JUST when Doncaster Rovers thought that their crippling injury crisis couldn’t get any worse, it did.
Already without 13 players, including recent signing Ryan Burge, injured in training on Friday, midfield star James Coppinger joined them on the sidelines after picking up a calf injury in the warm-up.
With Dean Shiels stepping into the breach, Rovers were left with just four players on the bench.
Of the 15 players on duty, two were on short-term contracts and four on loan. Two of the loan players, Jason Euell and Franck Moussa, were making their debut.
In contrast, Swansea’s only major absentee was skipper Garry Monk and they had the likes Darren Pratley, Leon Britton and Craig Beattie on the bench.
The game at the Liberty Stadium, where Swansea had won nine and drawn three of their 15 games this season, would have been a tough call had Rovers been near to full strength given the Welsh club’s form.
Whilst no-one in the Rovers’ camp will have been happy with the result - and that fact was etched on the faces of the players as they filed past me on the way to the team bus - they couldn’t really have expected to have done much better in terms of the scoreline given the circumstances.
They would almost certainly have taken a 3-0 defeat at half-time when they trailed by two goals.
Swansea had dominated the game with their slick passing and movement and could easily have had several more first-half goals.
Rovers, on the other hand, hadn’t had a single shot on goal. It was a similar story in terms of chances in the second half - though they did see more of the ball.
Rovers’ lack of quality and creativity on the day will probably have disappointed home fans, for there is no doubt that many supporters up and down the country look forward to their visits given their reputation for being a footballing side.
But, with too many key components missing, Rovers were never going to fire all on cylinders - though they definitely should have shown more of a cutting edge.
With only the odd player - skipper Brian Stock looking to have the best chance - likely to be back in the frame for tomorrow’s testing trip to Carrow Road, things are not expected to get any easier any time soon.
When a team has just suffered a club-record 6-0 home defeat in midweek, the last thing they want to happen is to concede an early goal.
But that is what happened with Swans leading scorer Scott Sinclair taking his tally to 19 for the season when poking the ball home on six minutes after good work by overlapping right-back Angel Rangel.
Buoyed by their early goal, the Swans continued to make the running and create chances and, but for a vital header by centre-back Sam Hird, Nathan Dyer ‘s lob would have added to their tally long before defender Ashley Williams beat returning keeper Neil Sullivan at the second attempt on 39 minutes to claim his second goal in as many games.
Hird suffered two dead legs for his troubles, which could make him a doubt for the Norwich game, after colliding with the post. He also needed treatment for a knee injury in the second half.
But the Doncaster-born defender comes from fighting stock - his mother’s father is Plant Works’ ABC coach and former amateur boxer Ken Blood - and he was determined to tough it out.
Along with full-back George Friend, in a rich vein of form right now, Hird was the pick of the Doncaster defence.
Said the centre-back: “I thought everyone tried their best, but they scored three good goals.
“We were very poor defensively the other night (against Ipswich) but we knew what we had to do when we came here.
“If was disappointing to concede so early in the game, but I thought that we kept going against a top team who are obviously pushing for automatic promotion.
“We know what situation we are in and we’ve all got to stick together and the fans played their part - they were brilliant today and we need that at home.
“We spoke at half-time about trying not to concede in the second half and although we did let another goal in (striker Luke Moore adding a third on 78 minutes from Pratley’s through ball) we were a lot tighter than the other night when we were so open.”
Midfielder Mark Wilson echoed many of Hird’s views.
“It’s a tough place to come with a depleted squad without losing James Coppinger just before the kick-off,” he said. “It was a big blow because he’s a match-winner. We had to adapt our style of play because Copps can run with the ball and take people on and he’s very influential in this team.
“Dean Shiels came in, and he’s capable of scoring goals, but the team’s dynamics altered a little.
“We had a spell in the second half. What you are looking for in those circumstances is for a bit of complacency to creep in with your opponents and for you to try to capitalise and find your way back into the game.
“But we didn’t get that break, or get that one scoring opportunity, to get ourselves back into the game.
“We didn’t really create anything but it’s tough when you have so many players missing and, as I say, you have to adapt your game slightly.
“We also had two new faces in the side and I thought that they both acquitted themselves well because it is not always easy when being thrown straight into the mix.”
THE Liberty Stadium is probably the most difficult place to come in the league when you are in the run of form that we are in at the moment and having the run of (bad) luck.
We had to make a late change when James Coppinger had a problem with his calf in the warm-up. He’s not trained an awful lot since he took a whack against Burnley.