MATCH REPORT: Derby County 3 Doncaster Rovers 0

Three onto one: Rovers'most impressive player Giles Barnes takes on a trio of Derby opponents in the 3-0 defeat at Pride Park.   Pictures: Steve Taylor
Three onto one: Rovers'most impressive player Giles Barnes takes on a trio of Derby opponents in the 3-0 defeat at Pride Park. Pictures: Steve Taylor
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FOR those Doncaster Rovers’ fans who believe in such things, the omens aren’t looking too good for the Championship club right now.

Just a week after being beaten at home by West Ham United - the last time that happened Rovers were relegated from the second tier of English football back in the 1957-58 season - Rovers suffered a fourth successive league defeat at the start of the season in Saturday’s game against Derby County at Pride Park

The last time that happened was the ill-fated 1997-98 season when the club, who were relegated to the Conference, lost their first five.

Fortunately for Rovers fans, you won’t find many superstitious people at the club and they all remain steadfast in their belief that they can dig themselves out of the hole they are currently in.

There is still a long way to go and once Rovers are back up to something like full strength it could well will be a different story.

Even being without Brian Stock, Martin Woods, James O’Connor and Shelton Martis, Rovers have competed well in their previous three Championship games and their Carling Cup win over Tranmere.

Rovers could justifiably argue that they deserved to take something out of the games against Brighton, West Ham and Nottingham Forest.

But, for whatever reason, Saturday’s performance at Pride Park - where they had won on all three previous Championship visits - left much to be desired and they can have no excuse for the display.

Not even the fact that the influential James Coppinger, who failed a late fitness test on a calf injury, was missing, could explain the huge drop in standards between Tuesday and Saturday.

Coppinger’s absence saw new loan striker Milan Lalkovic start the game having only trained with the squad once since arriving from Chelsea.

Rovers had another loan player, Manchester United’s Reece Brown on his starting debut in midfield.

Both are young players who look to have a bright future in the game. But both - particularly Brown - struggled to come to terms with the demands of the Championship on the day.

However, with both players only having had the odd training session with their new team mates prior to the game, it would be wrong to be critical.

They will have learned from the experience and with a few more days’ training at Cantley Park under their belts., and possibly a run out in the Carling Cup tomorrow, they should be better prepared if called upon against Bristol City on Saturday.

Not that the more established players performed much better. A number of Rovers’ players were out of sorts.

Ironically, there had been a sense of expectation among both the players and a lot of fans that Rovers would at least get off the mark at a ground where they recorded their last league win at the start of last March.

The belief was there for all to see in the opening minutes and it was slightly against the run of of play when Rovers fell behind on six minutes.

On-loan full-back Kevin Kilbane gave keeper Gary Woods, whose heroics back in the game in March played a vital role in the 3-1 victory, no chance with a powerful header from Derby’s first corner.

Rovers initially worked hard, none more so than Chris Brown, to try and get back in the game.

But as has been the case since losing Billy Sharp and James Hayter in the Brighton game, Rovers lacked a real cutting edge in the final third.

It didn’t help that Rovers’ midfield weren’t firing on all cylinders with the likes of John Oster. an influential figure in previous games, failing to make his usual impact.

The Doncaster rearguard also looked shaky at times, though Woods didn’t have a lot to do for most of the first half.

The loss of striker Jamie Ward after 24 minutes didn’t help Derby’s cause in that respect.

Hopes that the half-time team talk by the Rovers’ management would produce a better second half showing were rocked as Derby added a second goal just 16 seconds after the restart.

Ben Davies took advantage of Rovers’ right-back Mustapha Dumbuya losing his footing to provide a cross for striker Steven Davies to head home at the far post.

Given the state of play that stage, in reality the game was up for Rovers.

Rovers huffed and puffed but apart from when Lalkovic did well to conjure up a 25 yarder which just cleared the bar, it was to no avail and it wasn’t until the introduction of Kyle Bennett off the bench after 62 minutes that Rovers started to look a bit more threatening in attack.

By then, though, the game was well and truly up with Ben Davies having added to a third goal just seconds after Bennett’s arrival on the pitch with a fine curling strike from just outside the box.

Bennett shot just wide late on but Derby held out to claim a clean sheet in their best start to a season in 106 years.

Only time will tell whether they can keep it up but they seem to have put together their best side since being relegated from the top flight.

Richard O’kelly’s view

We can do better. We were second best after their first goal went in. Up to them scoring we’d played okay. We’d moved the ball around nicely and looked a threat but we hadn’t been incisive enough in the last third. We gave the ball away too easily during the game and were out-thought all over the pitch really.