How did Doncaster Rovers fare in their first game for six months

TWO rough and tough defenders who could best be described as uncompromising in their playing days, Darren Moore and Tony Mowbray’s footballing philosophies belie their former status.
Action from Doncaster's opening game at Blackburn (PIcture: PA)Action from Doncaster's opening game at Blackburn (PIcture: PA)
Action from Doncaster's opening game at Blackburn (PIcture: PA)

Both are idealists who believe that football should be played on the grass and not in the sky and most would say amen to that.

In the end, Cup progress in Saturday’s curtain-raiser was not Doncaster’s, but there was solace in a game second-half performance which proved a mini-feast, even if the visitors – tiring in their first competitive outing since March 7 – did fall away in the final quarter as they relinquished a 2-1 advantage.

There are ways to lose and this was the right way.

Doncaster Rovers' Fejiri Okenabirhie fouls Blackburn Rovers' Joe Rankin-Costello during the Carabao Cup match at Ewood Park. (Picture: Richard Sellers/PA Wire)Doncaster Rovers' Fejiri Okenabirhie fouls Blackburn Rovers' Joe Rankin-Costello during the Carabao Cup match at Ewood Park. (Picture: Richard Sellers/PA Wire)
Doncaster Rovers' Fejiri Okenabirhie fouls Blackburn Rovers' Joe Rankin-Costello during the Carabao Cup match at Ewood Park. (Picture: Richard Sellers/PA Wire)
Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The likes of goal-scorer Madger Gomes – who struck his maiden goal for the club with a bit of help from home goalkeeper Andy Fisher – and debutant Taylor Richards stepped up to the plate after a tough first period, with the latter’s eye for a pass discernible.

With a senior midfield triumvirate in Lewis Holtby, Bradley Johnson and Lewis Travis, the hosts governed a first half which will have been an education to Doncaster’s midfield axis, tasked with assuming responsibility in the absence of Ben Whiteman.

Despite being present at Ewood Park, Whiteman sat out the game, ostensibly with a ‘niggle’, although most will have speculated that strong interest from Barnsley – with Blackburn among several other suitors – might also have had something to do with it.

Watch this space, as the saying goes.

If Whiteman does go, Gomes and Richards – and Rovers – will have to progress fast.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Offering his thoughts, Gomes said: “If we need to do very well, we need Ben as he is our captain and one of the best players in the team.

“We all want him to stay. But as well, we also want the best for him.

“If he goes to improve, we will be happy for him and hopefully he can do whatever he feels. If he feels he is better staying with us, we will be happy for him.”

Blackburn’s motto is Arte et Labore, with that message proudly adoring several billboards around Ewood Park.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Meaning ‘by skill and hard work’, there was not much of the former on show in the first half from Doncaster, yet it was undeniably hard going.

The ring-rust of playing their first game in 175 days – not far shy of six months – and with limited preparation matches was hard to shake off against a Blackburn side who had sunned themselves with decent pre-season victories against the likes of Blackpool.

Jason Lokilo went close early on for the visitors, but it proved a mirage and the other first-half action was almost exclusively at the other end in front of the swatches of empty blue seats in the vast Darwen End.

Debutant Joe Bursik had to be alert to keep out a deflected low shot from Harry Chapman, while Blackburn spurned several promising set-piece situations before making one count emphatically.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

A glorious curling free-kick from Holtby beat Bursik all ends up on the half hour – a goal which had been coming.

Whatever Moore said to his charges at the break worked a treat in a highly-watchable second period in which his side – whose conviction and intensity levels arose – played a full part.

A rugged challenge from home captain Darragh Lenigan saw referee Anthony Backhouse show no hesitation in pointing to the spot after the defender’s foul on Fejiri Okenabirhie.

The Rovers striker, so isolated in the first period, coolly sent Fisher the wrong way in his first outing since being dismissed in Doncaster’s defeat at Gillingham in February.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

A spotter’s badge of a pass from Richards set Doncaster on their way to a second, with the ball eventually breaking for Gomes, whose low shot from distance flew under the body of Fisher, with the Rovers custodian not covering himself in glory.

Shocked into action, Blackburn gradually recomposed themselves and grabbed a scruffy leveller after Doncaster’s defence failed to clear, with Joe Rankin-Costello helping himself to his first professional goal from close range.

With Doncaster suddenly in retreat, a second penalty of an eventful second 45 minutes saw Adam Armstrong fire past Bursik after Brad Halliday was penalised for bringing down Amari’i Bell with nine minutes to go.

Blackburn Rovers: Fisher; Rankin-Costello, Lenihan, Wharton, Bell; Travis, Johnson, Holtby (Rothwell 41); Chapman (Dolan 65), Armstrong; Brereton. Unused substitutes: Eastham, Nyambe, D Williams, Evans, Bennett.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Doncaster Rovers: Bursik; Halliday, Wright, Anderson, John; Richards (Hasani 73), Gomes; Taylor (E Williams 69), Coppinger (Amos 82), Lokilo; Okenabirhie. Unused substitutes: Jones, Greaves, Horton, Blythe.

Referee: A Backhouse (Cumbria).

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.

So, please - if you can - pay for our work. Just £5 per month is the starting point. If you think that which we are trying to achieve is worth more, you can pay us what you think we are worth. By doing so, you will be investing in something that is becoming increasingly rare. Independent journalism that cares less about right and left and more about right and wrong. Journalism you can trust.

Thank you

James Mitchinson

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.