Doncaster Rovers 0 Reading 3: Defeat has ruined my weekend, says O'Driscoll

DONCASTER Rovers will be torn apart by the Wolves tomorrow if they turn up and play like this.

Even manager Sean O'Driscoll was 'gob-smacked' by this performance and, not surprisingly, it sparked jeers at the final whistle.

Defensive blunders, a lack of bite in midfield, and very few signs of the 'beautiful' game. It all contrived to give play-off chasers Reading a relatively simple task of extending their hoodoo over the club – they have now won on their last six visits to Doncaster.

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O'Driscoll will demand a major improvement tomorrow against his home-town club Wolverhampton Wanderers in the FA Cup.

For if Rovers are to stand any chance at all of winning a third round replay against the Premier League side, they will need to rediscover the qualities that have carried them so far before now.

"Losing is part and parcel of life in the Championship," said O'Driscoll. "Sometimes it isn't important how you win but it is important how you lose – and we lost poorly which is disappointing.

"I am gobsmacked," he added. "I have said to them 'where has that come from?' We try and put our emphasis on performance rather than results so the result I can take on the chin. But the performance is something that, unfortunately, will ruin my weekend."

Not even the arrival of new boy Matthew Kilgallon could prevent Rovers slipping to defeat.

Kilgallon, who rejected offers from Sheffield United and Leeds United to join Rovers from Sunderland for the rest of the season, was hardly to blame but may now be wondering if he has made a big mistake.

Trust me Matthew, Rovers are not usually as bad as this!

There was little to choose between the two sides until Reading took the lead after 29 minutes.

A ball over the top from Jimmy Kebe caught Sam Hird flat-footed and allowed Shane Long to run at goal before steering the ball beyond goalkeeper Neil Sullivan.

O'Driscoll's decision to employ a 3-5-2 formation instead of a flat back four raised eyebrows but the Rovers manager refused to accept this had been a factor in a poor display.

Pushing Kilgallon wide on the left fails to maximise his strengths and it will be interesting to see if there are changes at the back tomorrow night.

The loss of Joseph Mills with a knee injury was another setback and substitute George Friend subsequently found it tough against the highly-rated Mali international Kebe.

Long nearly doubled Reading's advantage just before the break but shot narrowly over the crossbar.

For a brief period at the start of the second half, Rovers looked ready to stage a fightback. If referee Eddie Ilderton had awarded a penalty when Ivar Ingimarsson blocked Billy Sharp's shot with his arm, the outcome of the game might have been different.

Ilderton either missed the incident or felt Ingimarsson was blameless but there can be little argument that his arm denied Rovers a goal.

With 30 minutes to go, O'Driscoll threw on striker Steve Brooker and midfielder Martin Woods yet Reading cotinued finding holes in the Rovers rearguard.

Again, a ball over the top proved decisive but goalkeeper Sullivan made things easier for Kebe by racing off his line.

With Sullivan stranded on the edge of his penalty area, Kebe simply lofted the ball over his head and into an empty net.

"We plugged away without any real conviction and, when that happens, you make silly mistakes, none more sillier than Neil's, coming out for something he couldn't get to give them a second goal," reflected O'Driscoll. "At 2-0, the game was over really."

Things got worse for Rovers when Friend's attempted clearance ricocheted off Jobi McAnuff and flew past Sullivan for a third with 16 minutes left to play.

It had turned into afternoon to forget for Rovers – and those who opted not to take advantage of reduced admission prices had possibly made a wise decision by staying away.

Chairman John Ryan, however, was still far from happy with the gate of just under 9,500 and claimed the club's fans had 'let him down'.

If the fans had let him down, what had the team done to the fans?

Unfortunately, for all involved with Rovers, this whole afternoon was a massive let down.

But before anyone decides to ring the alarm bells, just remember that this performance was an exception to the norm.

Rovers, still in with a chance of making the play-offs, still have every reason to feel proud of their achievements this season and will be looking to put things right next weekend against Ipswich Town.

Before that, however, is a trip to Molineux where the Wolves are hungry and on the prowl.

Doncaster Rovers: Sullivan; Lockwood, Hird (M Woods 60), Kilgallon; O'Connor, Coppinger, Oster, Wilson, Mills (Friend 32); Hayter (Brooker 60), Sharp. Unused substitutes: Souza, Shiels, G Woods, Chambers.

Reading: Federici; Griffin, Ingimarsson, Pearce, Harte; Kebe, Leigertwood, Karacan (Tabb 80), McAnuff; Hunt (Church 80), Long. Unused substitutes: Antonio, Robson-Kanu, Howard, Cummings, McCarthy.

Referee: EL Ilderton (Tyne & Wear).

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