DONCASTER Rovers claimed their first home league victory in six months to end the three-match winning run of visitors Southend United, who were sunk by a 10-minute hat-trick from Sheffield United loanee Ben Whiteman straight after the break.
In the first half, John Marquis’s fifth goal of the season cancelled out an opener from Anthony Wordsworth, who could easily have been sent off before his 38th-minute headed goal when he collected only a booking for kicking a prostrate Jordan Houghton in the back.
But the visitors were sunk by Whiteman capitalising on two free-kicks from the returning James Coppinger and then firing home a penalty after Alfie May had been brought down.
Southend captain Anton Ferdinand was also sent off after the final whistle, apparently for dissent.
Rovers chief Darren Ferguson made two changes to the side which lost 2-0 at Bradford the previous Saturday, Coppinger replacing Dutch Under-20s call-up Rodney Kongolo and Ian Lawlor returning in goal after ankle trouble for Marko Marosi.
Simon Cox fired over an early opportunity for Southend, who lost centre-back Harry Kyprianou to injury after a goalmouth scramble following Rovers’ first corner when a sliding challenge by Ryan Leonard deflected Marquis’s shot behind.
Marquis headed against the bar from Coppinger’s floated cross and Alfie May’s close-range follow-up was blocked by goalkeeper Mark Oxley.
Rovers, however, went behind in the 38th minute when Niall Mason headed off the line Nile Ranger’s header but Wordsworth headed back into the empty net.
Coppinger’s free-kick forced a full-length save from Oxley but Rovers struck back in stoppage time, Marquis forcing home inside the six-yard area from Tommy Rowe’s driven cross as Southend appealed for offside.
It was 2-1 to Rovers straight after the break when Whiteman hit the ball home from 12 yards after Coppinger’s 22-yard free-kick rebounded off the bar.
Whiteman soon struck again with a cracking right-footed volley after Coppinger’s free-kick from deep had been headed out to him in the 50th minute.
Marquis then freed May down the right and when the striker cut inside he was tripped by Michael Timlin and Whiteman sent Oxley the wrong way from the spot.
Southend attempted to hit back but Rovers were always dangerous on the break.
“It’s a good day and I think it has been coming,” Ferguson said.
“We know we have got goals in us but we have to improve. And today there was improvement.
“The difference is we were clinical in the top end of the pitch.
“We blew them away in 10 minutes and the game was over.
“Plenty of credit to my players for the character they showed, going 1-0 behind from a player that shouldn’t be on the pitch.
“The start of the second half we were so aggressive. The quality was superb.”
Verdict: Confidence will have been restored by this win at the Keepmoat for Darren Ferguson’s men, who had been the only side in the division not to have won at home in the league this season.