MATCH REPORT: Doncaster Rovers 1 Coventry 4

Rovers' players walk down the tunnel at the end of the game dejected after a 4-1 defeat to Coventry. Picture: Andrew Roe
Rovers' players walk down the tunnel at the end of the game dejected after a 4-1 defeat to Coventry. Picture: Andrew Roe
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DONCASTER Rovers rarely looked like spoiling the party as they crashed to their biggest defeat of the season.

The Sky Blues held their Christmas party on Saturday night and they will have had plenty to celebrate following what manager Mark Robins described as the club’s “best win of the season”.

It was another successful return to South Yorkshire for Robins, who did well in charge of both Rotherham and Barnsley, following hard on the heels of City’s recent draw at Bramall Lane.

“It was our best performance of the season without a doubt since I’ve come in,” said Robins, who has transformed relegated Coventry’s fortunes since taking over at the Ricoh Arena in September.

“We were magnificent and I thought both sides of our game were first class.

“It would have been nice to have kept a clean sheet but I’m not bothered if we are scoring four goals and could have scored more.”

Defeat, and the nature of it, will have come as a big disappointment for Rovers boss Dean Saunders, who had felt that Rovers were starting to turn things around at the Keepmoat after back-to-back home wins.

But it is back to the drawing board this week and he doesn’t have much time to put things right ahead of Saturday’s visit of promotion rivals MK Dons - a game which kicks-off the four-match festive programme.

Quite where he’ll begin is anyone’s guess, because there were failings throughout the team.

Although there were several reasonable individual defensive displays, collectively the back-four didn’t look as solid as usual.

The midfield worked hard but they gave the ball away too often and lacked the creativity of the Sky Blues - though the departure of leading scorer David Cotterill (stomach bug) after 25 minutes didn’t help the cause.

Rovers also struggled to match Coventry’s firepower in and around the box.

In Rovers defence, Coventry are a far better team at this moment in time than their 15th place going into the game would suggest, and on the evidence of Saturday’s performance they will be there or thereabouts come next May.

And it could have been a different outcome had Rovers managed to convert an early chance - striker Billy Paynter drilling his shot wide of the far post from a good position from a knockdown.

Coventry rode their luck and took the lead on five minutes with a superb goal from the edge of the box by midfielder Franck Moussa, who joined the Sky Blues on a short-term deal in September after being released by Leicester.

The Belgian played a spell on loan for Rovers during the 2010-11 Championship campaign.

“I was a good time for me at Doncaster and I really enjoyed playing for them and it was nice to get a good reception on my return here,” he said.

“Having played here before I wanted to come and have a good game, so to get a goal so early in the game was good for me and the team.”

Striker Iain Hume, who again sported a head bandage to protect the injury he picked up at Swindon the week before, tested keeper Joe Murphy with an angled 20 yarder after latching on to Cotterill’s ball down the right.

Coventry doubled their lead on 26 minutes. Leading scorer David McGoldrick, whose career has been rejuvenated since moving to the club on loan from Nottingham Forest, headed home in style on 26 minutes from a left-wing cross.

McGoldrick could have had a second after Kyle Bennett, nowhere near back to his best following a recent six-week lay-off with a knee injury, was robbed inside the Coventry half.

The ball was played to McGoldrick down the left and he got the better of Jones only to shoot wide of the far post with an angled effort on 39 minutes.

Rovers knew that they had to score first after the break and upped their game.

They fell further behind on 58 minutes after substitute Jordan Clarke picked out McGoldrick at the far post with a low pass and the striker did the rest.

Rovers pulled a goal back on 76 minutes to spark off a mini-revival.

Paynter hit the crossbar with a long-range header and fellow striker Chris Brown was on hand to give himself a belated 28th birthday present.

Jones, who had been pushed forward, headed wide while Paynter shot high from 20 yards.

Midfielder James Bailey somehow managed to head over from the impressive Gary McSheffrey’s cross, but the visiting fans didn’t have to wait long to celebrate a fourth goal - striker Adam Burton finding the net with a magnificent effort from around 25 yards out on 90 minutes.

With leaders Tranmere being held 0-0 at third-placed Sheffield United, Rovers would have gone clear at the top had they won, but that will have been the least of Saunders’ worries over the weekend.