Doncaster 0 Leeds United 3: Rovers slump to derby defeat

Ross McCoramck breaks clear of Martin Woods and Dean Furman.
Ross McCoramck breaks clear of Martin Woods and Dean Furman.
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STRIKES from Matt Smith, Ross McCormack and skipper Rudy Austin ensured Leeds United’s proud unbeaten record at the Keepmoat remained firmly intact as the visitors’ boosted their play-off charge.

It provided a fourth successive victory at Doncaster for United and provided the perfect early Christmas present for Brian McDermott and the sell-out 4,319 away contingent.

Smith, who netted his first goal for United in the 3-1 Capital One Cup at Rovers at the end of August, put the hosts in front on 20 minutes.

The big striker headed home in front of the sizeable visiting following, with it left to McCormack, who spent a spell at Rovers at the start of his career, to seal the deal 14 minutes from time.

It was the Scot’s 11th goal in his last seven outings and his 17th strike in what is turning out to be a remarkable season on a personal note.

His strike was tough on Rovers, who produced a stirring response in the second half after not being at the races in the first period.

Their most threatening moment culminated in Theo Robinson netting on 65 minutes, but a very late offside flag cut short his celebrations.

Deflated by Leeds’ second, salt was rubbed into the wounds for Rovers when Austin fired home a low strike to provide the coup de grace three minutes from time.

It was the prelude to a chant of Jingle Bells from the Leeds fans and the cue for many home punters to head home early.

An inauspicuous opening with a lack of discernable width burst into life shortly after Dean Furman conceded a free-kick near to the touchline after clattering into Austin, with the Rovers midfielder coming off second best in colliding into the advertising hoardings and picking up a booking for his pains.

United exacted full punishment when a terrific pacy delivery from Doncaster lad Alex Mowatt was latched onto by Smith, who buried the ball into the net with his head from six yards out with Ross Turnbull rooted to the goalline.

Suitably settled, United claimed the ascendancy, with Rovers, playing a 4-3-3 formation with Federico Macheda, Chris Brown and Robinson in a three-pronged attack, lacking fluidity and failing to ruffle the feathers of the United rearguard.

Next to threaten was goal machine McCormack, who shot over from 25 yards before Rovers belatedly came to the party.

A mini-spell of pressure saw Jason Pearce make a timely clearance to deny Brown before Danny Pugh did well to block a dangerous cross-shot from home skipper Richie Wellens.

But the threat was in isolation, with Leeds looking the more assured without creating clear-cut chances.

One decent opportunity eventually arose at the feet of Mowatt in the 38th minute after a break down the left, with Pugh left in splendid isolation.

But the teenager was denied a sweet goal against his hometown club, with his steered shot straight at Turnbull.

Austin then fired over with Rovers stretched at the back before Robinson blazed an effort wildly over the top for the hosts, whose offensive efforts in the first half were pretty tame, if truth be told.

Just before the break, United spurned a presentable opportunity to claim a second in a situation similar to the one which saw Smith net the previous weekend against Watford.

Again, McCormack was the conjurer with a juicy cross in the big striker’s business area, but despite getting a clean connection, his effort lacked direction and flashed over.

Rovers chief Paul Dickov resistanced the temptation to make interval changes, with James Coppinger and Mark Duffy providing wing options on the bench.

That said, the hosts started the second half with a little more purpose, with Leeds slow out of the blocks.

Wellens, Rovers most accomplished player on show, mightly close six minutes in after evading a couple of challenges down the left before producing a curler which flew a whisker past the post.

The experienced schemer then produced another dangerous moment on 56 minutes following a Robinson chest down, with his low shot grasped by Kenny after another moment of home incision.

Leeds failed to heed the dual warnings in a muted showing and heaved a sigh of relief on 65 minutes when an offside flag came to their rescue.

This coming after Wellens supplied Robinson, who tucked the ball home and wheeled away to hail his strike, only to be stopped in his tracks.

It was tough on Rovers, who produced a game performance on the restart, with United’s low-key showing providing them with plenty of incentive.

Even harder to stomach on 76 minutes was a killer second for United, from a familar face.

McCormack contrived a good opportunity on the left after fleet-footed skills and managed to tuck the ball past Turnbull at his near post.

Austin added a late third with a crisp strike as Leeds ended the game in the box seat.

Doncaster Rovers: Turnbull; Quinn, Khumalo, McCullough, Stevens; Furman (Duffy 65), Woods, Wellens; Macheda (Coppinger 82), Brown, Robinson. Unused substitutes: Maxted, Paynter, Cotterill, Wakefield, Peterson.

Leeds United: Kenny; Lees, Zaliukas, Pearce; Peltier, Murphy, Mowatt (Brown 73), Austin, Pugh; Smith, McCormack ([Poleon 90). Unused substitutes: Varney, Warnock, Tonge, Byram, Cairns.

Referee: P Dowd (Staffs).

Attendance: 12,192 (4,319 Leeds fans).