Doncaster Rovers 0 Shrewsbury Town 1 - Rovers denied a Christmas No 1

Doncaster Rovers' Fejiri Okenabirhie (right) and Shrewsbury Town's Ro-Shaun Williams battle for the ball. Pictures: PA.Doncaster Rovers' Fejiri Okenabirhie (right) and Shrewsbury Town's Ro-Shaun Williams battle for the ball. Pictures: PA.
Doncaster Rovers' Fejiri Okenabirhie (right) and Shrewsbury Town's Ro-Shaun Williams battle for the ball. Pictures: PA.
THE fact that no Yorkshire side tops the League One table at Christmas owes a fair bit to Shrewsbury Town.

December victories at Hull City and now Doncaster Rovers have seen the Shropshire outfit don the guise of Ebeneezer Scrooge to help ensure that Portsmouth and not the aforesaid White Rose duo are No 1 for the festive season.

Shrewsbury’s win at Sincil Bank on December 15 also stymied the hopes of another third high-flying aspirant not too far from these parts in Lincoln City.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

On each occasion, remarkably, Shrewsbury have now triumphed 1-0, .

Doncaster Rovers' Reece James (left) and Shrewsbury Town's Matthew Millar in action at the Keepmoat.Doncaster Rovers' Reece James (left) and Shrewsbury Town's Matthew Millar in action at the Keepmoat.
Doncaster Rovers' Reece James (left) and Shrewsbury Town's Matthew Millar in action at the Keepmoat.

They were not short of incentive themselves, mindful that a point would move them out of the drop zone in time for the festive season.

The decisive moment arrived on 53 minutes when Rovers momentarily switched off and were punished when Aaron Pierre headed home from the visitors’ first effort on target.

Rovers proceeded to lose their way after a dominant first half and despite late pressure, it was an evening to forget as their bid for a fifth straight league win for the first time since January 2017 was thwarted by a Shrewsbury side who switched successfully to a 4-3-3 formation at the break.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The bulk of the pressure may have been on the shoulders of Rovers, yet you would never have noticed judging by their sharp and quick-witted opening half which showed elements of just why they are one of the division’s form horses.

It could and perhaps should have yielded a third-minute opener against his former club for Fejiri Okenabirhie, who latched onto a fine first-time flick over the top from Tyreece John-Jules, but his touch past advancing Shrews keeper Matyjia Sarkic was heavy and the visitors scrambled the ball clear.

The half failed to conjure a home opener, but their tempo, movement and some of their slick first-time passing and will have still satisfied Darren Moore, even if the breakthrough which he hankered for never arrived.

Okenabirhie, clearly on a mission against his old employers, was bright and Taylor Richards drifted into some pockets of space and posed issues for Shrewsbury, while the control in the middle ground came from Ben Whiteman and Matt Smith as Rovers hogged the possession count.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Okenabirhie – who saw a goal ruled out following a tight offside call – cut inside and steered a curler just wide.

Jon Taylor – another playing lining up against one of his former side – fired off target after the ball was quickly recycled to him after the Shrews saw their pocket picked in midfield.

With a smart operator in their offensive ranks in Shaun Whalley, Rovers had to be alert at the other end, but protected Joe Lumley well, with the loanee having little to do.

A low shot from distance which flashed wide from Josh Vela after a ball broke to him was the most that the Shropshire outfit could muster.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The half-time scoreline was one that Steve Cotterill would have gladly taken beforehand as his side played a game of stealth and aimed to take the sting out of Rovers as the game progressed and take their chance when it came along.

The onus was also on Doncaster to be patient and to probe for a choice opportunity.

There were signs of Shrewsbury upping the ante on the restart as they started to piece together some decent possession themselves and give Rovers a bit more to think about and that significantly intensified as they forged a shock breakthrough.

From a home perspective, it was a sloppy and avoidable concession which will have disappointed Moore, a centre-half of some standing in his playing days. Pierre was not taken care of from Whalley’s centre and his downward header flew past Lumley. The fact this was the defender’s fourth goal of the season already pointed to his obvious threat.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The blow took a while for Rovers to get over as Shrewsbury focused on protecting their precious gains and sitting back, just as they had successfully done at Hull and Lincoln.

Doncaster struggled to find a way back, with half-chances seeing Reece James head off target and John-Jules fired straight at Sarkic. But it was pretty standard, in truth.

The visitors were a whisker away from wrapping it up with ex-Sheffield United forward Leon Clarke clipping the ball just wide shortly after arriving from the bench.

Rovers’ own seasoned substitute in the shape of James Coppinger was eventually called for as Doncaster sought to change the narrative of a game which was now starting to drift away from them.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

When the hosts found a way through, they reckoned without opposing keeper Sarkic, who made a brilliant reaction save to tip over a John-Jules header.

Doncaster Rovers: Lumley; Halliday, Anderson, Butler, James; Whiteman, Smith, Richards (Coppinger 81); Taylor (Lokilo 74), Okenabirhie, John-Jules. Substitutes unused: Jones, Wright, Amos, John, Hasani.

Shrewsbury Town: Sarkic; R Williams, Ebanks-Landell, Pierre; Millar, Norburn, Vela, C Daniels; Edwards (Tracey 45 (Golbourne 87)); Whalley, Udoh (Clarke 69). Substitutes unused: Burgoyne, J Daniels, Pugh, Cummings.

Referee: J Oldham (Derbyshire).

Support The Yorkshire Post and become a subscriber today. Your subscription will help us to continue to bring quality news to the people of Yorkshire. In return, you’ll see fewer ads on site, get free access to our app and receive exclusive members-only offers. Click HERE to subscribe.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.