashing the ball goal wards only for Brown to make a point blank save.
The signs were looking ominous and the pressure told six minutes before the break, with Rovers penned in, defending almost exclusive from the penalty area, two shots were blocked in quick succession before the ball broke to forward Terry Eccles who crashed the ball into the net, via the upright to finally beat Brown and put Town two up.
Rovers were seemingly made of sterner stuff under the tutelage of Anderson and again refused to lie down the players seemingly aware of the significance the game could have, again came back at the visitors and looked to go direct towards the height and strength of Brendon O’Callaghan. The big front man won a great deal of the ball in the air, accurately and consistently winning knock downs for Curran and in particular Kitchen, to feed off and as the ball was tossed into the penalty area O’Callaghan challenged Arnold in the area to prevent him from clearing effectively and his punch fell to the feet of Steve Uzelac, who had pushed forward to join the attack, and he stabbed the ball home to get Rovers back into the game at half time.
Rovers game out for the second half clearly galvanised by Uzelac’s late goal and a further injection of Anderson inspired spirit and were immediately on the front foot and Curran continued to cause problems out wide, however this guile going forward was once again offset by the same defensive concerns at the other end with Reed forced into a late tackle and Brown also called upon to save low down to overt the danger as Mansfield looked to counter. Lathan got clear as the defence were opened up and left another huge opening that the Mansfield midfielder gleefully ran through into the box with Uzelac again at full stretch chasing back to divert the ball for a corner, which again called Brown into action to save well.
Again, back came Rovers in what was developing into a real end to end, furiously paced encounter, with Murray working the ball up to O’Callaghan, the big target man again getting the better of the central defenders and knocking balls down well but the determined Town back line denied the runners space and held firm but Rovers were clearly getting back into things. On 59 minutes Ternant clipped a free kick from inside the Rovers half in towards O’Callaghan who won another aerial battle to flick to ball forward to Peter Kitchen to latch onto, turn in flash and blast the ball past the outstretched Arnold.
Doncaster’s prize pairing had the side level and now with the bit between the teeth began to serge forward. Twice in quick succession O’Callaghan won headers causing panic in the visitors back four before Kitchen returned to favour with a great flick that got O’Callaghan away out wide with Kevin Bird, the former Rovers centre half resigned to pulling down O’Callaghan before he could test Arnold. Referee Ken Walmsey was forced to intervene and step between Bird and the Rovers forward with O’Callaghan making his feelings about the tackle known, resulting in a yellow card for Bird.
The resulting free kick was whipped into the box, and with all eyes on the battle between O’Callaghan and Bird, Terry Curran made a great run undetected to the back post to hammer Rovers in front for the first time having fought back from two-nil down.
Mansfield certainly weren’t done yet and piled forward with Ternent keeping Rovers in front by heading clear from right under his own cross bar, however the pressure grew and a long throw into the box caused confusion and Rovers failed to clear. The ball broke to Eccles, who drilled powerfully at goal, and despite Brown getting a hand on his drive, the ball found the back of the net and the league leaders were level late on looking to have earned a share of the points.
Rovers dug deep and the players were visibly encouraging each other to provide one last effort with Murray and in particular Curran continually driving Rovers forward with the latter displaying great speed over the ground and sparkling ball control down the flanks, continually hitting O’Callaghan and bursting forward to join Kitchen looking for a final breakthrough. Into the eighty-eighth minute, and with time running out, O’Callaghan again won a battle with Bird and diverted the ball into the path of strike partner Peter Kitchen inside the box who typically in one slick movement flashed home a difficult chance right footed past the onrushing keeper to complete a remarkable never say die fight back to an astonishing and breathless game win 4-3. Curran had run himself into the ground, Kitchen had grabbed two characteristically clinical goals and O’Callaghan had been simply brilliant in the air.

Doncaster Rovers had shown themselves to be a different team under Anderson with a great display of desire and endeavour, as in the two previous games but today proved to team and fans alike that the players had the ability to compete with the best in the league and the result would prove a catalyst to turn the season round with the side winning the first five games of Andersons spell in charge and nine of the last 16 games of the season to finish comfortably clear of the re election zone.

The bumper crowd of 7,278 had left having witnessed the game of the season and inspired by the performance many of them returned over the coming months as the sides fortunes grew during Andersons time at the helm, with attendances growing significantly over the coming seasons to watch Rovers play an attacking style of play which for all its defensive misgivings was exciting and entertaining to watch, yielding plenty of goals, thanks in no small part to the partnership of Peter Kitchen and Brendan O’Callaghan. The two perfectly complemented each other with Kitchen alive to the inevitable flicks bestowed to him by the powerful big front man.

Doncaster Rovers 2-0 Wigan 28.2.1997

The game itself set off against a crisp chilly February evening with Wigan keeping the ball extremely well in the middle of the park, and Graeme Jones every touch of the ball greeted will a chorus of boos from the Rovers fans. Rovers appeared resolute though, with Paul Birch immediately providing a calming influence in the middle of the park. The neat, compact midfielder moved the ball around very well and consistently retained possession as both side jostled for early territory.
Three minutes gone and Rovers mount the first real attack. Darren Moore superbly broke up a Wigan attack inside his own box and the ball was played up to Adie Mike in the centre circle who evaded a lunging challenge to lay off to Harvey Cunningham who drove into the visitors half. Cunningham let Cramb take over who in turn fed Martin McDonald out on the left. The midfielder looked up and clipped the ball in towards the penalty spot where Mike had continued his run, but under pressure from defenders could only head tamely at Lee Butler in the Wigan goal.
Wigan began to enjoy the lions shre of possession playing some nice slick football, however the Rovers back four were well protected by McDonald and John Schofield who broke up a number of Wigan attacks before they were able to penetrate into dangerous areas.
Rovers by contrast looked dangerous on the counter attack with Cramb and Mike holading the ball up well and looking for the pace of Ireland down the right flank as the game opened up inside the first ten minutes as the game bagan to flow form end to end.
Rovers win a free kick midway inside Wigan half. Birch cleverlyrolls the ball sideways to Schofield when n all the defenders are expecting the ball knocking into the box. Schofield ran onto the ball and struck right footed from 25 yards out but the ball flashed wide past Butlers left hand post.
13 mins Kilford long throw in from the right, into the edge of the box into Daviv Lowe who under pressire from Ian Gore slipped into feet of Jones who laid into the feet of Martinez. Ball broke back to jones just on the edge of the six yard box who smashed goalwards only for Esdaille to block from close range as Wigan looked dangerous.
Rovers continued to scrap hard in middle with Birch picking up a lot of second balls and dictating play in the Rovers engine room.
Things were getting congested in the middle third and Wigan were looking to go long up towards target man Andy Saville, however he was well marshalled by Darren Moore who won header after haeder against the experienced striker.
The game continued at break neck pace with neither side prepared to give an inch in the middle of the park.
22 mins Rovers able to put together gret move following first real spell of possession. Again came from Wigan attack broken up by Ian Goe on the edge of the Rovers box. The ball dropped to Birch who always seemed to find time and space in possession of the football.He carried up towards the halfway line before laying off to Schofield who looked up and clipped the ball 30 yards into Cramb. Under pressure from centre half Colin Greenall Cramb neatly laid off Mike who in turn found McDonald as Rovers began to pass and move nicely. The ball was rolled into Birch who provided a lovely chipped ball over to Mike who had again continued his run into the penalty area driving goal wards but Mrtinez, tracking back, from midfield, was able to prod the ball out for a corner.
Birch sent the ball in nearpost which was flicked on by Schofield right onto the goal line, under the cross barCramb challenged Butler who was just able to punch the ball half clear, but Rovers again regained possession and Birch’s effort was blocked in the area.
Rovers were clearly growing in confidence, and bhouyed by some ever vocal support from the stands, began to add guile to the endeavour and after 25 minutes were rewarded with a spectacular breakthrough.
Wigan were unable to clear properly, again under pressure from an industrious Rovers midfield and the ball dropped to Ian Gore on the half way line who lobbed the ball downfield to Adie Mike . The striker was able to hold off the challenge ofGreenall and nod perfectly into the path of the onrushing Cramb who, without breaking stride smashed hoe from 20 yards, firining right footed across the angle of the box into the top corner giving Butller absolutely no chance and the scot wheeled away in delight to be met by a barrage of noise from around Belle Vue as Rovers took a richly deserved lead.
The game continued at 100 miles an hour with Moore forced into two big tackles inside his own box to save goalscoring chances before Rovers immediately swept up the other end as Birch found Mike who beat two defenders on the edge of the box superbly before flashong a smart drive just wide of the upright.
Possession was even but it was the home side who were carving out the chances, working the ball out well to the left to Darren Esdaille who found Cramb on the edge of the box. The striker took a touch, drawing the challenge from his marker before coolly rolling it through the defenders legs and firing a great drive inches past the upright.
Back came Wigan again and Schofield was forced to make a good clearance in his lown six yard box under pressure from Saville as the referee called time on a pulsating first 45 minutes of football.

Given the events of the first half, it is reasonable to assume Kerry Dixon’s team talk included the instructions to keep things tight for the next ten minutes and try to slow the game down, but as it happened things didn’t quite work out that way.
Rovers came straight out the tunnel and immediately back on the front foot taking the game once more into the Wigan half, with Birch again gathering possession on half way and slipping the ball to the right for Schofield to knock first time into the feet of Cramb on the edge of the box. The striker, with back to goal held the ball up well despite strong physical pressure from Butler was able to work the ball out to McDonald on the far side as Rovers looked comfortable but purposeful in possession. McDonald displayed some neat footwork to evade the challenge of the full back before rolling square into Birch, who had again found space in the heart of the Wigan half. With the space opening up in front of him, the diminutive midfield stepped forward before unleashing a great strike from 25 yards which flashed through the air and dipped over the keeper, who was beaten at full stretch, and seemed destined for the top corner before cannoning of the cross bar and bouncing down into the path of the onrushing Adie Mike who gleefully nodded the rebound past the helpless goalkeeper as the crowds gasps turned to cheers of ecstasy and Rovers were two goals to the good.
Cries of “Jonesie, what’s the score” rang out round Belle Vue as the home crowd once again turned up the volume and willed their side on. Two minutes after they extended their lead and the Rovers were looking for more, regaing possession following a clearance from the Wigan goalkeeper following good work from McDonald and Cramb, Cunningham played a neat one two with Birch and then worked the ball right to Simon Ireland. He combined with Schofield who clipped a neat ball round the corner and inside the full back where Paul Birch made a great run from midfield into the box, slipping past Martinez, only to be denied as Butler raced off his line to beat him to the ball only by a matter of inches.
Wigan had not got going at all in the second half before eventually showing signs of stirring from their slumber after 53 minutes when they won a corner on the right following a neat flick in the box from Jones.
Kevin Sharp whipped in a wicked low flat cross left footed, which evaded everyone on its path alon the goal line including Rovers keeper Dean Williams and Jones and David Lowe converged on the ball in the middle of the goal hunting an easy tap in only for Simon Ireland to somehow deflect the ball away to safety off his knee and Rovers managed to scramble away for another corner.
Again Sharp delivered a telling cross which needed first Schofiled and then Mike to make important headers to clear the danger but only for a third Wigan corner in quick succession as the visitors looked to turn the screw and find a way back into the game, but Martinez’s subsequent cross was cleared to safety by Mike and Rovers had weathered the strom.
Wigan were no out of it yet and won a free kick mid way inside the Rovers half following a foul on Martinez after some good by Jones with his back to goal. Martinez himself dusted himself down and delivered a great ball into David Lowe who had made a terrific run from deep and totally lost his marker Adie Mike in the box. Lowe made contact with a great header from around the spot which seemed to be arrowing into the top corner before Dean Williams dived across and flung a strong hand up to tip the ball over from almost underneath the cross bar. It was the first time Williams had really been called to action and he responded with a fantastic stop to keep the score at 2-0.
Rovers continued to battle and work hard with McDonald typically industrious in midfield. He was almost rewarded for his efforts after he combined well with Esdaille down the left and flashed a shot just wide of the near post from fully 20 yards out.
The game continued to flow back and forth with Wigan sub Isidro Diaz collecting a long ball up field and knocking down first time for Jones to turn and feed a lovely ball into the path of Ian Kilford who burst through into the box and appeared to touch the ball on before being upended by the challenge of Ian Gore. All eyes were on referee Uriah Rennie but he waved the Wigan appeals away and signalled play on.
Wigan still felt they could take something from the game and continued to press, Sharp again delivering a corner into the near post which was flicked on by Kilford straight to the feet of David Lowe who was unmarked a yard out. He stuck out a boot and turned to ball goal wards but almost straight at Williams who somehow deflected the ball up onto the cross bar with the ball spilling back out to Lowe who lashed at the ball for a second time only to be denied again by Williams who bravely threw himself at the midfielders boot to smother the shot and gather the ball on the goal line. It was a remarkable few seconds which began to suggest that just maybe it would be the Rovers night.
Paul Birch was forced out of the action and was replaced by Lee Warren, having been unable to shake off a knock received moments earlier and he received a rapturous round of applause from the Doncaster Rovers fans, acknowledging his terrific contribution to the evenings entertainment and also as a vote of support surrounding the off field rumours which had led to his omission from the side, it was clear the fans were glad to have the midfielder back in the team.
The home side nearly added a third into the final ten minutes as Mike flicked on for Cramb to pull the ball down, draw the defender before rolloing a pass through for Cunningham to run onto, but the midfielder could only shoot tamely at the keeper will the goal at his mercy.

The threat of the leagues top scorer Graeme Jones had been brilliantly nullified by Doncaster Rovers defensive pair Ian Gore and in particular Darren Moore who never gave Jones a second in possession and denied him the sniff of chance to add to the six goals he notched up in his two previous outings and Rovers, inspired by the quality of Birch in midfield, grabbed a crucial and unlikely 3 points which eventually helped stave off relegation for another season.

Doncaster Rovers 3 – 2 Dagenham

The newspapers claimed it was to be the biggest game in the history of Doncaster Rovers, and arguably the Conference Play-off final in May 2003 still remains so.

The Rovers, considered by many to be the biggest club in the Conference, had battled for five years to try to regain their Football League status, now found the prize only one game away following a season which had seen manager Dave Penney guide the club to a third place finish and qualify for the first ever play offs from the Conference.   Having beaten Chester on penalties in the semi-final, thousands of Rovers fans travelled to Stoke’s Britannia Stadium to witness the drama.

Doncaster Rovers started the game favourites and included the Conference’s golden boot winner in top scorer Paul Barnes up front with key midfielder Paul Green included in midfield, with these two seen as central figures if the Rovers were to live up to their billing.

Rovers started the first half superbly with Paul Green and Ricky Ravenhill taking control of the midfield, Rovers went close early on when Fran Tierney’s drive was dipped round the post.  Midfielder Jamie Paterson also had a shot saved before Paul Barnes was denied by Dagenham keeper Tony Roberts when the Rovers top scorer really should have put his side ahead.

Doncaster Rovers seemed in control of the proceedings but couldn’t find a breakthrough as Steve Foster had a great header scrambled off the line just past the half hour mark.  The Rovers pressure was constant though and six minutes later they finally got what they deserved, Tim Ryan dug a great ball out from the left and Paul Green, who was outstanding all afternoon, arrived to meet the ball in the box and direct his header home.

Nerves were still present among the Doncaster Rovers fans during half time as 1 goal is seldom enough despite Rovers dominance, but the team emerged for the second half in similar mood.  Ten minutes after the re start, Tristram Whitman worked the ball to Paterson, whose snap shot was diverted for a corner.  Central defender Dave Morley nipped in at the near post to head home the resulting cross and Rovers were 2-0 up.

It looked all over at that point, but nerves began to creep into the Rovers side, and Dagenham, now with nothing to lose began to push forward.  Almost out of the blue, Dagenham’s much travelled striker Mark Stein fired home after 63 minutes and then with 15 minutes to go, full back Tarkan Mustafa made a superb run into the box and finished well past Andy Warrington to stunned silence among the Doncaster Rovers fans.

Arise Sir Francis

The game could now go either way and if no ‘golden goal’ were forthcoming in extra time the tie would be settled on penalties.  Penney had made a couple of changes to provide fresh legs but extra time was understandably tense, as nerves jangled with neither team wanting to give anything away before, with only 10 minutes remaining, Paul Barnes found some room on the left hand side of the penalty area and clipped to ball across to Tierney who nipped in to roll the ball past Roberts for the most golden of goals and win the tie for the Rovers.   That image of Tierney turning away with his right arm aloft seemed to be frozen in time before a wall a noise greeted the Rovers winger.   Suddenly it was all over.  The outpouring of relief on the pitch was matched only by the Rovers fans on the terraces as the significance of the moment became clear, all the hard work before had finally paid off anDoncaster Rovers were back where they belonged, and the biggest game in the clubs history had become one of its finest moments.

Doncaster Rovers greatest games – just a pub team

Doncaster Rovers 5-2 Southport – 27/9/1975

The 1976-76 season began with a stutter from a Doncaster Rovers side who expected a great deal during Stan Andersons first full year in charge at the club. Key players had been added to with goalkeeper Denis Peacock and midfielder Ian Miller joining from Forest as part of the deal which took Terry Curran to the City ground and Chris Balderstone arrived from Carlisle to further enhance the midfield. Balderstone however was unavailable for the first three games of the season due to commitments as a player to Leicestershire County Cricket Club, indeed Balderstone famously spent 6 hours in the field for Leicestershire in a game at chesterfield before dashing down the motorway to Belle Vue for one of the first games of the new season and an evening kick off against Brentford, arriving still in his whites with just enough time for a cup of tea and change of kit. Balderstone showed no signs of fatigue but his team mates weren’t as fresh as the team had to come from behind to earn a point, this was followed by defeat at Watford, despite an enterprising and much improved display which contained some excellent football in particular from Ian Miller who had a shot cleared off the line and struck the upright as Rovers lost 2-1 as the topsy-turvy start continued.

Miller picked up a knock to the knee which kept him out of the mid week trip to Barnsley which yielded a welcome if unexpected win with Brendon O’Callaghan notching his sixth goal already in the season and Rovers went into the game with Southport desperate to build on the result and finally get the season up and running.

Rovers were boosted by news that Miller had shaken off his knee problem and was immediately re installed to the starting line up, but Anderson knew Southport, themselves having a difficult start, would be a tough test as manager Jimmy Melia quit days before the game, “I expect then to put up a real fight, losing a manager always has an effect on a team” Anderson said during the build up to the clash as Rovers braced themselves for the backlash.
An encouraging 5,219 fans braved a strong swirling wind which on the face of it might have spoilt the occasion but few inside Belle Vue went home disappointed.

Rovers began on the front foot as Miller, showing no ill effects from his time in the treatment room ran at the visitors down the right, combine with Chappell and Alesinoye winning a first minute corner. The winger took the kick himself with the ball eventually falling to the feet of centre back Steve Uzelac who could only push his effort just wide of the post.
Miller then set off on another raid down the right, his pace allowing the chance to whip a great ball into the box which O’Callaghan only just failed to connect with having made up a lot of ground to get into the penalty area.
Rovers had started well and Balderstone picked up possession in the middle of the park before playing a lovely astute pass through to Robinson, overlapping down the left who, caught in two minds, delayed an early pass through to an unmarked Kitchen and ultimately the opening had gone enabling Southport to regain possession but the signs were good for the Yorkshire men with the game still less then 10 minutes old.
Minutes later the ball was neatly swept forward from the back four to Alesinoye in the Southport half with the central midfielder advancing slightly before swinging a high curling cross into the box perfect for Brendan O’Callaghan to attack, which he did to great effect. Rising above marker Duncan Welbourne the big striker looped the ball on; over keeper Kevin Thomas leaving strike partner Peter Kitchen to head home and put Rovers ahead with just 8 minutes on the clock.
The goal should have allowed Rovers to settle on the ball and further push home their advantage, however three minutes later Southport pushed forward and won a corner down the right. Ex Aston Villa midfielder Johnny Martin clipped the ball into the six yard box which keeper Dennis Peacock came to claim, but under pressure from the sandgrounders forward Paul Taylor the ball looped on to Bobby Gough who calmly threaded the ball between Uzelac and Brookes on the goal line to draw Southport level. The home side continued with the lion’s share of possession but shell-shocked by the equaliser never posed a real threat and it was still very much against the run of play that the unthinkable happened after 23 minutes.
The ball in the ball possession of the back four led to a series of errors and led to total disarray as panic set in and somehow the players conspired to leave Gough clear on goal in acres of space. With only a dreadfully exposed Peacock left to beat, and with plenty of time Gough cleverly and effortlessly lofted the ball over the helpless keeper and into the net to put his side 2-1 up from nowhere.
The home side were now clearly rocked, behind in a game they had largely been in control of, they had once again paid the price for some startling defensive inadequacies and the frustrating up and down start to the season looked like continuing.
Slowly they dragged themselves back into the game and with Miller and Balderstone providing progress from midfield Rovers looked to find their feet once more.
The ball was being moved quickly to the front men O’Callaghan and Kitchen, and it was from a foul on the latter which Rovers won a free kick from. Balderstone clipped it into the danger area and Southport could only clear at the expense of a corner. Once again Balderstone took control of the dead ball, playing a short one before clipping the ball into Kitchen at the near post whose cute flick on was deflected out of the goal mouth by the arm of defender Alan Jones and Referee Mr Farley pointed immediately to the penalty spot.
The Southport players were furious with the decision, and against a backdrop of arguments and protestations, up stepped Peter Kitchen who seemingly oblivious to all around him coolly placed the ball to Thomas’ left and level the scores.
The strong winds were beginning to have there say on proceedings, at time making controlling the high ball difficult and Rovers buoyed by the equaliser finished the half strongly with Kitchen twice running hard and the Southport defence proving a stern test for the Southport rearguard.
Despite this, Doncaster Rovers backline again were caught napping and an almighty scramble ensued inside the Rovers six yard box. With boots and bodies flying Rovers somehow edged the ball to safety but it came at a price.
Defender Steve Uzelac sustained a nasty facial injury throwing his head into the mix and needed treatment from trainer John Quigley before an extremely eventful and entertaining half drew to a close with the scores level.
Uzelac couldn’t continue for the second half with led to some tactical changes which would ultimately have a significant bearing on the outcome of the game.
Robinson moved across to central defence and Balderstone was forced to fill in at left back, with substitute Alan Murray, who had played the previously against Barnsley filling in for Ian Miller, re instated to the midfield.
The visitors were the first to settle in the wind and they dictated the early exchanges with first Balderstone and then Reed forced into defensive duties to halt Southport raids. The home side came back though as the game began to open up with a great lob from the distinguished Miller sending Chappell racing through only for the bounce to favour the onrushing keeper and prevent him from finishing.
The game was in the balance and delicately poised before two goals in as many minutes tipped the balance. Firstly, Balderstone, enjoying a little more time on the ball in the deeper lying position, knocked a good ball inside to Robinson who fed Murray in an advanced position out wide. Murray had some work to do before gaining a yard on his marker and flashing a pin point cross into the centre where who else, but Brendan O’Callaghan rose brilliantly to powerfully plant his header into the back of the net.
The celebrations were still echoing round Belle Vue as straight from the re start
Rovers regained possession and Alesinoye drove forward before letting fly from distance. The ball ricocheted of a host of legs in the penalty area before running loose to the feet of O’Callaghan once more who coolly hammered home his eight goal of the season to put his side two in front with an hour gone.
Rovers could sense the game was there for the taking now and continued to attack the now beleaguered looking Southport defence. It took just three minutes to deliver the killer blow and it came from a familiar source. Ian Miller collected a pass on the right and set off down the flank, the tricky winger using great pace and sublime technique to beat his man and hit the by-line, from where he centre with great accuracy for someone at full pace, digging the ball out on onto the head of Kitchen, who directed a splendid header home to complete a memorable hat trick.
Southport brought on their substitute Les Wain in an attempt to get beck into things, but with a three goal cushion behind them Doncaster Rovers settled and began to knock the ball about with great confidence, playing some really exquisite football at times.
The visitors could find no respite as Reed crashed a shot wide of the outstretched Thomas, only to see his drive beat the far post too, before Kitchen again fooled Jones with a drop of the shoulder only for a last ditch intervention preventing him from helping himself to fourth goal of the afternoon. Even into the last minute Rovers were pressing forward with a corner hanging tantalisingly in the air, was again scrambled away as O’Callaghan stretched in an attempt to convert his brace to a hat trick of his own, before the final whistle blew to signal a terrific 5-2 win. The defence had been at sixes and sevens at times during the afternoon, regularly going absent without leave but as was so often the case with the forwards, inspired by Miller, having a field day with O’Callaghan scoring twice and partner Kitchen grabbing the headlines with a hat trick
The result proved to be the catalyst many had hoped, sending the side of a run of one defeat in the next seven games which propelled the club into the top five at the top of the table, but a bad run around Christmas saw then slip away from the leaders before a flurry of Kitchen and O’Callaghan goals saw them again raise hopes of what might be, but a disappointing finish saw the side finish tenth, nine points away from forth spot and the final promotion place, with surprisingly the sides record at Belle Vue (seven defeats at home) where the defence seemed most frail, was the week link and ultimately the talented side had gone another year without fulfilling its potential in the league, with the amazing run in the league cup, ended in the quarter final at Spurs, providing an agonising glimpse at what might have been.

Doncaster Rovers 1-0 Leeds Utd 25/5/2008

The 2007-08 season had trundled along in truly inauspicious fashion before the team finally bump started the campaign into life at Christmas.  The return to fitness and form of some key players like forwards Jason Price and Paul Heffernan and defender Steve Roberts along with the re introduction of midfielder Paul Green to the side saw Doncaster Rovers burst into life.

Manager Sean O’Driscoll had persisted with a patient passing game which had largely gone unrewarded through the early weeks of the season, but Christmas brought a more positive approach and the side began to turn possession into goals and were soon amongst the group challenging run away leaders Swansea for the second automatic promotion spot, finally leapfrogging Carlisle into second spot with just the final game of the season to be played.  A win at strugglingCheltenhamwould see Rovers promoted back into the second tier of English football after an absence of 50 years.  The side struggled during a hard fought first half, withCheltenhamneeding all three points to avoid relegation and the home side went in at half time 1-0 up.  Knowing their fate was still in their own hands the team pressed hard and putCheltenhamunder immense pressure before Paul Green burst through from midfield to smash home an equaliser. The Rovers pressed forward for the all important winning goal before the home side stole a late winner to save themselves and handNottinghamForestthe second automatic promotion place.

All eyes turned to the play off and if Rovers could lift themselves having let automatic promotion slip away.  The first leg of the semi final was a tight tense affair with few chances at either end as Southend held Rovers to a goalless draw at Roots hall.

With the whole town dreaming of a first appearance at Wembley and a place against local rivals Leeds Utd in the final, the side cruised to victory in the second leg, easing past Southend 5-1, playing some of the most attractive and best quality football of the season, making a mockery of their standing in the countries third division.  No longer would it be a dream, Doncaster Rovers were going to Wembley.

The build up of the game was all about Leeds and how they would surely begin their climb back to their ‘rightful’ place among English footballs elite and the story it would create following their 15 point deduction for breaching FA rules, with precious few column inches afforded to their less fashionable neighbours the result appeared a forgone conclusion, in the media at least.  In reality the sides knew each other well, with each winning 1-0 away from home in the two league meetings already in the season, however Doncaster Rovers had dominated both and should have won the game at the Keepmoat with ease, with wasteful finishing to blame for missing out on the win.

The approach to Wembley, covered in Red and white hoops, was an image which will live long in the memory of all who were privileged enough to have seen it, an honour which had been conspicuous in its absence throughout the clubs history, and for years seemingly just a distant dream.  The fresh faced ‘new’ Wembley was still shrouded in the memories and ghosts of occasions such asEngland’s historic win in 1966, epic domestic and European cup finals and now, finally, for the first time in the clubs history, Doncaster Rovers would take up residence in the home of football.

27,000Doncasterfans made up the red and white chunk of the 75,132 in attendance, outnumbered but certainly not out sung and the atmosphere was electric as the players made their way onto the pitch.  A historic day was about to unfold and the feeling among the pilgrims from the South of Yorkshire was that it would be a day to be enjoyed and remembered, whatever the outcome.

 

Both sides were unchanged from their second leg wins and it was Rovers who flew out of the traps fully exploiting Wembley’s much celebrated spacious playing surface with midfield trio of Stock, Wellens and Green taking an early hold of the game as Rovers looked to grab an early advantage.  With only six minutes gone, the ball was neatly worked up towards Jason Price in the last third as the side displayed its first glimpse of the fluid neat passing game for which they had acquired such an admirable reputation.  The ball was worked out to Wellens on the left, who switched play over to the right with a neat ball to full back James O’Connor.  Again, patient passing build up was the mantra as possession was retained inside to the feet of Stock who looked up and saw a great run from Paul Green, bursting down the right behind the out of position full back.  Stock found his man with a great ball whipped into the corner and Green beat Jonathan Douglas to the ball, clipped it past the coveringLeedsmidfielder and broke into the box, tight against the bye line.  The Rovers man looked up and saw Price taking up a great position on the edge of the six yard box and coolly fed the welsh forward into feet.  Price fired first time with his right foot, and must have thought he’d scored, only for Paul Huntington to slide in with a terrific last ditch block and deflect the ball inches over the bar.

The game had exploded into life played at a tempo dictated by the Rovers midfield.  Stock swung the resultant corner deep to the back of the Leeds Penalty area where Wellens picked up possession and shuffled passed twoLeedsdefenders before prodding just into the side netting from an extremely tight angle.  The signs were looking good for the Rovers who had hit the ground running and looked to be carrying on from where they had left off against Southend in the semi final, leavingLeedsalready struggling to find and answer to the questions posed by Rovers incisive passing.

Still they came forward with some more neat football resulting in Johnson making a last ditch interception as Price again looked to latch onto Wellens through ball.  The full back could only find Brian Stock in the middle of the park with his clearance, who brought the ball down and nonchalantly clipped a fantastic ball back into the space vacated by Johnson, perfectly picking out a great run from James Coppinger.  Coppinger controlled the ball instantly with his first touch but was met by the onrushing keeper Casper Ankergren, who was just able to gather off the formerNewcastleforwards boot as he had looked certain to smash his side in front.

 

The Rovers certainly had their tails up and seconds later some neat interplay between Price and Coppinger enabled Price to play James Hayter in behind the last Leeds defender down the left.  Hayter made a bee line for goal and again Ankergren came rushing out to deny the Rovers striker, diving at his feet as he tried to dribble round the keeper to keep his side level for the second time in a minute.

Rovers were dominating and had been the side quickest to settle and grab control of the game in emphatic style, however the only thing missing had been the breakthrough as concerns began to creep in, maybe Rovers would pay for missing three gilt edged chances inside ten minutes.

The game had to settle down a little after such a blistering start and slowly shell shocked Leeds, who were lucky to still be in the game, began to come round and managed to retain possession, if without really creating anything.  Indeed they were forced to wait until the 18th minute before managing a shot on goal, which was in itself somewhat fortuitous.  Sam Hird attempted to spread the ball wide inside his own half and his mishit pass fell straight to Jermaine Beckford.  TheLeeds danger man headed straight for goal, but well marshalled by Matt Mills, could only side foot a shot tamely at Sullivan.

As the half went on however, so the Leeds player’s confidence grew with theWest Yorkshiremen enjoying the majority of possession but struggling to penetrate the Rovers back line with Rovers looking dangerous coming forward, continuing to produce chances.  O’Connor and Green had linked up fantastically well down the right hand side, causing Leeds problems throughout and again the pair combined, with Green picking up a loose ball and urging the full back O’Connor ahead on the overlap.  O’Connor willingly obliged before feeding the ball into the feet of Hayter who had engineered a yard of space on the edge of the box.  With his back to goal the former Bournemouth man turned brilliantly before firing a snap shot over Ankergrens cross bar.

 

Leeds were now scrapping for their share of possession but it was undoubtedly the Rovers who were using it to greater effect, with the neat passing and movement off the ball leaving the Leeds defence looking almost leaden footed and chasing shadows at times.  On 43 minutesLeedswere again let of the hook as Rovers spurned another great chance.  Gareth Roberts had the time and space to move forward down the flank and the left back clipped a superb ball into James Hayter.  The ball was perfectly crafted and dropped over centre half Lubomir Michalik to put Hayter clear in the middle of the box, but the strikers touch was a fraction too heavy and again a relieved Ankergren was able to clear the danger.

As the first half drew to a close, nerves jangled asLeedsproduced their best moment of the match.

Rovers looked to attack down the left but the move was broken up by David Prutton who advanced asLeedslooked to counter, switching the play out to the right.  Beckford fed Johnson before continuing his run down the wing to receive the ball again just inside the Rovers box.  Beckford rolled the ball into Midfielder Kilkenny on the edge of the box, who, under pressure from Roberts, was forced to offload first time into Jonathan Howson on the edge of the Rovers box. The advancing midfielder curled a first time right footed effort a foot over the crossbar.  It served as a warning to the Rovers that they could not go on missing chances.  Howson again picked up more and more of the ball and drove forward only to have the door slammed shut by Mills and Hird who had been extremely effective in nullifying the craft and guile of striker Dougie Freedman and the pace of Beckford throughout a first half which ended, somehow, goalless.

The game was still finely poised as Rovers got the second half underway, attacking towards the hoards of Rovers fans, who all were desperate for the side to continue in the same vein but to find that clinical final touch.

The team responded again, direct from the restart Stock rolled the ball wide to Green who surged forward down the right before checking and beating two defenders with a neat pass to find Stock, who had himself driven forward in support, in a central position.  Stock beat the lunge of Michalik and flicked the ball into the box before being felled by the big defenders challenge to win a free kick in a good position some 25 yards out from goal.

 

Coppinger’s shot was blocked by the wall, who were clearly encroaching, with the rebound deflected wide via the shot of Wellens.

Brian Stock it was who jogged over and took the 47th Minute corner, swinging the ball in from the right.  Jason Price looked to be the obvious choice and made a near post run which took two defenders with him, but the flight of the ball beat them all and arrowed into the middle of the box, where James Hayter, all alone on the penalty spot, produced a superb diving header to power the ball past the helpless Ankergren and into the net from 12 yards out.  The sight of the ball bouncing up into the net was greeted by deafening wall of sound from the Doncaster Rovers end of a packed Wembley stadium which erupted in sheer delight as the clubs record signing wheeled away in front of a sea of red and white to be mobbed by teammates having finally handed his team a much deserved lead.  The noise from the Rovers end was now cranked up in response to a terrific start to the second half which epitomized the attitude and spirit of their team and had finally provided an end product to go with some terrific and controlled build up play whichLeeds just could not live with.

The next twenty minutes flew by in a blur as the contest evened out, withLeedslooking to find a way back into the game whilst keeping things tight at the back, and Rovers happy to keep the ball and continue playing football.  Indeed it was the Rovers who almost found another breakthrough as Coppinger nipped in to win back possession on half way, prodding the ball to O’Connor before continuing a powerful run down the right into the space behind the highLeedsback line.  O’Connor simply lifted the ball over and into his path, and Coppinger, having timed his run perfectly to stay onside, ran beyond the last man and straight at goal, driving into the area only to be denied by a fantastic last ditch challenge by Douglas, who knew he had to get his tackle right and produced a match saving intervention.

Into the last ten minutes and Leeds had to press forward but could not find any way through a resolute Doncaster Rovers defence who simply did not allow Leeds to play in the areas that could hurt them with Mills and Hird protected superbly by skipper Brian Stock who had dropped deep and was winning some important headers in front of his back four. Leeds were limited to a brief glimpse in behind the back four with substitute Andy Hughes running in to fizz a cross across the face of goal which was superbly collected by keeper Neil Sullivan.   Leeds continued to throw men forward but seemed to run out of ideas when faced with Rovers back line which was bolstered further by the strong aerial presence of substitute Adam Lockwood, and Rovers repelled their opponents attacks and sniffed out every inch of space time and time again before, with 5 minutes of normal time remaining, Matt Mills could only half clear a long throw to the edge of the box and the clearance dropped for Douglas to flash a drive inches beyond the frame of Neil Sullivan’s goal and the Rovers fans dared to start celebrating.

James Hayter worked tirelessly up front, running himself into the ground, trying to provide an outlet and working hard to unsettle theLeedsback line who had been bolstered by the news of 4 additional minutes of injury time.

Still the Rovers defence held firm, deep into stoppage time, with the fans pleading with referee Andy D’urso to blow up withLeedscharging forward throwing all they had into the Rovers box.

The clock agonizingly ticked into the 96th minute and still the referee glanced at his watch without blowing, despite the screams of encouragement from the thousands of bewildered Rovers fans before finally relenting and sparking incredible scenes of celebration.  It was a result and an occasion which had been 129 years in the making and one which was made all the more sweeter for it, as thousands of dreams made in South Yorkshire came gloriously true under Wembley’s arch, in a blur of euphoria.

Doncaster Rovers had been immense to a man, winning the game but doing it in such a manner and having played the type of good quality, passing football, which the club were fast becoming known for, largely outplayed a talented Leeds team throughout ninety pulsating and nail biting minutes, seemingly totally at ease at Wembley as if it were their rightful home.

“I’ve been dreaming about it all week” goal scorer James Hayter said after the game, “To score the winner here at Wembley to send us up to the Championship, it’s unbelievable”.

Chairman John Ryan, soaked in champagne said “It’s been a great occasion and the culmination of ten years hard work.” It was the chairman who had declared an ambitious plan a few years earlier and the win at Wembley was the last goal to be ticked off the list along with the promise of a new ground, promotion to the championship, and winning a major final in the shape of the Johnstones Paint Trophy inCardiffa year ago.

The architect of the victory, manager Sean O’Driscoll, said tongue in cheek “I could murder a cup of tea” clearly delighted with his sides achievements, “I thought we were organized and disciplined, everybody knows we can play football and everyone comes out to stop us playing.  We were always going to score, we’ve got goals from all over the park all season”.

Brian Stock led the victorious side up the famous steps and, alongside Adam Lockwood, became the first Doncaster Rovers captain ever to lift a trophy at Wembley, and in doing so etched an indelible image on the clubs history, and all those who were there to see it.  The crowning glory on an incredible and wholly unforgettable day which was probably the finest in the history of the club.

Doncaster Rovers 6-3 Darlington 29/9/1964

The 64/65 season always looked as though it would be difficult, even before the first ball had been kicked, as manager Bill Leivers made wholesale changes to the playing staff during the summer with only 9 players being retained on the clubs books. Among those to leave was chief goal scorer Colin Booth who joinedOxfordfor a substantial fee that was well in excess of the £10,000 the club had spent on bringing him to the club two years earlier.  Further problems arose as Booths strike partner Alfie Hale was in dispute with the club over the terms he had been offered.   The football league management committee had ruled that the wages offered by the were fair and reasonable and in a time still decades away from the Bosman ruling the Football league stated they would not accept a registration for any other club without the consent of Doncaster Rovers, and the 25 year old Irishman continued on a series of monthly contracts.

New players were brought in and took time to settle although there was enough quality in those players retained to offer some encourage for the coming months, Albert Broadbent and Keith Ripley, along with Hale, were all quality players with a great deal to offer.  The most notable presence was indeed that of Alick Jeffrey, who having returned to the club mid way through the previous season following a career destroying injury, had got himself fit and among the goals in the final games of the season and was beginning to look a player of immense quality once more.

Rovers had begun the season with a mixed bag of results having won half of the first 10 games, but encouragingly Jeffrey had already notched six goals in the spell and goals didn’t look to be a problem, and as the new additions began to settle in, expectancy levels started to grow with the sides’ confidence.

 

Darlington, having been battered on their last visit to Belle Vue 10-0 certainly had a point to prove and fought hard in the middle third of pitch during the early exchanges but at times were second best to a Rovers side who were bursting with confidence having slammed 4 past Halifax at the shay last time out and the home side had the better of the first twenty minutes with forwards Broadbent, Jeffrey and Hale combining terrifically in the last third and causing all kinds of problems for the Darlington defence.  How the visitor’s goal remained intact for the opening 20 minutes was a mystery but testament to the resolve of their defending.

The bumper crowd rang boos round Belle Vue as referee Harry Richards waved play on in the 29th minute as Rovers slick and incisive passing drew a clumsy challenge in the box with the Quakers surviving another scare, but it would not be long before the pressure told.

Barely 5 minutes later Rovers surged forward once more with some neat passing setting Broadbent free and in space out wide.  He had time to look up and deliver a superb pin point cross into the box which was met brilliantly by Alick Jeffrey who had timed his run across his marker perfectly to direct a glancing header beyond the despairing dive of O’Neill in theDarlingtongoal.  Finally the visitor’s rearguard had been breached and the home fans sat back in expectation of more of the same butDarlington, still smarting from their previous heavy defeat, were made of sterner stuff this time round and within four minutes stunned the home side by drawing level.  Yeoman drove the ball deep into the penalty box and with Darlington forward Allison challenging fiercely the ball dropped to Lawton who fizzed the loose ball home giving Rovers keeper Oxford no chance. A fantastic half drew to a close at 1-1 with the Rovers players left scratching their heads at how they were not already out of sight with Jeffrey and Broadbent outstanding with Robinson excellent behind them.

Few could have expected the sensational second half showing from both sides which totally eclipsed the breathless first 45 minutes.

With the half barely two minutes old Wylie found some space from deep and clipped the ball forward towards the impressive Broadbent who held off the attentions of the Darlington defenders before coolly lobbing the ball over the keepers head with a finish of real quality which caught everyone by surprise.

Belle Vue erupted as the home side put on a sensational display of football as Robinson exploded down the right wing before cutting in and darting for the bye line before cutting the back to Jeffrey, who was in the right place yet again, to hammer home number 3 after 55 minutes.

Within a minuteDarlingtonhit back once more as the game pulsated from end to end.  The Doncaster Rovers defence, seemingly still celebrating the third, were caught by a long ball over the top and Allison raced clear before lobbing the ball over the advancingOxfordin a near carbon copy to Broadbent’s goal and suddenlyDarlingtonhad dragged themselves back into the match at 3-2.

Still there was no time to catch your breath as from the re start Grainger surged forward for the Rovers, breaking down the left flank before scything the ball into the middle where who else but Alick Jeffrey was once again on hand to prod the ball home to complete a splendid hat trick and end a scintillating spell of 3 goals in 3 minutes.

 

The game then streamed back and forth with both sides still very much in the game and creating chances almost at will before on 75 minutes a fifth Rovers goal put some daylight between the two sides.  Grainger it was again who surged forward, cutting straight through to middle of the park, heading for goal when the ball cannoned off a defender and dropped to Broadbent within shooting distance.  Without pause for thought he immediately let fly, only to see his shot blocked and the ball ricochet back to the feet of Grainger who rolled the ball home from close range.

Still the sides exchanged blows, continuing at lightening pace before the Rovers added a sixth 4 minutes from time.  A bad mistake from theDarlingtondefenders let in Alick Jeffrey, who strolled clear of the last man and almost broke the net to cap a wonderful individual performance and notch his forth of the afternoon.

To their credit, the visitors refused to lie down and would have certainly still been in the game had it not been for a brilliant display from Rovers keeper Ken Oxford, who had produced soon fine saves.  He had been called into action to make some great saves throughout the match, but even he was helpless with two minutes to go as Darlington deservedly added some credibility to the score line.  It was some rare poor defending from the home side which brought about the chance as they failed to clear the danger on a number of occasions beforeLawtonspun on a loose ball to snatch a fine goal and complete the scoring at 6-3.

It had certainly been a night to remember as both sides had played some terrific, high tempo football throughout 90 breath taking minutes which were a credit to the division.

The fantastic gate of 14,103 boosted the home average to 10,394 for the season and earned the players £7 in “gate” bonus, but it further served as a great example of the potential surrounding Doncaster Rovers football club with the result and the manner of the victory providing a glimpse of the abilities of the players and a sign of how things could develop on the playing field.

The improvements on the pitch were always going to take time, and after an encouraging start the team stuttered and only one win combined with three successive defeats during October meant that a promotion challenge was never really on the cards, however the side overcame this hiccup and maintained a position in the top half of the table which meant a reasonably successful season which would ultimately provide the basis for the following season, during which the side clinched the fourth division championship.

Doncaster Rovers 5-4 Dover 19/12/1998

December 1998 saw the club bottom of the football conference in English Footballs ‘Non league’ pyramid with everyone involved with the club simply delighted to be there.  Months earlier the town had mourned the death of a once proud and dignified football club which had played such a huge part in so many lives.  Tears were shed in abundance following the clubs final football league game against Colchester in May, set against the back drop of a criminally wanton and wilful obliteration of over a hundred years of history, the club looked certain to have played its final game and its future appeared as short as it was bleak.

Over the summer however, thousands of prayers were answered.  The club was taken over and a new board, headed by chairman and Rovers fan John Ryan was installed, along with a new manager and assistant who were more than familiar with Belle Vues fragile frame.  Ian and Glynn Snodin returned toDoncaster, charged with returning a soul to the football club and pride to the town and when having started with no players, kit or footballs, simply to have a competitive team, even if it was rooted to the foot of the table, was an achievement worthy of high spirits.

Despite all this, the Snodins had produced a side with plenty of quality, with their influence drawing players of the quality of Steve Nicol, Dave Penney, Tommy Wright and Shaun Goodwin to the fold but despite the return of dignity and excitement returning to the club, the team had to start winning, and quickly.  Another relegation further away from league football would surely mean no way back, which the management were all too aware of setting the players a target to set the ball rolling “We want to start the new year off the bottom then pull away from the relegation zone as quickly as possible” Glynn Snodin confirmed in the run up to the Dover game but would it would not be easy.  Rovers had not won in the league for a month and had only notched up three wins all season.  The side was also coming off the back of a disappointing 4-2 defeat at Rushden in an FA Cup second round replay, in which despite plenty of spirit and endeavour allied with a measure of ability, Rovers had again come away with nothing, a trend which was threatening to define the season.

Dover were themselves a good, strong and well organized outfit who were very robust at the back and more than capable going forward, already having beaten Rovers 1-0 on the opening day, and arrived at Belle Vue having not conceded more than two goals in any game all season with one of the best defensive records in the conference.

Player manager Ian Snodin was ruled out of the side with a groin strain but Simon Shaw was available to play at right back having returned from suspension.  Steve Nicol was also fit for the game having shaken off a knock which had required an injection to allow him to play at Rushden.

It was a clear but crisp December afternoon inDoncasterand 2,119 fans, the lowest in the league all season, settled down for what promised to be a tight and hard fought affair. Doverclearly had a different agenda and set about the home side right from the off.  Rovers midfield were not getting close enough to their opposite numbers as Dover enjoyed too much space early on, a mistake which would harm Rovers, badly.  As early as the forth minute, the visitors midfield were given the time and space to stroll through the middle of the park, finding forward Mark Hynes who himself had the time to line up a great strike at goal which rebounded off the underside off the cross bar and back into play where, with the Rovers defenders standing watching, big striker Joff Vansittart, who hadn’t scored in the league for four months, headed home from close range.

Rovers had to clear their heads and wake up, and at the very least try to compete physically in the middle third but playing three at the back, wing backs Simon Shaw and Scott Maxfield were struggling to get forward and join Tommy Wright and Shaun Goodwin leaving Dave Penney to try to rally the engine room.

Dover continued to press forward, sensing the advantage could be further driven home and on 13 minutes won an innocuous looking free kick mid way into the Rovers half on the right hand side.  Simon Wormull delivered the cross towards Vansittart who lost his marker and held off the challenge of centre back Colin Sutherland to place a simple header firmly past Andy Woods in the Rovers goal and put his side two goals up inside 15 minutes and seemingly without breaking sweat.

Clearly rocked by what happened Rovers threatened to fall apart and struggled to keep hold the ball, relying on young striker Glenn Kirkwood to provide an outlet with his willingness to run with the ball providing some respite for the bewilded rear guard.  Slowly Rovers began to wake from their slumber and began to venture forward, with Penney combining well with Simon Shaw down the right to deliver a cross which Mark Hume met powerfully but could only direct over the bar.

Back cameDoverthough and moving the ball directly up to the powerful Vansittart the visitors won a corner on the right hand side with Scott Maxfield only managing to clear the danger behind.  Vansittart would clearly be the target again and all eyes were on him again as James Virgo delivered a dangerous ball in to the near post.  De-ja-vu was in the December air as the giant striker easily out maneuvered the Rovers back line and bet the corner perfectly at the near post, again giving Woods no chance with a powerful and uncontested headed before running to salute the few visiting fans behind the goal having claimed a hat trick after only 27 minutes.

The terraces were stunned into a silent disbelief before some fans found their voices again in order to convey their discontent as the fans, who had provided the team with some tremendous support since the clubs takeover, were clearly not prepared to tolerate an unacceptable performance from a side who for the first time did not display the commitment or exertion the supporters demanded.

The fans reaction threatened to spark some life in the home team as moments later Rovers found a life line from a set piece.  The ball was launched high into the box where Mark Hume and Colin Sutherland made life difficult for Dover keeper Charlie Mitten who couldn’t collect cleanly and the ball dropped for Kirkwood to poke home a scruffy life line for Rovers who scraped into the interval out of the game at 3-1 down, that being far more than their performance deserved. Doverhad looked likely to score every time they came forward and Rovers just could not get into the game.

The Rovers management must have had their say at half time as the team emerged for the second half looked totally different to that which had simply not delivered for the previous 45 minutes.  Clearly with a point prove the side looked galvanized by the challenge in front of them and they were superbly led by skipper Dave Penney who showed all his experience and led by example throughout.  The midfield began to grab the game by the scruff of the neck with Penney and Maxfield making some big challenges in midfield and affording others the room to play.  Penney, who had acquired a reputation for scoring spectacular goals, had already gone close from distance before on 52 minutes he picked up a loose ball in the centre of the park around 25 yards out.  The crowd screamed, pleading with him to ‘hit it’ and the 34 year old midfielder needed no further encouragement.  The Rovers skipper beat Mitten with a sweetly struck drive which flashed into the corner of the net.  The atmosphere of frustration and disappointment around Belle Vue evaporated and was quickly replacement with a sense of real anticipation and excitement, the come back was well and truly on and the crowd were determined to play their part.

Dover continued to come forward with Vansittart still causing problems, particularly in the air, with his knock down finding Hynes whose shot was well save by Woods as the visitors front two continued to create chances in what was becoming an incredibly open end to end game which played at a terrifically fast pace.

Back again came Doncaster Rovers, looking more and more dangerous coming forward with substitutes Dino Maamria and Ian Duerden providing a real cutting edge and a much needed injection of pace in the final third.

Visibly driven on by Penney in midfield the home side again swept forward in search of an equalizer as Penney looked to play Duerden in on the edge of the box.  Back to goal, Duerden tried to slip Kirkwood through but the ball was blocked and ran loose on the edge of the penalty area, straight into the path of the onrushing Maamria who swept a great shot, crisply hit with the inside of his right boot, bending into the bottom right hand corner from 18 yards out.  It was an outstanding finish from the Tunisian and sent the home fans wild, with 15 minutes still to play the teams were amazingly back to 3-3.  Surely now Rovers would press home the advantage and find a winner?  There was almost a feeling of inevitability around the ground that the momentum was with the home side who again surged forward looking for what would surely be a winner.  Once again however Dover had other ideas and again piled forward and following some neat interplay on the edge of the box, the ball was fed through to Hynes who beat Woods with a neatly placed shot to put Dover back in front at 4-3 with only 11 minutes left and it was no less than the busy striker had deserved.

Again Belle Vue fell temporarily silent as all the home sides’ hard work and determination looked to be in vain before the players again began to dig in and find something else to throw at the Dover defence.  Again it was Penney who dragged the team as Rovers looked to throw everything at the visitors, the ball was tossed high into the box and Ian Duerden rose highest and headed goal wards and into the path of Maamria who challenged Buddon only a couple of yards out and under intense pressure the defender could only divert the ball past Mitten and into his own net.  Belle Vue erupted once more, 9 minutes left and the game really was anyone’s with the sides’ level at 4-4.  The sides played out a breathless end to the game with neither side content to settle for a draw and both pushed forward in search of a winner.  Doncaster Rovers continued to play some neat football and managed to carve out one final throw of the dice late on.  Again the ball was played through the mid field on the floor into the feet of the impressive Duerden.  With his back to goal, the striker dropped his shoulder and spun off his marker before completely wrong footing the defence with a neat back heal which was perfectly into the path of onrushing Glenn Kirkwood who hammered home a glorious winner to round off a fantastic move and provide a goal worthy of deciding such an epic blockbuster of a game.  The crowd exploded as Rovers went ahead for the first time in the closing minutes 5-4 when they had been seemingly out of the game having been 3-0 down inside half an hour.  The final whistle was greeted with huge celebration on the terrace as some fans spilled onto the pitch to mob the players in delight.  The 2,119 present that day witnessed one of the most incredible and remarkable ninety minutes of football in the history of the club with both sides having played a full part in a quite astonishing game of football.

That season owed a great deal to the exuberance and energy of youth allied with the craft and guile of some experienced heads, none more so than Steve Nicol.  The scot was a real class act, even at the age of 38 his reading of the game was on a different plane to those around him.  Excellent in the air despite not being the tallest of players his distribution, with either foot, was fantastic and his contribution to the side, albeit for only 31 games that season before he left to take a coaching role in the states was massive.  Having won every domestic honour with a dominant Liverpool which also conqueredEuropein the mid 80’s his pedigree was clearly undoubted. It truly was a pleasure and a privilege as a Doncaster Rovers fan to be able to witness such a superb player and a great professional ply his trade during that season in the late 90’s.