Robinson goal settles battle of Rovers to earn Dickov first win

Rovers' boss Paul Dickov.
Rovers' boss Paul Dickov.
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Doncaster Rovers got their season up and running under the Friday night lights at the Keepmoat Stadium.

In a lively performance, full of athleticism and speed, Doncaster defeated their much-vaunted rivals from across the Pennines to secure the first League win of the Paul Dickov era.

Theo Robinson repaid the manager’s faith in rescuing him from the Derby County reserves just 24 hours earlier, by capping an encouraging debut with a first-half header.

And then a man Dickov will be hoping to keep a hold of in the final weeks of the transfer window, James Husband, scored a fortuitous second with a cross that floated into the net.

But it was no more than the South Yorkshire club deserved for their hunger and their endeavour.

After an opening-day defeat to Blackpool, Dickov’s men last night looked a lot stronger proposition for the riguors of the Championship.

At the back, on-loan Premier League defenders Bongani Khumalo of Tottenham and Reece Wabara of Manchester City, added power to the bulk of Rob Jones, while Husband provided the flair.

Allied with controlled performances from the returning Paul Keegan and Richie Wellens, the defensive unit restricted one of the most expensively-assembled strike forces in the Championship to merely half-chances.

Jordan Rhodes – an £8m signing from Huddersfield 12 months ago – never got the service. And Leon Best, who cost £3m when he moved to Ewood Park, could do little better in his 24-minute cameo.

Such money will never be at the disposal of Doncaster, and even before kick-off, owner John Ryan admitted that talks about fresh investment coming into the club had stalled.

But with the heart and determination of last night, Doncaster may yet exceed their expectations of simply avoiding relegation.

On the evidence of his loan captures and the signatures of Robinson and Ross Turnbull in goal, Dickov has so far proven to be a shrewd operator in the transfer market.

In Robinson he has found someone who can inject a bit of pace into the frontline, but it was his strike partner Chris Brown who nearly gave them the lead on eight minutes.

Blackburn defender Jason Lowe misjudged a backpass to goalkeeper Jake Kean and Brown pounced in between the two, his toe poke trickling agonisingly wide.

Brown was looking hungry, and moments later he capitalised on more hesitancy in the Blackburn rearguard and fed David Cotterill, whose rasping drive was beaten away.

The chances kept coming. This time it was James Coppinger, nipping in front of Scott Dann to send Robinson racing clear but Kean was out of his area quickly to thwart the danger.

Rhodes gave warning of the threat he carries on 28 minutes when he chased a lost cause and got there just in front of Turnbull. Despite the angle being acute and Rhodes being off balance, he was still able to give home fans a fright with a first-time shot that drifted just wide. Coppinger was then unfortunate to see a close-range shot deflect into Kean’s hands off Lowe.

Blackburn were just starting to settle, with Grant Henley heading wide, when Dickov’s men struck nine minutes before the break.

It was an innocuous looking set-piece from midway inside the Rovers half but Husband delivered with pace to the front post and there was Robinson to head it powerfully beyond Kean from eight yards.

Blackburn showed greater impetus on the resumption. Tommy Spurr, who only switched from the Rovers of the Keepmoat to those at Ewood Park in the summer, sent over a tantalising ball from the left that Chris Taylor was just about to head across Turnbull when Husband nipped in to clear.

The men from East Lancashire were beginning to exert a bit of pressure with Tom Cairney’s inswinging corners causing consternation in the home rearguard. Twice Khumalo came to the rescue with towering headers.

Just as in the first half, though, as Blackburn began to take charge, Doncaster swung the momentum back their way, and decisively so.

Another set-piece inside the centre circle saw Husband dash over the ball and dart down the left, Cotterill sending the ball his way to create the better angle. What it did was open up an inadvertent shooting chance with Husband’s cross from 35 yards looping over the head of Kean.

Buoyant Doncaster nearly put the game beyond reach just after the hour when Brown’s far-post header had Kean beaten, but an over-eager Robinson stole in to make sure, only to be adjudged offside.

Gary Bowyer responded from the visiting dugout by throwing on Best midway through the second half.

But Doncaster kept going forward, Brown again going close to the killer third with a close-range volley that deflected off Hanley and into the arms of Kean.

With such talent up front there were always going to be moments of anxiety for the home faithful in the crowd of 8,707, and Best provided one when his downward header from Spurr’s left-wing cross dropped the wrong side of the post.

But otherwise Doncaster closed out their first League win with relative ease.

Doncaster Rovers: Turnbull, Wabara, Jones, Khumalo, Husband; Coppinger, Keegan, Wellens, Cotterill (Syers 90); Brown, Robinson (Duffy 76). Unused substitutes: Maxted, Quinn, Paynter, McCullough, Bennett.

Blackburn Rovers: Kean, Kane, Hanley, Lowe, Spurr; Judge, Dann, Dunn (King 66), Taylor (Best 66), Cairney (Evans 60); Rhodes. Unused substitutes: Eastwood, Marrow, Morris, Givet.

Referee: G Eltringham (County Durham).