Doncaster Rovers 1 Cardiff City 1. Match Report

Last updated : 17 August 2008 By Michael Morris
Photos of the day/game can be found here


When Cardiff City last visited Doncaster Rovers in November 1997, both teams scored in the second half to share a 1-1 draw with City coming back from behind. History repeated itself. Ross McCormack rescued a point in the 88th minute to level Lewis Guy putting Rovers ahead 20 minutes earlier.

A satisfactory point, an unsatisfactory performance and a poor match devoid of quality or much excitement. A bit like the latest Big Brother series, you watch it, kind of enjoy it but come away wondering if you really saw anything interesting at all as neither side showed great ability to make chances or look as if they have goals in them - no wonder goalmouth action was at a complete minimum.

While Cardiff remain unbeaten in a reasonable start to the season, it served as a reminder that unless Dave Jones unearths a strong centre-half replacement for Loovens, adds midfield bite and finds a goalscoring forward, we're going nowhere fast and destined for another season talking about or "nice" football but worrying nobody in particular in mid-table. "We nullified each other" said Dave Jones afterwards which translates as, "bloody hell, how boring was that?".

Little else compared to that 1997 game. Then it was a pitiful 1,004 spectators at Belle Vue in League Two, the Bluebirds fielding a side with some players I've almost completely forgotten - 'legends' such as Mark Harris and Glenn Crowe. The new Keepmoat Stadium (a sterile experience to remind us new grounds are really not everything and always lose atmosphere) saw a crowd 11 times greater, 11 years on. 11,874 with 2,200 from South Wales as Doncaster rejoiced playing their first home game at this level for exactly 50 years. It was a surprise they didn't sell out, City fans taunting their low (no) volume support - save 1 drum! - with "empty seats" songs. A good day out though and that's what much of the awayday experience is about - as long as City score to give us our jumping about moments and don't lose, we're generally satisfied.

Our carload headed off on the 210 mile trip to Donny hopeful, each of us predicting a draw, all of us guessing 1-1 too yet none of us bet on the scoreline. The long trip was relatively swift, the low being a four car M1 pile up near Sheffield, the high was various gestures to Leeds United fans (which were twice as enjoyable afterwards as they lost at home) but we still arrived in good time.

As soon you enter Doncaster, the stadium (good to see a new ground with 'proper' floodlights) can be seen but it is in the middle of a clinical country/retail park. It would be like City having their stadium at the far end of Cosmeston Park! Presumably built on regenerated land from old mine workings or similar, it was all too pleasant. Parked up, the walk to the ground was around a lake pathway full of 'blue green toxic' algae(!!) and built up masses of mad made land hills, similar to where The Tellytubbies 'live'. Donny fans came and left over them like worker ants ... with us singing The Automatic hit, "What's that coming over the hill?".

Keeping with these surroundings, the only pub near the ground was a Beefeater but away fans in colours were very welcome. The Grangetown boys were there with their wives on romantic weekends - staying in a Travel Inn by Keepmoat Stadium, apparently persuading them that it was in the Lake District(!?). Donny fans with huge numbers of them wearing replica kit were shiny happy smiley people still not believing that they were in the Championship and basking in their opening day win at Derby. They loved our appreciation and thanks to them for beating Leeds in the play-off final, the club half of Doncaster supported until their rise! It was all very pleasant, far too pleasant, it felt bizarre watching City away in these surroundings. Although the police helicopter overhead, their ridiculously large numbers and some of their OTT antics die try to redress the balance a tad. Good effort plod.

At least The Keepmoat is a traditional four sided stadium although (a low) bowl shaped outside but with a capacity of just 15,321, it is a League One ground by size with no stand having more than 18 or so rows. The Away End, behind a goal, was typical of those provided in new grounds even if it is set a few yards away from the goal but it had all those modern facilities - decent pricey catering, a bookie, spacious toilets (perfect for the sneaky smokers!) and a bar which even sold wine by the glass (how lovely) yet they shut it without announcement for half-time. Spoilsports.

It ended a typical Cardiff City week. A Cup win, Capaldi still injured but now joined by Gavin Rae (injured in the victory at Bournemouth), some bids for our players reportedly turned down for Ledley, Johnson and Whittingham but Peter Ridsdale, like the Del Monte man, said "yes" to selling Loovens to Celtic making him the fourth player to have played in the F.A. Cup final just 13 weeks ago to have since left the club. In fact, just half of the 14 players used in the F.A. Cup Final were on show. Loovens was due to have made his 100th City league outing today but, after refusing to sign a new contract, Cardiff were faced with the option of letting him leave for Celtic with £2.5M in their pockets for replacements or losing him for nothing next summer - not much of a choice really. It's good business they tell us. Yeah, yeah, yeah ... only if Dave Jones does see that money after a big sale for once ... and if he spends it well! That's big IF's with our lot.

If there was a surprise, it was up front where Dave Jones 'dropped' Thommo was impressed pre-season and scoring in last week's opener for Paul Parry, scorer of 2 in the week. There was a strong argument for putting McCormack on the bench and going with Parry and Thommo, Ross works hard but is still settling but it's DJ in charge and he sent out Heaton, McNaughton-Johnson-Purse-Kennedy, Whittingham-Scimeca-McPhail-Ledley, Parry-McCormack. On the bench were Enckleman-Blake-Bothroyd-Comminges-Thompson. City wore black armbands but nobody not why, "It's for Loovens leaving" was the most popular remark closely followed by, "It's because we've got to play Darren Purse". Sadly, it turned out to be in respect of the wife of an Academy assistant who passed away.

Donny followed their great opening day win with a surprising midweek Carling Cup defeat at Notts County but reverted to the team used last weekend Ex-Jack and ex-Pineapple Head Jason Price plus the striker we love to goad, Darren Byfield, were both injured. The only known player is veteran keeper Neil Sullivan who was joined by O'Connor-Mills-Hird-Roberts, Stock-Wellens-Coppinger-Taylor, Guy-Hayter. Sullivan kept goal in front of City fans 1st half. He was reminded of his Leeds past with "there's only one Scott Young" and general abuse but took it well and enjoyed playing the villain. He also made the only save of a dour first half, a superb one handed flying save as Paul Parry's effort was rising for a top corner.

Other than that, there was little to get excited about as the half was a near replica of last week's opening 45 minutes against Southampton but without the goals. City were pinned back and unable to put any passes or moves together as Donny - buoyed by their drummer making the only noise for them - were naturally up for it. They huffed, they puffed, they made sure they were busier in midfield but didn't give Heaton any work other than goal-kicks, their best effort was a shot across goal which ended up nearer a corner flag. City's only worry was when Darren Purse went down injured especially as City had no natural cover for him but he carried on.

After his recovery came City's best - some would say, only - spell of the game. They did show what they were about, how they were a better side as then played the ball around, pushed the home side back into their own half and bossed for a spell. Yet, that Parry shot apart, we offered no major threat either. Some half chances were traded but that was largely it.

Half-time: DONNY 0 CITY 0

The Doncaster programme made for entertaining reading thanks to its fantastic inaccurate claims about City which included;
1. Miguel Comminges was born in France.
2. James Simmonds is still with us and squad number 22
3. Peter Whittingham made his Cardiff City debut against Newcastle United coming on as a sub for Gareth Barry.
4. Joe Ledley came from the same Cardiff City Academy that also produced Jason Koumas.

However the entertainment rudely ended as the teams returned for the 2nd half. Again, Donny pushed from the off and City were crying out for a change as they were comfortable but could produce nothing. The same could be said for Doncaster too as their edge of area free-kick flew over the stand and another half chance flew well wide. Donny fans tried to wind us up with a chant of "Play up Pompey" - we must have progressed if we best abuse we get these days is for losing a F.A. Cup Final!! Midfield were anonymous again and as McPhail was yellow carded, City fans launched into a chant of "Jonesy, Jonesy, sort it out".

Whether Jones chose it ignore it and be stubborn, only he will know but maybe he was content with a game where we never looked like losing or conceding but never looked like winning or scoring either. Except just as I was saying this, we fell behind to a sucker punch goal ... maybe the game was making our players sleepy in the humid, close weather too. It was a giveaway, a 60 yard ball found Purse and Johnson nowhere, enabling LEWIS GUY, scorer of the winner at Derby last week, to take a touch to control the ball and then fire past the advancing exposed Heaton.

Guy smiled at us, waving a finger as the Donny players celebrated in the corner nearest us. The drummer was in apoplexy. Amazingly, one City fan - a staunch home and away follower - ran to the police to berate the player's celebration and an officer was despatch to make notes about an official complain about the celebration. It seemed innocuous to me, surely we're bigger than this? A steward in front of us celebrated too, he was swiftly removed by his superior after more feedback.

It was now sub time and at least Dave Jones finally has options when we're in this position. Off came Whittingham, who started well before disappearing out of the game, for Bothroyd as Parry went wide. That made little difference so on came Thommo for Scimeca as we went 4-3-3 but Doncaster were in charge and not feeling any threat from City's wholly inadequate 2nd half output. Comminges for a limping McNaughton was the final change.

Again, it made no difference and we contemplated the long journey home being made longer still by a loss when we grabbed a just about deserved draw when facing defeat when Donny cracked and panicked to help gift us a goal to make up for the one we gifted them. It told you they were very nice and obliging in Donny!

Two minutes remained when McPhail sent in a simple ball but Sullivan, one of his defenders, Thommo and Boothroyd all went for it, the keeper fumbled, Bothroyd appeared to mishit but the ball ran wide for McCORMACK - hardly seen all game - to slot home to sent us all mental. Fans charged to the front of the stand from all parts to celebrate and wave at Donny's Ten Boys who had loved their 20 minutes of gesturing heaven while leading. A few of them decided it was "time to go", maybe helped by our singing fro them to do that, we waved them on their way.

Two "Get Out Of Jail Free" cards used in the opening two games means City are 7th when they could have been 17th without them but at least we have finally discovered the knack of scoring late, something that often worked against us last season. All credit to City for keeping going and trying to the end even when things aren't going their way. They show they have character even if they are lacking in other departments at present but, in context, Southampton and Doncaster are likely only to bother the arse end of the Championship this season. We need to improve a lot if we are finally to push on and deliver on Messr Ridsdale and Jones' fine words spoken post-Wembley and all summer.

Positives today? Hopefully, McCormack's goal may settle him but who will stop all our forwards wanting to head down the channels? We must have more directness from our strikers whose cause, admittedly, is forlorn when the service offered for McCormack and Parry was a series of long, high balls. Midfield aren't functioning well currently, Joe Ledley has been below par, Whittingham anonymous while McPhail and the hard working Scimeca never exercised any control. I know Rae was missing but they do need help anyway.

At the back, Tom Heaton has been well protected by his defence with very little to do but their slackness has still seen him concede in every game so far. Mark Kennedy worries me on the left. If he's a defender, there's still hope for me on the evidence so far. Both Southampton and Doncaster realised it and targeted him, who'd have imagined we'd be missing Capaldi once upon a time? Purse did ok even if his distribution was in his trademark wayward style a couple of times. More pertinent, Purse/Johnson just do not gel or look a partnership. They never faced much pressure today but you worry how they will cope when that happens.

The return journey was thankfully swifter even if we hit heavy rain, it was dark not long after 7pm and seemed more like October than the middle of August. Thanks Dave for the driving! A good point, an enjoyable awayday but the questions about Cardiff City's deficiencies and areas to address strike me as exactly the same ones we were talking about towards the back end of last season. Two weeks of the transfer window remain for PR and DJ to put right what they haven't so far all summer, that clock is ticking fast.

Report from FootyMad

Doncaster had victory snatched from their grasp following a disastrous defensive mix-up two minutes from the end from a game they should have won.

Newly-promoted Rovers looked set to continue their dream start to life in the Championship when Lewis Guy struck for the second successive Saturday in the 67th minute.

But Scotland striker Ross McCormack, who had a spell on-loan with Doncaster three seasons ago, snatched a fortuitous late equaliser.

Doncaster began brightly and had all the pressure playing some splendid football in the first 20 minutes.

Richie Wellens had a shot deflected wide following a free-kick from Brian Stock in the sixth minute and James Hayter hit a 20-yarder just wide a minute later.

A goalbound effort from Stock rebounded off team-mate Gareth Taylor in the 12th minute as Cardiff continued to weather the storm.

But the visitors held firm in defence and began to assert themselves in the latter stages of the first half with home keeper Neil Sullivan doing well to tip away a penetrating cross from Kevin McNaughton in the 23rd minute.

Sullivan produced a super-reflex save to deny Paul Parry a minute later, before Doncaster got on top again with Taylor hitting a powerful low shot which Tom Heaton did well to save.

Doncaster had more of the play in the second half, although Cardiff coped comfortably until Guy struck what seemed likely to be the winner.

The former Newcastle striker latched onto a long ball down the middle from Matt Mills and lashed home an unstoppable shot into the bottom corner.

Cardiff's attempts to hit back looked feeble and they seldom posed a threat until they were gifted an 88th minute equaliser following a collision between keeper Sullivan and skipper Adam Lockwood.

The ball ran to the waiting McCormack, who gleefully fired home from close range to give the Welshmen a point they scarcely deserved.

External Reports
Wales On Sunday
Cardiff Official Website
Doncaster Official Website
The Telegraph