FOOTBALL got a good news story to celebrate after a week in which a 26-year-old England player was forced to quit the game.
Hull City’s Ryan Mason lost his battle to return after a sickening head injury but 21-year-old Alex Kiwomya won his and made a scoring first start of the season for Doncaster Rovers at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Sheffield-born striker Kiwomya never envisaged he would be back in action this season after being laid low in pre-season by the potentially life-threatening Guillain-Barre syndrome.
It is a disorder in which the immune system attacks healthy nerve cells in the peripheral nervous system and leads to weakness, numbness, tingling and eventual paralysis.
Kiwomya had made the bench for the previous three games but returned to the starting fray as Darren Ferguson made five changes to the side which had lost 4-2 to Walsall in midweek.
Kiwomya was soon celebrating with a goal, tucking the ball home from fellow forward John Marquis’s 14th-minute low cross.
After Rovers had registered their first win of 2018 – a seventh successive defeat cost Fleetwood coach Uwe Rosler his job – Kiwomya, who was lying in a hospital bed at the start of the season, admitted: “There were loads of times when I didn’t know if I was ever going to come back.
“There was one point where I felt it wasn’t going to get any better but it really took a turn one week where I knew I would really start playing again.”
“If you had said to me three months ago that I would be starting today then I would have said ‘no chance’. For me to get up to match fitness it was all about me putting my all in in training and working with the boys and it showed today.”
Kiwomya’s strike came against a club he had enjoyed a short loan spell with and he continued: “The goal has been a long time coming and it has been a long road back. John got it down the left, held off the defender, picked me out and I slotted it in.
“It made it sweeter coming against a former club and it helps me kick on, lets me know I have got it in the locker and know that I am ready to score again.”
Kiwomya lasted 72 minutes against Fleetwood and his next target is to start against the club where he began his youth career, Rotherham United. That match is on Saturday at the New York Stadium and Kiwomya, whose pace soon saw him plucked away by Chelsea and led to England honours at various youth levels, is sure Saturday’s win has lifted everyone’s spirits with Rovers six points clear of the drop zone.
“It’s a big game against Rotherham next but the players thrive off playing in big games like this. I need to ensure I am ready for Saturday. I am not far off from being ready for 90 minutes again.”
Rovers had another hero against Fleetwood in Burnley loanee central defender Tom Anderson, who went in at the double as they dug themselves out of a hole after literally filling one in.
The match only went ahead after groundstaff made urgent pitch repairs after a hole, containing a sprinkler, developed to the right of the dugouts a couple of yards from the touchline.
After Kiwomya had made it 1-0, Anderson went up for a free-kick and won another on the edge of the area and was on hand to force home the second goal after Marquis’s low drive had squirmed out of the grasp of Alex Cairns in the 27th minute.
He got his second after the break when clever play from James Coppinger released Tommy Rowe to cross from the right and Anderson planted a fine header beyond Cairns in the 55th minute.
The recalled Marko Marosi pulled off a smart right-handed save from former Bradford forward Jordy Hiwula but Rovers finished well on top.
Kiwomya added: “We will take each game at a time. It’s always a threat (relegation) but we have definitely got a good enough squad to stay up but it is all about putting in the performances.
“We wanted to bounce back and show that that is not who we are (in the defeat to Walsall) and that is what we did.
“We all knew it had not been good enough.
“We had to look in the mirror and deal with that.”
Doncaster Rovers: Marosi, Alcock, Anderson, Boyle, Mason; McCullogh; Beestin (Blair 79), Coppinger, Rowe; Marquis, Kiwomya (May 72). Unused substitutes: Lawlor, Whiteman, Houghton, Kongolo, Baudry.
Fleetwood Town: Cairns, Boyle, Eastham, Bolger, O’Connor (Hiwula 46); Dempsey, Diagouraga, Grant (McAleny 46); Burns (Jones 61), Madden, Hunter. Unused substitutes: Neal, Pond, Schwabl, Sowerby.
Referee: D Drysdale (Lincs).