Match Report: Doncaster 0 West Ham 1

Missed opportunity: West Ham goalkeeper Robert Green chases down a loose ball with Simon Gillett unable to beat the'keeper to the ball.
Missed opportunity: West Ham goalkeeper Robert Green chases down a loose ball with Simon Gillett unable to beat the'keeper to the ball.
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DONCASTER Rovers’ fans will be hoping that history doesn’t repeat itself this season.

The last time the club were in the same league as Saturday’s visitors West Ham United was back in the old Second Division in the 1957-58 season.

Rovers' Chris Brown in goalmouth action against West Ham.

Rovers' Chris Brown in goalmouth action against West Ham.

That season saw the Hammers, who won 2-1 at Belle Vue, promoted as champions to the top flight and Rovers relegated after finishing bottom.

Rovers are still looking to get off the mark in the Championship after suffering their second successive defeat but it is far too early in the season for fans to start worrying about relegation.

Particularly as was the case in their opening game at Brighton, Rovers didn’t deserve to finish empty-handed.

But that will have been the last thing on the mind of the West Ham players on their journey back to London down the M1 having won away from home - a feat they managed just twice in the Premier League last season - for the first time since beating Blackpool at Bloomfield Road in February.

Rovers' Kyle Bennett in action against West Ham.

Rovers' Kyle Bennett in action against West Ham.

In contrast to the 2-1 defeat at the Amex Stadium, where Rovers were beaten by a winner scored deep into stoppage time, West Ham’s winner came in the opening minutes of Saturday’s game.

Rovers will have been well briefed in the build-up to the game on the danger posed by new West Ham skipper, Kevin Nolan - the club’s big close-season signing from Newcastle.

But that didn’t stop the attacking midfielder giving the Upton Park club just the start they wanted after they had drawn a blank when going down 1-0 at home to Cardiff on the opening day of the season.

Whereas Rovers were able to get the Brighton defeat out of their system in their Carling Cup game in midweek, the Hammers were left kicking their heels as a result of their home tie against Aldershot being called off due to the London riots. But they made a bright start and wasted little time in giving their 3,000- plus following, who packed out the away end, something to cheer.

Right-sided midfielder Jack Collison, the only change to the starting line-up on duty against Cardiff, set-up Nolan and the man who scored 12 Premier League goals for the Magpies last season did the rest.

Said West Ham boss Sam Allardyce, who took over following the sacking of Avram Grant at the end of last season, “It was the quality of the ball, and the quality of Kevin Nolan’s run, not an error by the Doncaster defence which led to the goal.”

Nolan went close to a second goal on 17 minutes - hitting the crossbar with a chip from 20 yards with keeper Gary Woods beaten.

John Oster worked hard to get Rovers, who struggled at time to retain possession as well as they normally do as a result of West Ham’s pressure, going forward.

But with Billy Sharp, James Hayter and Ryan Mason all missing due to injury, they lacked a cutting edge in and around the box.

Rovers started the second half with midfielder Simon Gillett adopting a more attacking role, but for all their endeavour they rarely troubled keeper Robert Green.

It took the Hammers until the 20th minute of the second half to get an effort on target, centre-back James Tomkins heading straight at Woods from a corner.

Nolan gave Woods more of a problem with an angled shot shortly after.

Rovers missed a good chance to draw level when Coppinger, restored to the right flank, got clear down the right before cutting into the box only for the move to fizzle out after the midfielder seemed to be caught in two minds as to whether to try and beat Green at the near post or pick out Gillett.

Producing his best form of the campaign so far in the second half, Coppinger was just wide with a glancing header on 76 minutes from Mustapha Dumbuya’s cross.

He also made a good run along the edge off the box later on but the opportunity to get a shot away failed to present itself.

Sandwiched in between was a stinging shot by Gillett which Green saved at the near post at the expense of a corner.

“I thought that we were a little bit sloppy in the first half but I thought we played really well in the second half and created a few chances,” said Gillett.

“I pushed a bit more forward in the second half because we wanted to get a goal. I got a chance myself and there was another opportunity when Copps (James Coppinger) couldn’t find me in the box. He pulled it back but it wasn’t far enough.

“I think had we got back on level terms we would have got at least a draw because, as I say, we were creating chances and they were creating hardly any.

“It was a bit of a shame that they scored with one of the few chances they did create. It wasn’t the best of starts to find ourselves 1-0 down so early in the game after playing so well in midweek. It was a reverse situation to the game at Brighton where we played well in the first half but not so well in the second.”

Said Allardyce, who master-minded Bolton’s 4-0 win over Rovers in a third round FA Cup tie shortly after the stadium opened, “They (Rovers) never gave up. We knew that they would throw a bit more caution to the wind (in the second half) and put us under a bit more pressure.

“The good thing from our point of view is that if you count the shots on goal that Doncaster had on target during all that pressure you will see it was only one.

“So that showed how well we defended when we needed to and that is a good indicator for me on the mentality of the side playing away from home.

“Knowing how to get a result and knowing how to see games through. That mental defensive resilience was key today to us winning 1-0.

“Yes, we might have got another goal but we didn’t and any slip at any stage and it could have ended up being 1-1 and rather than picking up the three points it could have only been one.”

o’kelly’S VIEW

I THOUGHT that we lacked a little bit of belief in the first half. Having said that, we moved the ball about quite comfortably; it was just when we broke lines and got the other side of them there was no momentum in attack.