Millwall 1 Doncaster Rovers 0 - MATCH REPORT

Doncaster Rovers vs Middlesborough - Sam Hird. Picture: Liz Mockler
Doncaster Rovers vs Middlesborough - Sam Hird. Picture: Liz Mockler
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JUST when it looked as though Doncaster Rovers would emerge unscathed from the Lions’’ Den, the home side pounced to make a killing.

With a scrappy game seemingly set to end honours even, substitute Kevin Lisbie claimed he had got the slightest of touches to James Henry’s right-wing cross to head past keeper Gary Woods.

Some people felt that it was Rovers defender James O’Connor who had got the final touch, whilst others claimed that no-one had made contact with Henry’s cross.

How ever the goal came about, it secured Millwall their sixth successive home win, though this was regarded by many Lions fans as being the least impressive of that sequence in a game spoilt by the blustery wind.

Millwall boss Kenny Jackett admitted that he had some sympathy for Rovers having seen his side suffer a similar defeat at Carrow Road in midweek.

“It has been a week of late goals because we conceded a winner at Norwich in stoppage time, which was a real sickener,” he said. “So I do know how Doncaster feel today.

“We are difficult to beat at home and it was a great clean sheet today because Doncaster can cause you problems.”

“The first half was tight and 50-50 and the second we dominated possession but I didn’t know really where the goal was going to come from, “

“In the end a very good cross by James Henry into a good area has produced an own goal.”

Millwall’s win saw them climb to seventh, raising hopes of back-to-back promotions.

The one and only time the Lions have won promotion to the top flight was back in the 1987-88 season and a number of that squad. including Teddy Sherringham, turned up for the reunion as part of the club’s fifth Dockers’ Day celebrations.

Rovers’ fading promotion play-off hopes suffered another blow and defeat left them with still only one back-to-back league success this season.

There had been hope in the camp that the midweek win over Burnley, coming as it did after four successive league and cup defeats, would serve as a turning point.

Had Rovers managed to hang out for just a couple more minutes then a 0-0 draw would have been seen as such.

Rovers would almost certainly have settled for a point before the game - not least due to their long injury list which meant that they were only able to field six substitutes.

But, unlike a lot of other clubs, the Rovers management never make an issue over injured players, or look to use them as an excuse - something which is to be applauded.

“Like we say to the players, you just have to get on with it,” said Rovers No 2 Richard O’Kelly.

There is no doubt in my mind, however, that the lengthy absences of such as Martin Woods, Simon Gillett, Wayne Thomas and skipper Brian Stock, thankfully now back in action, have contributed to a run of poor results since the turn of the year.

Rovers were also without James Coppinger and James Hayter - two of their best players this season - whilst veteran keeper Neil Sullivan missed his second successive game.

Ryan Mason and Steve Brooker, who made his first league start for Rovers, came in for Coppinger and Hayter respectively, with Gary Woods again deputising for Sullivan.

All three contributed to the Rovers’ cause.

Chances were few and far between in the first half.

It was left to wide man Henry to provide the biggest threat and he went close from a 27th-minute free-kick.

Skipper Alan Dunne had earlier headed over with Liam Trotter having a headed ‘goal’ disallowed for offside on 39 minutes.

Rovers were mainly limited to blocked shots, though Brooker did have a heading chance which he put wide.

Mason shot over from the edge of the box in the 45th minute.

The Lions had another score disallowed in the second half - this time it was striker Theo Robinson who fell victim to the offside trap.

The Lions carved out more chances than they had done in the first half - arguably the best of which fell to Liam Trotter.

He failed to hit the target with a free far-post header. Theo Robinson also had a couple of chances, but Woods was never unduly tested.

Both Brooker and Paul Keegan failed to hit the target from in an around the box and Rovers’ best chance of the game fell to centre-back Sam Hird, whose shot on the hour brought out the best of David Forde.

“I think that we were unlucky not to pick up a point,” said Hird.

“We didn’t play as well as we can do, but apart from the goal I thought that we were solid and didn’t look like conceding.

“We were missing Copps (James Coppinger) and Hayts (James Hayter), but Brooks (Steve Brooker) and Ryan came in and it didn’t affect how solid we were and our shape and organisation.

“But we just didn’t play as well as we normally do on the ball.

“I thought that they were a solid team. They pressed us every chance they had and the crowd really got behind them.

“Like I say, we didn’t really play that well. The conditions were difficult but we could have played better.

“But prior to the last two games we’d been saying that we needed to be more solid and I think that we were today.”

Despite having only having conceded one goal in their last two games, after shipping in goals at regular intervals for most of the year, Hird argues Rovers can’t afford to relax.

“Defensively we have looked more solid in the last two games but we can’t rest on our laurels.” he said.

“We’ve got to continue to work hard on our defence and try and improve.”