Doncaster Rovers 2 AFC Wimbledon 0: No ‘Culture Club’ but James Coppinger secures safe passage in FA Cup

Rakish Binhgam celebrates scoring Rovers' second goal with James Coppinger.  Picture Bruce Rollinson
Rakish Binhgam celebrates scoring Rovers' second goal with James Coppinger. Picture Bruce Rollinson
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ONE of the most legendary quotes in FA Cup history was delivered by John Motson when Wimbledon administered the mother-of-all final shocks at Wembley in 1988.

The doyen of TV commentators famously waxed lyrical about how the ‘Crazy Gang’ had beaten ‘The Culture Club’ of Liverpool to the watching millions.

James Coppinger and Nathan Trott watch as his shot hits the back of the net for Rovers.  Picture Bruce Rollinson

James Coppinger and Nathan Trott watch as his shot hits the back of the net for Rovers. Picture Bruce Rollinson

There was not quite the need for such embellishment or hyperbole last night as AFC Wimbledon – founded in 2002 by supporters of the former Wimbledon FC – took to the field on a raw November evening when only the stoic were in attendance, all 3,413 of them.

As head-to-heads go, it also lacked the appeal of Boris Johnson versus Jeremy Corbyn either, yet there was a newsworthy story nevertheless and some semblances of footballing culture too. Not for the first time where Doncaster Rovers are concerned, it revolved around their seemingly ageless attacking force in James Coppinger.

He may turn 39 in January, but his on-pitch relationship with the world’s most enduring domestic cup competition is not yet over.

On a night when he provided the moments of sorcery to savour, with Jon Taylor proving a willing accomplice on occasions, Coppinger fittingly broke the deadlock with a typically classy finish on 52 minutes.

James Coppinger scores for Rovers. Picture Bruce Rollinson

James Coppinger scores for Rovers. Picture Bruce Rollinson

The poise of the midfielder –whose first FA Cup appearance arrived almost 17 years ago – after beating the offside trap following Taylor’s penetrating pass was simply a joy to behold.

His legs may not be as quick as they once were, but his footballing brain remains as sharp as ever, evidenced by the way he calmly checked inside a defender who managed to catch up with him before coolly stroking the ball past Nathan Trott.

The Taylor-Coppinger axis again made capital to seal it when a lovely textbook move on the break saw the duo effortlessly open up Wimbledon, with the beneficiary being substitute Rakish Bingham.

The former Hamilton Academical striker, who recently joined on a short-term basis until January, could hardly miss after being teed up on a plate by Coppinger’s instinctive low cross from the right – for his first goal in Rovers colours.

It turned a hitherto testing episode into a routine one as Doncaster maintained their hopes of a second successive money-spinning FA Cup odyssey in a row.

The Cup divisional progress prize fund, which is made to the EFL clubs from each division who go furthest in the competition, saw Rovers and Wimbledon share the League One hand-out after pocketing £75,000 apiece from reaching round five in 2018-19 .

Almost exactly a year to the day, Rovers enjoyed a bonanza after hitting seven without reply in their previous FA Cup replay against visiting Chorley, but while that sort of margin was never likely to be repeated, it ended up being comfortable all the same by the final whistle.

Earlier on, it was not so straightforward. Aside from a short cameo before the break, it was Wimbledon’s half, with their pressing game not allowing rusty Rovers to settle in possession and disrupting their rhythm.

Going forward, they displayed the vestiges of fluidity and aplomb, chiefly Mitch Pinnock and Joe Pigott.

But it was Kwesi Appiah who went the closest in the lead-up to the interval when his low shot struck the outside of the post with the visiting striker also seeing an effort blocked in the nick of time from the alert Tom Anderson after a peach of a pass from Pigott.

Appiah also tested the reactions of Seny Dieng at his near post and by contrast, Rovers lacked continuity going forward and were limited to a couple of moments of invention from Coppinger and Taylor.

The latter steered wide following a weaving run close to the interval and saw an early effort grasped in routine fashion by Trott after a Coppinger flick.

Clever work by Coppinger also set up lone frontman Kwame Thomas to shoot straight at Trott, while at the rear, Rovers set a few heart flutters with their continued persistence to try and play the ball out from the back, despite plenty of Wimbledon traffic.

A hooked shot which flew just wide from Pinnock saw Wimbledon threaten on the resumption, but it was the cue for Rovers – and more especially Coppinger and Taylor – to take over.

The former struck his fourth goal of the season, equalling his tally last term, to put the hosts ahead and settle them down into the bargain. A smart reaction save from Trott denied Taylor before Bingham doubled Rovers’ advantage with Wimbledon’s fire extinguished.

A fine goalline clearance from Ryan Delaney stopped Taylor from claiming a deserved goal before another key block on the line from Appiah thwarted Ben Sheaf as Doncaster signed off in style.

Doncaster Rovers: Dieng; Halliday, Anderson, Wright, James; Whiteman, Sheaf; Taylor (Sadlier 90), Coppinger (May 77), Gomes; K Thomas (Bingham 67). Substitutes unused: Lawlor, Amos, Greaves, Daniels.

AFC Wimbledon: Trott; O’Neill, Delaney, T Thomas (Kalambayi 76), Osew; Wagstaff, Hartigan (Sanders 80); Pinnock, Pigott, Reilly (McLoughlin 67); Appiah. Substitutes unused: McDonnell, Guinness-Walker, Robinson, Madelin.

Referee: C Sarginson (Staffs).