Ipswich 2 Doncaster Rovers 3: Match Report

brian stock and jimmy bullard midfield battle
brian stock and jimmy bullard midfield battle
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DONCASTER Rovers’ on-loan striker El-Hadji Diouf had the last word in the club’s Championship clash against Ipswich Town at Portman Road.

Playing only his second game for Rovers after signing a three-month contract on Monday, the Premier League ‘bad boy’ was booed by home fans for most of the game.

Reece Wabara tries to stop George Friend

Reece Wabara tries to stop George Friend

But it didn’t put him off his stride and the former Liverpool, Bolton and Blackburn star scored twice to help secure Rovers a 3-0 interval lead.

There had looked to be more goals to come for Rovers, who had treated their small following to some first half fireworks, and they did have several chances after the break.

But Ipswich had more of the play and hit back to score a couple of goals. The result was rarely in doubt, however, given the fact that their second didn’t come until deep into stoppage-time.

With fellow strugglers Bristol City also picking up three much-needed points, Rovers remain rooted to the foot of the table.

But their first-half showing in midweek at home to high-flying Middlesbrough, allied to their performance at Portman Road, would seem to suggest that manager Dean Saunders is on the right track.

The Sharp-Diouf partnership has quickly gelled and the pair are going to prove a threat to the best of Championship defences until the former Senegalese international moves on to bigger things in January - as he surely will if he continues to put away the goals like he did on Saturday.

Sharp, too, could also be in demand.

Ipswich, for one, would certainly like to have Sharp, who has now scored three goals in his last two visits to Portman Road, in their ranks given the opportunity.

Team-mate James Coppinger, another Ipswich target in the summer, also caught the eye in his first start in five games.

He provided two quality crosses in the build up to Rovers opening two goals and was generally busy throughout.

Where Saunders still has work to do is in defence - and not just the back-four.

It’s an area of Rovers’ play that he has worked hard on in training and the international break will give him more of an opportunity to do so this week, without the distraction of a midweek or weekend game, ahead of the trip to Oakwell on Saturday week.

Rovers generally defended better over the 90 minutes than they have done on a lot of occasions this season.

If the Doncaster fans thought that it was going to be another day of damp squibs, they were quickly to be proved wrong.

Coppinger crossed from the left and Diouf headed the ball home on 17 minutes to claim his first goal in a Doncaster shirt.

Coppinger again proved the provider seven minutes later, this time from the right, for Sharp to head home for his second goal in five days.

Normally when the opposition score there is a stunned silence from the home fans, but not so on this occasion.

Obviously aware of the personal grief that Sharp had suffered a week earlier when his son of just two days had died, the sporting Ipswich fans gave the Doncaster striker a warm round of applause.

It was a gesture which Sharp acknowledged at the time and he also made a point of publicly thanking the Ipswich fans after the game

“I had a big lump in my throat when the Ipswich fans did that to me,” he said. “They didn’t have to do that; I am an opposition player. But it was really nice of them and I’d like to thank them a lot.”

Town fans briefly thought that striker Michael Chopra had pulled a goal back on 35 minutes when netting from close range at the far post, but he had strayed offside.

Diouf had helped set up Sharp’s goal against Boro in midweek, which he dedicated to his son and the club’s record signing returned the compliment on Saturday.

Diouf raced on towards goal and with the Town defenders hanging off him, he drilled the ball into the net from just outside the box.

Jeered by their fans as they walked off at the interval, Ipswich started the second in a more determined mood with half-time substitute Josh Carson looking particularly lively.

It was Carson who threw his side a much-needed lifeline on 53 minutes - stabbing the ball home from close range after Rovers had cleared the danger from Lee Martin’s low cross into the box.

When Martin tested keeper Neil Sullivan from the edge of the area shortly after, Ipswich briefly looked like they could maybe snatch a result.

But Rovers dug deep defensively to effectively snuff out the danger of a second goal during what was an important stage of the game.

They also had a couple of chances to restore their three-goal advantage before Chopra netted from close range after getting on the end of a right-wing cross by former Rovers’ favourite Jay Emmanuel-Thomas in the penultimate minute of stoppage time.

“It was obviously important that we won today,” said Sharp. “We dropped to the foot of the table in midweek and it was about time that we got a win.