Tractor Boys show their class as Rovers earn vital victory

Defeated: Winger Michael Bateman in action against London Welsh
Defeated: Winger Michael Bateman in action against London Welsh
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DONCASTER-born keeper Alex Cairns made his Championship debut for Leeds United in the 5-0 home defeat against Blackpool on Wednesday night in a busy sporting week.

United boss Simon Grayson brought him on at half-time after Paul Rachubka had gifted the Seasiders three goals in the first half.

Game for a laugh: But Dean Saunders has a serious side too

Game for a laugh: But Dean Saunders has a serious side too

Cairns, whose parents run a fruit and veg stall in Doncaster market, failed to stem the tide in the second half but could do little to prevent either of the two goals he conceded.

Here’s my week:

THURSDAY: IPSWICH Town boss Paul Jewell admitted that he never had his Doncaster Rovers’ counterpart Dean Saunders down as a potential manager during his playing days.

Speaking ahead of Saturday’s game between the two clubs at Portman Road, Jewell quipped: “He’s done well to stop talking long enough to name the team!”

Jewell recalled that he had brought Saunders to Bradford City when the Welsh international was around ‘36 or 37’ and that he scored the Bantams first ever goal in the Premier Division playing for a team dubbed ‘Dad’s Army’.

He added: “Dean’s an enthusiastic, bubbly character and one of the best story tellers, but don’t let that joking side of him fool you.

“He’s got a fierce will to win. You don’t play at the level he did without being a really good player and he’ll bring those same qualities to management.

“I didn’t think he’d go into management because he certainly doesn’t need the money but he took to it really well at Wrexham.

“He knows he’s got a challenge on his hands at Doncaster but he’ll meet it head on because there’s not a negative bone in his body.”

SATURDAY: I FELT a bit out of touch with what had been happening on the field at Rovers having missed the last two games for various reasons - I can’t remember the last time that I did that - as I boarded the first of three trains that would take me to Ipswich Town’s Portman Road.

Despite it being a fair distance to travel which ever mode of transport you use. Portman Road is one of my favourite grounds in the Championship.

The media are really well looked after in terms of facilities, food and the staff are very friendly and helpful.

Both teams were looking to bounce back from defeats and given the fact that they were at home against the bottom club in the league, Ipswich must have fancied their chances of getting back to winning ways.

But it didn’t turn out like that.

Rovers produced some clinical finishing to storm into a 3-0 interval lead, which could easily have been more.

Rovers’ second goal scored by Billy Sharp produced one of the most remarkable reactions that I have ever seen from opposition fans after their team had just conceded.

Even though the Ipswich fans, obviously aware of Billy’s personal circumstances, had given him a warm reception when his name was announced prior to the game, I don’t think anyone in the Rovers’ camp expected the reaction to his goal.

Saunders, who did so with Herita IIunga against Middlesbrough in midweek, experimented with skipper George Friend in midfield.

Friend played there on occasions during his time at Wolves and has the height - something currently lacking in the Rovers’ midfield - the defensive qualities and the athleticism to make a success of the job.

But it is a role, if Saunders decides to give him an extended run there, that he must be given time to grow in to. Friend showed against the Tractor Boys that he is able to get into good attacking positions and on another day could have had several goals.

Just 260 Rovers’ fans were at Portman Road probably both reflecting that money is tight in the current harsh economic climate and that Rovers hadn’t won in five games and were bottom of the table.

Arriving back home earlier than I expected after getting a lift back to Doncaster with Rovers’ managing director Stuart Highfield, I dropped in on Doncaster Lawn Tennis Club’s annual bonfire.

The fireworks had long been let off when I got there and most of the public, who again turned out in their numbers, had also gone.

But the bonfire was still going and I spent an hour or so stood around it fielding questions on various sporting topics such as how Rovers had got on at Ipswich and both rugby codes.

Doncaster Knights, who had worked hard to promote the game in a bid to boost attendances, suffered a second successive Championship defeat at Castle Park.

Fourth-placed London Welsh added their name to that of Bristol and Nottingham who have won there this season.

Defeat, in a game Knights’ boss Brett Davey felt his side deserved to win, left the club trailing in sixth place and still without a victory over any of the top four as they approach the midway point of the league campaign at fifth-placed Rotherham on Saturday week.

SUNDAY: I finally found time to watch Saturday’s Gillette Four Nations Rugby League group game between England and Australia at Wembley.

England got off to a great start and created more scoring opportunities against the Aussies than I can remember for a long time.

With better finishing, and a bit more luck when it came to crucial decisions, they could have run the tournament favourites very close if not actually beaten them.

The Aussies probably deserved their win but their 36-20 margin of victory certainly flattered them.

With the likes of full-back Sam Tomkins, this England team looks to be the strongest for a decade or more and with the Aussies not looking quite so invincible as in recent years, the host nation will not lack confidence should they beat the Kiwis at Hull on Saturday and win through to meet Australia in the final at Elland Road on Saturday week.

TUESDAY: THE sporting world lost another legendary character when former world heavyweight champion Joe Frazier suffered defeat in his battle against cancer. I remember getting up early in the 1970s to watch Frazier take on Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in what was a golden era for the heavyweight division.