Watford 4 Doncaster Rovers 1: Match Report

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DONCASTER Rovers will be glad to see the back of 2011 - a year which saw the club win just eight league games.

DONCASTER Rovers will be glad to see the back of 2011 - a year which saw the club win just eight league games.

billy sharp scores

billy sharp scores

They will be hoping for better things in 2012 but will start the year at home to Barnsley today propping up the table following their defeat at Vicarage Road and Coventry’s win over Brighton.

It’s still much too early to write off Rovers’ hopes of hanging on to their Championship status, but their form on the road - this was the club’s 11th away defeat - continues to cause concern.

So too does the prospect of leading scorer Billy Sharp moving on during the transfer window, which opened yesterday.

Although Rovers, who are just waiting for their respective international clearances to come through, recruited several forwards in the final days of 2011 it would be asking a lot of either of them to replicate Sharp’s scoring exploits at the club over the last 30 months.

The 25-year-old took his tally to 10 when scoring Rovers’ consolation at Vicarage Road, where the club have won just once - back in the 1959-60 season - in league football.

But for a near two-month lay-off at the start of the season, Sharp would almost certainly have got into double figures for the third successive campaign much earlier.

His importance to the side cannot be over-stated and it would be a massive blow were he to move on at such a crucial stage of the season.

As was the case of fellow striker El Hadji Diouf, who captained the side for the second time in the absence of suspended midfielder Brian Stock, Sharp hardly got a look-in during the first 45 minutes when Watford keeper Scott Loach was a virtual spectator.

Watford posed far more of a threat with wide men Mark Yeates and Wolves loanee Michael Kightly - playing his last home game before the end of his loan spell - both posing problems as well as setting up chances for strikers Marvin Sordell and Troy Deeney.

But Rovers kept a clean sheet until just before the break when Sordell got the better of Habib Beye and ran on before beating ‘keeper Gary Woods from the edge of the area after a appeal for a foul on Beye had fallen on deaf ears.

Although the timing was cruel, Watford were good value for their interval lead.

Rovers came out firing on all cylinders at the start of the second half and drew level on 47 minutes with Sharp’s close-range header from Diouf’s pin-point cross.

It is not the first time the two men have worked together to set up a goal and the partnership has worked well.

Rovers were on top at that stage and looked capable of ending Watford’s unbeaten seven-match run.

But the game changed when, first Herold Goulon was sent-off for a second bookable offence on 63 minutes, and then Sordell gave Watford a 67th minute lead they never looked like losing. Several good chances went begging before substitute John Eustace scored from the edge of the area with his first touch.

Kightly was then allowed to run around 25 yards down the middle of the pitch before picking his spot from just outside the box to seal Watford’s biggest win of the season in stoppage time.

“We hadn’t played well in the first half but we were only 1-0 down and still in the game,” said Sharp.

“We knew it was important to get back level quickly (after the break) and we did that and we should have stuck together for the next 20 minutes or so.

“But we showed a lack of discipline and had a man sent off and fell to pieces. We need to be mentally stronger.”

With Barnsley beating Leeds United 4-1 at Oakwell on Saturday, Sharp admits Rovers will have to raise their game if they are to avenge a 2-0 defeat at Oakwell.

“They hammered us at their place - we weren’t good enough that day,” he said. “We owe them one but we’ll have to play a lot better than today otherwise we’ll not get any points again.”

Sharp still feels that Rovers can climb out of the bottom three, pointing to the recent wins over Southampton and Leicester, but added: “We’ve got to win our home games and then see what we can pick-up away from home.”