Brentford 0 Doncaster Rovers 1: Doncaster’s season comes down to staggering 22-second finale

Brentfords Marcello Trotta hits the crossbar from his penaltyBrentfords Marcello Trotta hits the crossbar from his penalty
Brentfords Marcello Trotta hits the crossbar from his penalty
BEFORE Saturday’s colossal encounter, Brian Flynn spoke about Doncaster Rovers having a ‘90-minute season’.

Safe to say, he probably wasn’t expecting Rovers’ near nine-month League One odyssey which spanned almost 4,145 minutes – and over 69 hours of league football from early August to late April – to boil down to a 22-second campaign.

Breathless, bewildering, dramatic, incredible. Insert your own adjective of choice here to describe a denouement in West London which will be remembered by all who witnessed it until their final days.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Think Michael Thomas’s last-gasp goal at Anfield in 1989, Manchester United’s two-goal stoppage-time blast at the Nou Camp in 1999 and Sergio Aguero’s Etihad stunner against QPR just under a year ago and you are in the same ball park.

As crazy end-of-season finishes go, this not just took the biscuit, but the entire factory...

We had not one, but four protagonists in a madcap fourth minute of stoppage time which had more drama than the previous 94 nerve-strewn minutes put together.

For Rovers, a villain – in the shape of Jamie McCombe – and an ultimate hero in James Coppinger.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

And for Brentford, a substitute in Marcello Trotta who has become an infamous part of the Bees’ fabric for all the wrong reasons, especially if they don’t manage to end their 20-year absence from the second tier through the play-offs.

Oh, and a referee in Michael Oliver who lit the blue-light paper by pointing to the spot in stunning fashion.

If the fates had been different and Trotta, 20, on loan from Fulham, had tucked away the penalty, awarded against McCombe for handball, in front of an Ealing Road end crammed with expectant home supporters, the giant defender would have wanted to crawl into the biggest hole imaginable.

While Brentford have their own play-off foibles, so has McCombe. But thankfully, a spot of prayer worked a treat and Trotta ultimately proved a bit of a ‘plonker’ by taking a penalty that captain Kevin O’Connor was supposed to take.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Next act, final act. Enter Coppinger, who tapped the ball at the other end to the delight of 1,800 travelling fans – who dared not look a half-a-minute earlier when Trotta’s penalty smashed against the woodwork – with Brentford quite literally on the canvas and down and out.

After contemplating the play-offs so late in the piece, Rovers supporters instead ended up serenading as champions after Bournemouth’s draw at Tranmere.

And no one was happier – or more relieved – than McCombe.

Speaking exclusively to the Yorkshire Post after the game, he said: “It is a horrible feeling you get when you let the team down – and then we go up the other end and score... You go from zero to hero.

“It was frightening. That is football; it is mad and summed up in 45 seconds with the heartbreak of the penalty and our goal.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“The ball came in and I thought the lad (Clayton Donaldson) was going to head it and that I got a little touch to it.

“It was not good for your heart. I am not religious at all, but I was praying. That is how much it affects you and the emotions it means.”

Ecstasy for the victors, deep-seated despair for the losers, whose crestfallen players know they are now treading a cursed play-off path which has seen the Bees fall in six previous attempts to get promotion.

Penalties may have been the kindest of bedfellows for anyone associated with Germany, but for Bees chief Uwe Rosler, they are likely to give him a cold shudder.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Trotta’s unprofessional decision to take a spot-kick he was not designated for could haunt the youngster for years to come. Teutonic efficiency, it was not.

Rosler rued: “We were 20 seconds from the Championship; which is hard to take. But I am not going to hang him (Trotta) out to dry. We will deal with the matter internally.”

Before then, the game was what you would expect. Ultra-tense with flowing football a total no-no. Despite all the pre-match warnings that the Bees – who boasted six wins in their last seven home outings – would fly out of the traps brim full of intent, the reality was somewhat different.

Aside from an early effort from Bradley Wright-Phillips that hit the post, the hosts didn’t get behind Rovers’ regimented rearguard in the first period.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Indomitable pairing Rob Jones and McCombe were at their impregnable best, with the sole moment of genuine alarm before the late drama coming when ex-Leeds man Jonathan Douglas ballooned over in the 66th minute with all the goal to aim at after Jones’ clearance rebounded to him off Wright-Phillips. That was it until the amazing chain of late events.

A chant of “1-0 and we’re champions” from the more optimistic Rovers supporters looked like seriously backfiring when Trotta stepped up. But thankfully, the Ealing Road crossbar did its job, and it was ultimately Rovers’ day.

Brentford: Moore, Logan (Forshaw 64), O’Connor, Dean, Bidwell, Diagouraga, Douglas (Trotta 77), Adeyemi, Forrester (Saunders 69), Donaldson, Wright-Phillips. Unused substitutes: Gounet, El Alagui, Hodson, Pierre.

Doncaster: Sullivan, Quinn, R Jones, McCombe, Spurr, Coppinger, Lundstram (Keegan 61), Furman, Cotterill, Hume (Paynter 77), Brown (Syers 83). Unused substitutes: G Woods, Husband, Wakefield, Bennett.

Referee: M Oliver (Northumberland).