MANCHESTER UNITED fan Ben Whiteman is hoping for a dream FA Cup tie against the Old Trafford club.
The midfielder netted twice – including a 90th-minute penalty – to send Doncaster Rovers through to the competition’s fifth round for the first time in 63 years.
Having spent 10 years on the books at Old Trafford as a schoolboy before being released as a 16-year-old, Whiteman is hoping tonight’s draw for the last 32 brings a money-spinning tie with the Premier League side. Rovers are already guaranteed £180,000 prize money for reaching the fifth round, and a chance to scoop a £250,000 FA bonus if they are the last League One club left in the competition.
“I want to get Manchester United away in the next round,” said 22-year-old Whiteman. “I support them and we all want a big tie. It’s going to be a fun Monday night.
“I was at Old Trafford from six to 16, before getting released. I then went to Sheffield United and then came here.
“I am a big Man United fan, my family are and were here today, and a few friends who are Oldham fans were in the away end. I will probably give them a bit of stick.
I was at Old Trafford from six to 16, before getting released. I then went to Sheffield United and then came here.Doncaster’s Ben Whiteman
“United are flying at the minute, which is good for me to see personally, climbing back up the table, but, hopefully, we can draw them on Monday.”
For the opening 25 minutes, League One Rovers looked like they were from a higher division than their opponents.
Whiteman lashed wide from a well-worked corner, before visiting goalkeeper Dan Iversen – on loan from Leicester City – saved well from Jame Coppinger.
Chris O’Grady – no stranger to South Yorkshire football after spells at Sheffield Wednesday, Sheffield United, Barnsley and Rotherham United – was thwarted by Marko Marosi at the other end.
But Rovers should have taken the lead on 22 minutes. John Marquis beat the offside trap, rounded the goalkeeper and looked set for his 21st goal of the season before his goalbound shot was somehow hacked off the line by Peter Clarke.
It was the start of an eventful afternoon for the 37-year-old – a stalwart of the game who spent five years with Huddersfield Town – who had a hand, quite literally, in all the game’s main incidents.
He got a deflection on Whiteman’s shot, which wrong-footed Iverson for the opening goal, popped up with the equaliser, conceded the late, late penalty by handling before being red-carded in stoppage time.
It was a harsh ending for the visitors, who came so close to earning a replay after a spirited second-half display, former Sheffield United midfielder Jose Baxter heading wide at the near post before Doncaster goalkeeper Marosi made a double save to thwart Johan Branger and Baxter.
Danish goalkeeper Iversen tipped away an effort from Kieran Sadlier – the young Irish striker making his first Rovers start –who cut inside from the left flank before curling his effort towards the top corner.
But the goalkeeper had no chance when Clarke’s head deflected Whiteman’s long-range strike – after excellent work down the wing from Alfie May – into the net on 68 minutes to break the deadlock.
May had a shot deflected wide off Clarke – who else? – and at the other end Chris Missilou hit the post, before Callum Lang smashed the rebound into the side-netting. Oldham got their deserved equaliser, Gevaro Nepomuceno’s free-kick ricocheting kindly to the feet of Clarke, who blasted the ball beyond a stranded Markosi.
But the drama was not over. Rovers, roared on by the 11,620 Keepmoat crowd, piled forward and after a goalmouth scramble – with the ball hitting the crossbar – referee Peter Bankes finally pointed to the penalty spot after consulting his assistant and fourth official, who had spotted Clarke’s handball offence.
Whiteman kept his cool, to fire low beyond Iversen to make it 2-1, as the board went up to show six minutes of stoppage time.
That proved long enough for Clarke to receive his second yellow card of the afternoon – for making contact with Marosi – as Rovers secured their fifth-round ticket.
“It was a proper Cup-tie, we knew they were going to come on strong in the second half,” said Whiteman.
“I got a little fortunate with the first goal, taking a little deflection, and they did with their goal, the free-kick bouncing straight to their player.
“It was a definite handball, and they tried to stall me a bit taking the penalty, but I tried to keep my cool and slot it away.
“I am confident in myself, but I was a little bit nervous. I knew where I was going to put the ball,” he said. “We were always confident, we are one of the best sides in League One, and I think that’s been shown.
“In the first half, it was a little bit sloppy, getting the ball into attacking areas, and they came on strong in the second half. We didn’t really pass it as well, but a little bit of luck has probably got us through.”
Doncaster Rovers: Marosi, Mason, Downing, Anderson, Andrew, Kane, Wjiteman, Coppinger (Blair 63), May (Wright 90), Marquis, Sadlier (Wilks 63). Unused substitutes: Jones, Lewis, Crawford, Rowe.
Oldham Athletic: Iversen, Hamer, Edmundson, Clarke, Nepomuceno, Branger, Missilou, Sylla, Lang, Baxter (Vera 76), O’Grady. Unused substitutes: Dummigan, Taylor, de la Paz, Benteke, Hunt, Robinson.
Referee: P Bankes (Merseyside).