Doncaster Rovers 4 Sutton United 1: 14 players out injured, but Rovers still make a statement to League Two rivals

AFTER a harsh and disrupted start to the League Two season, Doncaster Rovers finally announced themselves on Saturday afternoon - and sent out a statement that they might just be on the move.

It was just the tonic everyone in connection with the club needed.

Before the game, the pre-match talk was of Rovers’ injury count extending comfortably into double-figures.

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After it, the hosts were savouring a goals bonanza - which included three goals in 15 minutes on the restart - and a third successive victory at the Eco-Power Stadium. Funny old game.

Doncaster Rovers' Joe Ironside is congratulated by Owen Bailey after making it 1-0 from the penalty spot versus Sutton United. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.Doncaster Rovers' Joe Ironside is congratulated by Owen Bailey after making it 1-0 from the penalty spot versus Sutton United. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.
Doncaster Rovers' Joe Ironside is congratulated by Owen Bailey after making it 1-0 from the penalty spot versus Sutton United. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

“I’ve never seen anything like it” was McCann’s quote beforehand. He was referencing Rovers’ congested treatment room.

Following this game, that statement could well apply to Sutton’s sorry and at times shambolic defending, more especially in the second half when they resembled what they are, a side in the relegation positions and in trouble as their 100 per cent losing record at Doncaster continued.

Rovers made hay in the autumnal sun. Leader of the pack Joe Ironside scored a brace and set up another for Zain Westbrooke, who struck his first goal for Doncaster.

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Mo Faal added a fourth, getting the goal his display merited - his second successive goal in home matches - and underlined his credentials as a young player to watch. He was given a standing ovation when he exited the fray.

The only downer came in the second half with Tommy Rowe and Ben Close seeming to make way with injury issues, alongside the failure to get a clean sheet when Harry Smith netted a consolation with the last action of the game in the ninth minute of stoppage-time.

Both sides were unchanged and while Sutton’s travelsickness had extended for a good while, a 4-0 victory over Walsall on home soil had at least provided them a much-needed shot in the arm ahead of a long trip north.

The early signs suggested it might be a bothersome afternoon for Rovers, with Sutton coming out of the traps quicker..

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Rovers rallied and Ironside’s penalty settler changed the complexion of the game with Sutton’s backline displaying evidence of just why they have shipped 12 goals on the road already this term.

The case for Rovers defence was not particularly cast-iron either, with Smith putting himself about and posing issues alongside the tricky Josh Coley, who tested Louis Jones early on after wriggling clear down the right.

Jones copped a cut on his head early on, with Sutton targeting the keeper - and the hosts backline - with some aerial stuff.

But play would switch to the other end and after piecing together a half-decent move, Craig Clay’s sloppy indiscretion led to referee Declan Bourne, in the perfect position, to instantly point to the spot after his clear foul on Faal, with the midfielder sticking out an injudicious leg.

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While the loanee came to the party, Luke Molyneux also started to get the taste for it, soon twisting and turning down the left, before seeing his curler fly narrowly off target.

A scare for Rovers then saw Joe Kizzi catch Doncaster napping at the back, with Smith in the clear before testing the reactions of Jones at his near post from a tight angle, with the Rovers custodian making a key finger-tip save.

An offside flag then ruled out Rowe’s strike following cute play from Close before a crafty free-kick almost presented a chance in front of goal for Ironside with Rovers possessing far more wit in the centre of midfield than Sutton, who looked ponderous in comparison.

Still, a couple of scares for Rovers suggested that the next goal in this particular fixture would be the all-important one.

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The hosts made sure it was scored by a player in a red and white jersey on 52 minutes and ended the game as a contest.

Bailey’s excellent centre from the right was attacked in classic centre forward fashion by Ironside, whose superbly-timed header nestled in the far post.

It broke the spirit of Sutton who conceded a third on 63 minutes as their disheartened defence opened up again.

This time Ironside turned creator to find the unmarked Westbrooke, who showed commendable composure to steer home a cool rebound after his initial low shot struck the post.

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There was more torment for the increasingly besieged visitors when Faal got the goal he deserved when he finished from close range after being supplied down the right by Molyneux.

Smith pulled one back seconds before the final whistle with a downward header at the far post.

Doncaster Rovers: Jones; Bailey, Anderson, Olowu; Nixon, Rowe (Biggins 60), Westbrooke (Broadbent 80), Close (Kuleya 85), Molyneux; Faal (Goodman 81), Ironside. Unused substitutes: Lawlor, Sotona, Flint.

Sutton United: Bouzanis; Kizzi, Sowunmi, Goodliffe, Hart; Coley, Clay, N’Guessan (Beautyman 66), Patrick (Mellor 78); Smith, O’Brien. Unused substitutes: Arnold, Jackson, Milsom, Angol.

Referee: D Bourne (Notts).