Ipswich 3 Doncaster Rovers 2 - Match Report

SPORT'Photograph Simon Parker 22/1/2011''Ipswich Town V Doncaster Rovers at Portman Road'Doncaster second Goal
SPORT'Photograph Simon Parker 22/1/2011''Ipswich Town V Doncaster Rovers at Portman Road'Doncaster second Goal
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It was the first time that the Suffolk side had beaten Rovers in five attempts at Championship level, and it will have given them a confidence boost going into tomorrow’s Carling Cup semi-final second leg tie against Arsenal at the Emirates.

Rovers defeat by the odd goal in five extended their run of league and cup games without a win to five during which time they have dropped into the bottom half of the Championship table and been knocked out of the FA Cup.

SPORT'Photograph Simon Parker 22/1/2011''Ipswich Town V Doncaster Rovers at Portman Road

SPORT'Photograph Simon Parker 22/1/2011''Ipswich Town V Doncaster Rovers at Portman Road

With all due respect to the FA Cup, it is the potential damage to their promotion play-off prospects which is of more concern to the club’s management and players.

But providing that Rovers can turn things around quickly then not too much damage will have been done.

How quickly Rovers can get back on track will depend to a great extent on being able to stem the flood of goals they are currently conceding.

The three they let in at Portman Road, against a side boasting just one win from their last 11 league games, took their tally to 11 in their last three outings.

SPORT'Photograph Simon Parker 22/1/2011''Ipswich Town V Doncaster Rovers at Portman Road

SPORT'Photograph Simon Parker 22/1/2011''Ipswich Town V Doncaster Rovers at Portman Road

Most of Rovers’ problems of late are due to their leaky defence, though not all the blame should be attributed to the back four.

For Rovers, as a team, are not defending to the level expected of them for the full 90 minutes and lapses in concentration and individual mistakes are being punished.

Quite why Rovers have suddenly started shipping in so many goals is a puzzle.

They might lack the services of Wayne Thomas and Shelton Martis, but on paper the back four which started the game was as strong as any Rovers have fielded this season.

Admittedly, new loan signing Matt Kilgallon and James Chambers have only started a handful of games between them this season and probably both need a couple more games to be firing on all cylinders. But both are quality players and even operating at 90 per cent would probably get into most Championship sides.On a more positive note, Rovers were back among the goals after failing to score in their last two games, and their midfield play - especially in the first half - was more like we have come to expect over recent seasons.

Rovers got off to a dream start with leading scorer Billy Sharp giving them the lead after just six minutes.

He got the end of a long ball down the right by James Coppinger and cut into the box before drilling his angled shot past keeper Marton Fulop.

Sharp had gone close even earlier - he hit the left-hand post in a one-on-one with keeper Fulop after being set by a clever lofted ball into the box by John Oster.

Rovers had a second bite of the cherry when the ball ran to Coppinger on the edge of the area, but his shot cleared the crossbar.

Said Sharp: “It was nice to score straight after the chance when I hit the post. It was good to get another chance straight away, unlike the other night (at Wolves) when I should have scored early on.”

Sharp looked to have made it 2-0 on 26 minutes. He produced a clinical finish after getting on the end of a cross from the right only to be ruled offside.

It looked a harsh call at the time, but Sharp admitted that the officials had got the decision right,

Town’s 17-year-old striker, Connor Wickham, who became the youngest Ipswich player to make his first-team debut in the corresponding fixture last season, posed problems for the Rovers defence on a couple of occasions during what was a good spell by the home side.

But Town’s best chance of the half fell to fellow striker Thamas Priskin on 36 minutes. He headed over at the far post from just six yards after Lee Martin had done well to get in a by-line cross despite the attentions of Kilgallon.

Rovers rode their luck and went close to doubling their lead in the dying minutes of the half and but for Town’s man-of-the-match Carlos Edwards clearing Kilgallon’s downward header from a corner they would have led 2-0 at the break.

Had Rovers gone in two goals to the good then there would have been the likelihood that Town would have looked more towards the Arsenal game, where they will be defending a 1-0 lead from the first leg.

But any such thoughts were quickly dismissed as they equalised with four minutes of the restart.

Priskin picked out David Norris, a thorn in Rovers’ side for much of the second half, and he volleyed home.

The goal lifted the spirits of both the Ipswich team and their supporters and it wasn’t long before they had taken the lead.

Colin Healy floated in a teasing cross into the box from the left where it was met at the far post Wickham, who headed past Sullivan in fine style.

The 300 or so Rovers fans in the crowd must have wondered whether the floodgates would open as they had done in the FA Cup at Wolves in midweek.

They didn’t have to wait long for their answer.

Coppinger did well down the right before crossing into the box where Sharp, who probably knew little about the goal, and defender Gareth McAuley, both dived at the ball.

Said Sharp: “I only got the slightest of touches on it and I think the goalie ended up putting it in the net. But if I’ve got it then I’m delighted.

“It was brilliant because we’d got back into the game at 2-2 and I believed that we could go on and win it.

“But at the minute we are having a bad time of it and we can’t keep the ball out (of the net) at the other end.”

Rovers remained on level terms for just a couple of minutes.

Edwards got the better of Sharp and then unleashed a 25-yarder which took a slight deflection on its way to the back of the net to restore Town’s lead on 65 minutes.

Ipswich always looked the more likely winners after that and they continued to put Rovers under pressure with Norris and Wickham both going close to adding to their tally.

Rovers produced little of the composure on the ball which had been a feature of their play in the first half, and chances were few and far between after falling behind.

James Hayter fired into the side netting with an angled shot late on after being put through by Oster and Kilgallon saw his late effort beaten away by Fulop.

Said Kilgallon: “It was a disappointing result. If you score two goals away from home you should be looking to win.

“But at the moment we are conceding too many goals. We’ve got to concentrate better and we’ve got to sort out the problem quickly.

“We’d spoken at half-time about not conceding and we conceded almost straight away. People might say that it’s a new back four, but we’ve all played loads of games so that shouldn’t be a problem.

“I know it’s only my second game back (after a lengthy lay-off with a back injury) but I felt all right, to be honest.

“Their front two were lively, but I think we should be beating teams like them. But they’ve got a new manager and maybe that spurred them on today.”