Doncaster Rovers end long wait as Leeds United set low mark

Leeds United's Chris Wood battles with Rovers' Andy Butler
Leeds United's Chris Wood battles with Rovers' Andy Butler
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A SLICE of unwanted history for Leeds United saw the club crash out at the first-round stage of the League Cup for the first time.

Not since 1951 had Rovers beaten the Elland Road club on home soil, a run that included 10 meetings at either Belle Vue or the Keepmoat.

But, in the most dramatic of fashions as a pulsating tie went to penalties, Doncaster finally ended that hoodoo courtesy of four successful spot-kicks to two after a 1-1 draw after extra-time.

With Sam Byram and Chris Wood both ballooning their efforts over the crossbar, it meant United’s 13th appearance in the first round of a competition the club won in 1968 ended in a humbling exit.

Over two hours of the tie, Leeds could have few complaints with the 37th -minute dismissal of Lewis Cook for a reckless challenge meaning Paul Dickov’s men created the lion’s share of the night’s chances.

Credit to Uwe Rosler’s side, however, for failing to buckle and even going to close to netting a winner of their own in extra-time.

Considering the stellar careers the two managers had as strikers, it was perhaps fitting that the game’s opening goal should come courtesy of some wonderful forward play.

Mirco Antenucci, fresh from his opening day strike at home to Burnley, showed a tremendous touch and then turn of pace to leave Rob Jones trailing near the left touchline.

He raced into the penalty area before hitting a fierce shot that Thorsten Stuckmann could only palm into the path of Lewis Cook and the teenager was not going to give up the chance of a first senior goal as he fired into the empty net.

Leeds had an immediate scare and were indebted to another of their Italian contingent, Giuseppe Bellusci, for hooking the ball to safety in the nick of time after James Coppinger had lifted the ball over Ross Turnbull.

It proved, however, to be only a temporary let-off for the visitors, as Scott Wootton tripped Cedric Evina en route to goal and referee Keith Hill rightly pointed to the spot.

Andy Williams, a summer capture from Swindon Town that Dickov made amid serious interest from Bradford City, stepped up to drill the ball below Ross Turnbull from 12 yards.

Seven minutes before half-time, United’s night took another turn for the worse when goalscorer Cook recklessly dived in on Aaron Taylor-Sinclair.

Again, referee Hill rightly punished Leeds as the teenage midfielder was shown a red card that will mean he must sit out the next three games through suspension.

A more pressing problem for Rosler, however, was to reorganise his side into a formation that, initially, had Antenucci as a lone frontman and Wootton providing a defensive shield in front of the back four.

Rovers, though, sensed an opportunity to claim that elusive home win over their West Yorkshire rivals and they should have taken the lead on the stroke of half-time only for James Coppinger to screw a shot wide following a delightful pass from Harry Forrester.

Leeds made further tweaks to their formation after the interval but it did little good in terms of stemming the wave of Rovers’ attacks and steadier finishing on the part of the hosts’ would surely have settled matters long before the shoot-out.

Williams missed by far the best opening when he headed wide from just three yards out despite being unmarked.

But he was far from the only guilty party in Rovers’ ranks with Jones heading straight at Turnbull after leaping above a scrum of yellow shirts to meet Luke McCullough’s deep cross.

Coppinger also screwed a couple of shots wide when well placed, and Williams brought a flying save from Turnbull before being unable to apply the finishing touch to a drilled cross.

Leeds also deserved credit for keeping Doncaster at bay in normal time, Charlie Taylor halting a jinking run from Nathan Tyson with a quite sublime tackle just as the substitute looked ready to shoot.

This combination of profligacy on the part of the hosts and Rovers’ failure to capitalise on territorial dominance in the second half of normal time meant extra-time was needed to separate the two Yorkshire rivals.

Leeds rallied after the restart as Sam Byram’s shot was beaten away by Stuckmann who then had a fortunate escape when he allowed Antenucci’s shot to slip from his grasp and against a post.

It meant a shoot-out and Richie Wellens eventually settled matters with the eighth and final penalty kick.

Doncaster Rovers: Stuckmann; McCullough, Butler, Jones, Taylor-Sinclair; Coppinger, Wellens, Middleton (Main 102), Evina (Tyson 72); Forrester; Williams. Unused substitutes: Marosi, Lund, MacKenzie, P.McKay, Whitehouse.

Leeds United: Turnbull; Berardi, Bellusci, Cooper, Taylor; Mowatt (Byram 75), Wootton, Cook; Doukara (Murphy 67), Antenucci, Dallas (Wood 67). Unused substitutes: Silvestri, Bamba, Erwin, Phillips.

Referee: K Hill (Hertfordshire).