Analysis: Doncaster Rovers 1 Sheffield Wednesday 0

Chris Brown celebrates his goal against Sheffield Wednesday.
Chris Brown celebrates his goal against Sheffield Wednesday.
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Paul Dickov wrote in his column in this paper last week that each derby clash won is done so by the side which wants it the most.

And he will have been delighted that it was his Rovers side proving him right at the Keepmoat on Saturday.

If ‘wanting it’ is measured on desire, energy and workrate, Rovers were certainly superior in that category for the majority of their meeting with Wednesday.

Chris Brown’s 32nd minute tap-in proved the fatal blow to an energetic start from the Owls and paved the way for what was a fairly comfortable triumph for Rovers.

Driving the want for the win could very well have been the need for it.

Wednesday’s midweek triumph against Queens Park Rangers looked to have made their Championship stay more permanent, something which Rovers are yet to do.

With two away trips to follow, the importance of picking up points at home was major for a Rovers side hardly known for being road warriors.

In fact, their win over the Owls in the reverse fixture was their solitary away triumph of the season, making Saturday’s victory the most sweet of doubles.

It was delivered with a great deal of industry, particularly in the second half when Dickov’s men opted to sit back and allow an off-colour Wednesday to come at them, content to put in the hard yards defensively.

Wednesday had picked up where they left off against QPR in midweek over the first quarter of the game, producing high-energy play complete with zippy passing that had Rovers chasing shadows. But they failed to make possession and pressure count from this period - a catastrophic miss from Leon Best being the most rued bout of profligacy.

Whether the exertions of Tuesday night’s game played a part or not, Wednesday certainly dipped considerably as the game wore on.

Brown’s goal appeared to considerably knock the stuffing out of the Owls and they failed to reproduce the endeavour of the early stages.

Stuart Gray’s side looked sluggish and lacked ideas once they fell behind.

Dickov revealed after the game he had given his players a couple of days off, believing the rest would stand them in good stead against a Wednesday side who had come through an energy-sapping game four days prior.

His gamble paid off as Rovers had more fuel in the tank.

It could all have been so different had the Owls maintained their early control.

They played at a high tempo and found their way into the final third with regularity over the first 20 minutes.

The Owls had two very good chances to take the lead in that period.

First, Sam Johnstone fluffed a catch from an Oguchi Onyewu long throw but made an excellent save on the floor as Lewis Buxton lashed a shot off the rebound which a few feet to the left or right would have found the net.

An incredible miss from Best on 20 minutes left each member of the Keepmoat’s biggest crowd of the season scratching their heads as to how he managed it.

Jeremy Helan did well to keep possession on the left and find a low cross which met Best ghosting in only for the striker to somehow send the ball wide from six yards.

Rovers began to force their way into the game following the miss and it took a fine stop from Chris Kirkland to keep them out.

David Cotterill played a smart free-kick across the face of the box with James Coppinger arriving late to drill on goal, producing a strong stop from Kirkland, who was certainly kept busy on his return to action.

Kirkland could do little to prevent Rovers taking the lead just after the half hour.

Richie Wellens was given the freedom of the Keepmoat to send Sharp scarpering past Onyewu to drill a shot from ten yards which Kirkland could only parry, sending it straight into the path of Brown who tapped into an empty net.

Rovers’ workhorse striker checked for an offside flag before beginning his celebrations.

Wednesday dipped almost immediately.

The key battle on the day came in central midfield and it was driven by energy.

Neither central duo should ever be given space and time to operate.

Rovers’ Wellens and Paul Keegan did their best to deny Kieran Lee and Liam Palmer room to work but were also afforded the luxury of space themselves.

It allowed Rovers to establish control which they would never relinquish.

They operated the second half mainly as backfoot fighters, happy to invite an increasingly desperate Wednesday on but demonstrating dangerous counter punching.

Sam Hutchinson was thrown on for the Owls, giving them increased bite in midfield and showing that he probably should have started the game.

Long balls from the back became the modus operandi of Wednesday. But second balls were rarely picked up with everything seeming to drop to energetic Rovers.

Even when they did hold possession in the opposition half, the Owls’ play was often over-complicated and the ball quickly returned to the hosts.

It took an eye-catching save from Johnstone to keep Wednesday out on 57 minutes, however, as he tipped the ball away one-handed when Chris Maguire unleashed a pile-driver. But it was Johnstone’s opposite number who was the busier and Kirkland certainly played his part in keeping the Owls in the game.

An in-swinging free-kick from Cotterill found an unmarked Sharp who flicked a header on goal, with Kirkland palming it away.

Boyhood Blade Sharp was targeted by the 4,300-plus Wednesday following but did his cause few favours with a couple of gestures late on as it became apparent he would be having the last laugh.

Rovers’ heroic triumph means both they and Wednesday will increasingly be looking towards their next season in the Championship.

But Saturday showed, despite their dramatic later-season turnaround, the Owls still have plenty to do if they are not going to be drawn into another unwanted lower-table battle next term.