Retro: 1985 cup run for Doncaster Rovers

Doncaster v QPR 5 January 85 -  3rd round FA cup Victory 1-0 @ Belle
Doncaster v QPR 5 January 85 - 3rd round FA cup Victory 1-0 @ Belle
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Doncaster Rovers fans may be looking to pop star Louis Tomlinson to change the club’s fortunes after his takeover was recently confirmed.

However, in the early 1980s there was no such benefactor and the dwindling number of Belle Vue regulars were hoping former Leeds United star Billy Bremner would bring success to the club.

Bremner arrived at the Rovers from Hull City in November 1978 to replace Stan Anderson and keep the team in the Football League.

Despite reaching a high of 11th place just after the mid-point of the season, Bremner could not halt a slide to 22nd, which meant the club had to reapply for their place in the Football League.

The Rovers’ request was obliged and Bremner looked forward to his first full season as a manager.

Doncaster finished a more respectable 12th in the 1979-1980 campaign and fans saw the emergence of a number of promising young local players, such as brothers Glynn and Ian Snodin, David Harle and Steve Lister.

Bremner guided the Rovers to Division Three in the 1980-1981 season after ten years in the bottom tier, despite being restricted by the club’s poor financial position and a small squad of players.

These problems could not be abated, however, and the team struggled in the league until relegated at the end of the 1982-1983 term.

Bremner and the team bounced back at the first time of asking, thanks to goals from veteran Ernie Moss, youngster Colin Douglas and Glynn Snodin contributing a share from midfield.

The Rovers were inconsistent during the first half of the 1984-1985 campaign in Division Three as they overcame unbeaten Reading and league leaders Bradford City, but also lost a number of games consecutively.

Bremner and the team negotiated the early stages of the FA Cup with wins against Rochdale and Altrincham.

The reward for overcoming these obstacles was a third round tie at home on January 5, 1985 against Division One’s Queens Park Rangers.

Terry Venables had guided QPR into the top tier after three years in Division Two and fifth place was secured during their first season back in the top flight.

However, Venables had left at the end of the season to take the reins at Barcelona and QPR struggled to fill the void.

In his programme notes for the match, 1972 FA Cup winner Bremner said: “The FA Cup is something special to everyone connected with and who support football. It is the “ultimate” in all football “knock-out” competitions wherever football is played, worldwide. The substantial extra revenue which a good run in the Cup can provide also makes it an important vehicle in club economics, particularly major clubs.

“Ask anyone at a major club what it feels like after being knocked out by a “minnow” in the third round and they’ll tell you that it’s just as though the “roof’s fallen in”!’

Doncaster Rovers: Peacock, Russell, Lister I. Snodin, Kowalski, Humphries, Buckley, Butterworth, Douglas, Harle, G. Snodin. Substitute: Woods.

QPR: Hucker, Robinson, Dawes, Waddock, Chivers, Fenwick, McDonald, Fillery, Bannister, Byrne, Gregory. Substitute: Fereday.

The away side looked to take the wind out of the Rovers’ sails early on and Lister had to be alert to deny Byrne a shot at goal. Then, a free kick had to be cleared by Peacock and soon after Waddock fired just over Doncaster’s crossbar.

Ian Snodin tried to get the Rovers going but the move broke down when Douglas was flagged offside.

A free kick taken by Russell found Lister at the back post but his shot was cleared off the goal line by Chivers.

The Rovers had the ball in the Rangers’ net on 15 minutes after a good passing move. However, Glynn Snodin was judged offside by the linesman, leaving the majority of the 10,583 in attendance disappointed.

QPR were living dangerously by relying on the offside trap and using the counter attack to alleviate the pressure exerted by Doncaster.

QPR had a good chance when Byrne beat Buckley on the left wing to cross for Robinson, who was unmarked in the box. He could not find the target though and the shot went just over the crossbar.

Bannister then had a shot from outside the penalty area go inches past the post.

Butterworth delivered an inviting cross but it did not find a Rovers player and was cleared by Chivers.

Buckley then fired wide of Hucker’s goal, as did Banister at the opposite end following a squirming run through the Doncaster defence.

After the break Doncaster continued to press and Hucker had to be quick to reach the ball before Butterworth. This was repeated after Russell and Harle combined to feed Ian Snodin. His brother almost instigated the decisive move but Buckley could only fire wide after receiving the pass.

In the 80th minute Harle’s left foot shot curled into QPR’s goal and secured a deserved win for the Rovers.

In the fourth round draw, Doncaster was given an away tie at Division One leaders Everton, but a similar giant killing was not forthcoming and they were not disgraced in a 2-0 defeat.

Bremner’s men finished the campaign in 14th position but the Rovers’ young talent had drawn the attention of bigger clubs and Ian Snodin and David Harle were sold to Leeds United.

Glynn Snodin transferred to Sheffield Wednesday, while Steve Lister moved on to Scunthorpe United.

After overseeing the start of the 1985-1986 season, Bremner departed in October to take charge of Leeds United and this brought an end to a turbulent but exciting period of the Rovers’ history.