STEVE HOSSACK: Norwich draw gives Rovers timely boost

Pies for the press: Norwich chairman Delia Smith.
Pies for the press: Norwich chairman Delia Smith.
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SATURDAY

I was relieved that the wet weather improved as I hit the M5 on the long trip to Swansea for the first two hours or so made for unpleasant driving.

I’ve been to Cardiff three or four times but I was making my first visit to Swansea’s Liberty Stadium.

It had been a long four-hour drive and my back was aching when I finally arrived.

Rovers’ managing director Stuart Highfield, who I have known for more years than I care to remember, had travelled down with media manager Steve Uttley the previous day, came into the media lounge and, amongst other things, we spoke about was the Sunday Alliance Football League which he both sponsors and officiates in.

It was always going to be a big test for Rovers to come away from the Liberty Stadium with a result given their club-record 6-0 home defeat in midweek and the fact that they were still without a dozen or so players.

To add to their problems they also lost James Coppinger in the warm-up.

Even so, I had expected them to play better than they did in the first half which was virtually one-way traffic and their 2-0 interval deficit could easily have been double that.

The second half was better but I don’t think that I’ve ever reported on a Rovers game before when they’ve not had a shot at goal before.

Doncaster Knights failed to lay their Cornish Pirates’ bogey in their final game of the regular Championship season. Knights have twice sunk the Pirates on their travels in the past but the nearest they have ever come to beating them at hone was when they held them to a draw.

Although just three points separated the two sides, Knights’ boss Lynn Howells sportingly admitted that Pirates never looked like losing,

SUNDAY

THE Dons effectively hit the buffers in their bid to reach the knockout stages of the Northern Rail Cup after suffering a 30-18 defeat at home to Championship rivals Dewsbury in the third of their four Pool A games.

Had Tony Miller’s men not lost influential play-maker Craig Fawcett in the warm-up, and also lost three more players during the game, I feel that the Championship One side would have claimed the Rams’ scalp.

There was little between the two sides except for a five-minute spell midway through the first half during which time the visitors run in three tries whilst the Dons reorganised their back division following the loss of centre Shaun Leaf.

TUESDAY

I must admit that I didn’t hold out much hope for Doncaster Rovers in their game against the in-form Canaries at Carrow Road - a ground where they lost on their previous visits.

Not even the return of skipper Brian Stock, after two games on the sidelines with a back injury, could inspire a change of heart - and I was not alone amongst other media pundits.

So the 1-1 draw came as a surprise and helped make up for spending another seven plus hours in a car and getting to bed at 2.15am.

It made a change to speak to Rovers No 2 Richard O’Kelly after a match in more pleasant circumstances than of late.

I am always aware that Richard is hurting badly after any defeat and that the last thing, given a choice, that he would probably want to do is to talk to the media.

But Richard is definitely a ‘glass half full’ character.

“When you play against a team like Norwich there are two ways you can play,” he said.

“You can either sit back and defend or you can take your opportunities to get forward when you can and I thought that we did that.

“Although we trailed 1-0 at half-time I still thought we’d created enough chances to still be in the game. There were periods in the game when we were under the cosh but keeper Neil Sullivan made some good saves and we blocked shots and players - particularly Sam Hird and George Friend - put their bodies in the way to make sure that the ball didn’t go into the net.”

You would probably think that with top television cook Delia Smith on the Norwich board that the food in the media suite would be something a bit special.

Sadly, no, with there just being a selection of bought-in pies. Having said that my curried vegetable pie was quite tasty.

I was more impressed with the stadium and the electric atmosphere the home fans created.