Cardiff City 2 Doncaster Rovers 0: Match Report

Mustapha Dumbuya in action
Mustapha Dumbuya in action
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DONCASTER Rovers are just three games away from setting an unwanted club record.

Rovers last won a Championship game six months ago, have now gone 18 games without a victory following Saturday’s defeat in the Welsh capital and are fast closing in on the current record of 20 set in the ill-fated 1997-98 Division Three campaign.

Simon Gillett in action

Simon Gillett in action

There is no comparison between the current team and the side which was relegated to the Conference, but there is a real possibility of Rovers at least equalling the record.

There had looked to be some light at the end of the tunnel after Rovers picked up their first point of the season last time out after kicking off the season with four successive defeats.

But they remain rooted to the foot of the table after suffering a third defeat in as many visits to the Bluebirds’ new home.

The only consolation for those Rovers fans - and there were far fewer than the last two seasons - who made the long trip to South Wales was the fact that the size of the defeat was an improvement on the 4-0 drubbing 12 months earlier.

That was partly due to Rovers defending better than last September and not folding in the second half as they did on that occasion, and the fact that new-look Cardiff aren’t quite as strong as they were this time last year.

Well though Robert Earnshaw played, the Wales international’s partnership with Scotland star Kenny Miller looked some way short on the day of the one forged by departed duo Jay Bothroyd and Michael Chopra last season.

Rovers, whose unprecedented injury problems in the last nine months have played a massive part in their struggles in both the second half of last season and the opening weeks of the 2011-12 campaign, welcomed back James Coppinger and James O’Connor - starting his first game of the season - after injury.

Whilst the Rovers management will have been pleased to see them both back in action, the man they would most like to see back in a red and white hooped shirt is striker Billy Sharp - thought to be around three to four weeks away from a return to action given no setbacks.

Sharp would be the first to deny that Rovers are a one-man team, and he’d be right. There are numerous good players on the books.

But it’s a fact, as was the case last season except when fellow striker James Hayter scored in five consecutive games before Christmas when the former Blade was sidelined, that Rovers struggle to score goals when Sharp’s not playing.

Rovers have only netted one goal in the league since Sharp, who scored before being injured, was stretchered off with damaged ankle ligaments on the opening day of the season at Brighton.

Rovers boss Sean O’Driscoll hinted in the build-up to the game that it was by no means certain that centre-back George Friend would automatically hand over the captain’s armband to influential midfielder Brian Stock on his return to the starting line-up, which could be as early as this weekend.

A surprise choice at the time, the young defender has grown into the role and again led from the front defensively - though he was partly to blame for Cardiff’s second goal.

Rovers opted to play with three centre-backs but defensively they were all at sea in the opening minutes as the home side tore into them.

Earnshaw, whose miss at Wembley in midweek possibly cost Wales a draw against England in their Euro 2012 qualifier, went close to giving the Bluebirds an early lead.

He hit the near post from close range after young keeper Gary Woods had failed to hang on to an angled shot by Craig Conway.

Rovers rode their luck, as they did a bit later in the half when Miller failed to convert a good chance, and gradually started to pose some problems of their own.

Kyle Bennett forced David Marshall into a good save at the expense of a corner with a 25-yarder, and James Hayter appeared to surprise the keeper, who needed to attempts to collect the ball, with a left-footer after the home side had failed to deal with a long kick by Woods.

Wing-back Mustapha Dumbuya also fired wide with an angled shot after cutting in from the right,

Rovers certainly had grounds for optimism at the break.

The Bluebirds started the second half as they had started the first with Earnshaw winning them a 46th-minute corner with a deflected shot.

The home side grabbed the all-important opening goal on 52 minutes.

They won a free-kick on the right and centre-back Anthony Gerrard’s run from deep wasn’t picked up and he headed home from Peter Whittingham’s cross.

Rovers were still in the game at that stage but they lacked a cutting edge despite having brought on a striker (Milan Lalkovic) for a defender (Richard Naylor) at the start of the half.

Unfortunately, the switch didn’t have the desired effect and Rovers created fewer chances than they had in the first half.

The longer the game went on the more likely it looked as though Cardiff would extend their lead rather than concede an equaliser.

Their pressure finally paid off on 75 minutes.

Friend put his fellow defenders under pressure when trying to prevent Miller breaking into the box and the ball went straight to Whittingham in front of goal about 12 yards out. He immediately looked to pick out the unmarked Earnshaw to his left and did so at the second attempt after being thwarted by Tommy Spurr, and the striker slotted the ball under the body of the onrushing Woods.

Friend almost made amends, his clever run setting up a shooting chance for Coppinger 25 yards out which just cleared the bar.

Cardiff finished on top, however, and Woods was kept busy in stoppage time denying both Whittingham and substitute Rudy Gestede.