A proper trip oop north this week for me and MrsB to see the lions take on the “proper footballing side” Doncaster Rovers. What that means exactly, I couldn’t say, but the hacks of Fleet Street deem it necessary to spout this ridiculous sobriquet whenever they mention Rovers in their missives.
Apparently they try to keep the ball and then put it in the oppositions net as many times as possible, hence “a proper footballing side”.
What the fuck the rest of the teams are doing, the Gods of football only know...
The trip itself is one of the easiest to do considering the location and it was disappointing to note that barely 600 Lions fans made the effort. The price of a ticket (£15) is silly money and the location is a piece of piss to get to and as an added bonus for the ladies there is a mini Lakeside shopping centre right next door.
Even the locals are almost acceptable. Yes, they have a certain “wild eyed boy from Free Cloud” look about them but they are harmless enough. They have a clear and concise understanding that they are norvern monkies and they know their place in the grand scheme of things.
The ground itself is fit for purpose, I suppose, it still looks newish and the facilities are decent enough, the staff are polite and friendly and there is running hot water in the lavatories and a means to dry your hands or other extremities you may need to wash.
Times are hard in Doncaster and the football club is doing its utmost to try and generate a bit of passion and a bit of commitment from the locals but it all seems to be falling on deaf ears. The cheap tickets alone were not enough to drag the masses away from their whippets and puddings and barely 10,000 were settled in to watch the afternoon’s proceedings unfold.
The Millwall mascot looked in fine fettle though and he stepped up to the microphone and bellowed out that Millwall would win 2-0. I think I actually heard his old man groan inwardly as if to say “mockers truly on”.
The teams were led out by a standard bearer for the British Legion, a timely reminder to those who somehow forgot to wear their poppy with pride.
MrsB clocked the referee...S Mathieson...oh dear...a short man with a short mans attitude. Some people call it the Napoleon syndrome but not me. A quick trawl through your history books will quickly reveal that Napoleon was, in fact, of average height. The small stature attributed to him was made up by English lampoonists to emphasise Wellington’s superiority over his adversary.
Therefore I call it the little shit syndrome and Mr Mathieson fits that bill quite snugly.
Mr Jackett had some forced changes because of injuries and we lined up in a sort of lop sided 4-5-1 ish sort of homage to the now legendary Christmas tree formation with Lisbie meandering around the left side of midfield with Trotter sort of backing up Morison down the middle.
The full line up as follows:
Forde, Barron, Shittu, Robbo, Dunne, Abdou, Henry, Trotter, Carter, Lisbie and Morison.
The short arse ref got us going and we made a decent start. We looked confident and if keeping the ball and passing it to team mates in a controlled fashion to attempt to score a goal is not ‘proper football’ then I am fucked if I know what it is.
We created the first chance of the game when Morison slipped a tidy ball along the line for Henry to chase. Henry caught it right and with Trotter waiting in anticipation the ball was chipped across the face of their goal but Sullivan, the Rovers ‘keeper just snatched it out of the air before it reached Trotter’s waiting head.
Minutes later the home ‘keeper was not so sure fingered when the same combination of Henry and Trotter conspired to this time get it right and as the ball was hit deep to Trotter the midfielder rose and got his head to it.
It looked from our end like the ‘keeper caught it but suddenly the ball was loose and there was Morison on hand to slam home the ball 0-1! An excellent start to the game as the 600 odd travelling fans roared their approval.
The home fans were strangely silent before our goal but they went into total Marcel Marceau mode after.
We did not rest on our laurels after this and we kept playing our high tempo game and we should’ve gone two up soon after when the ball fell kindly into Henry’s path but the winger hurried his shot and put the ball wide of the target.
It wasn’t all one way traffic though and Forde came to the rescue with a fine save from a snapshot from Healey and then blocked another effort soon after as Rovers began to realise that they were in a game.
We still looked quite comfortable though and we kept them on the back foot throughout the first half. Morison was again involved in another slick passing move that saw him thread a ball through to Trotter who hit a low drive across Sullivan but the ageing ‘keeper got down swiftly to just about palm the ball around the post for a Millwall corner.
We finished the half in the ascendency and it was a pretty decent performance all round. Shittu again is looking like a real quality half back and he can only improve as he gets his match fitness back. Morison’s movement up front helped the midfielders approach play and it was hard to see any weakness throughout the team.
The travelling contingent was in full voice as the lads trotted off to some well earned applause.
Now, you know that old familiar clichéd maxim “a game of two halves”? I don’t know what was said during the break but Doncaster came out like a different team altogether. They came at us from the off and we lost our way a bit.
The warning signs were there when a free kick was hit into our box and Martis squandered a free header by putting it over the bar but soon after this disaster struck big time.
Morison was back helping out the defence and he made a typical striker’s challenge just to the right side of the pitch deep into our half.
His yellow card meant he will miss a game but more punishment was added as the free kick was clipped in and Hayter was left all alone to simply head the ball past the stricken Forde. 1-1.
The home crowd finally found their voice and even before the noise had died down we were suddenly behind.
Dunne got robbed (or fouled) in possession and the ball was picked up out on the left wing. The ball was played inside of Robbo and the subsequent shot hit Shittu. It was then headed forward by with at least two of their players in an offside position.
The lino and the ref missed this blatant off side and then as Forde raced out to collect the ball the same Rovers player that had headed the ball forward put his foot up into Forde’s space causing him to flap at the ball which fell invitingly to Healy (who had stayed in an off side position for most of the passage of play) and he slotted it into an empty net. 2-1.
Absolute disaster all round.
We were definitely all over the place now and the home side should have added a third goal in as many minutes when Healy was again offered a gilt edged chance but his finishing was a lot poorer when he was not offered a clear tap in.
We rallied after this. Ten minutes of utter crap was past and we finally got things under some sort of control but the fluid movement and play was not the same as the first half.
Mr Jackett saw the need to change and he took of Carter and brought on Schofield just after the hour mark and the tactic almost paid dividends immediately although not directly.
Morison squirreled an opening on the left and crossed into the box to Lisbie who was then virtually rugby tackled to the ground.
Yet again a combination of Lino and Ref saw nothing wrong and instead of getting a stone wall penalty we were racing back to defend a quick counter attack from the home side.
Shortly after this Mr Jackett brought on John Marquis to replace James Henry as we sought to salvage at least a point from the game.
Marquis almost had a dream entrance when he collected the ball to the right of their goal and fired a low scuttling shot across the goal that just went past the post.
Schofield had a go but his effort was comfortably saved by Sullivan and then Marquis had a glorious chance set his stamp on the game when he found a perfect position in the six yard box but his header went straight to a grateful ‘keeper when anywhere else would have been a certain goal.
We then had yet another chance to equalise after we were awarded a free kick to the right of midfield after their centre back, Thomas, appeared to elbow Lisbie in the face. I say appeared because even though the ref awarded the free kick he didn’t send the man off for what looked like a blatant attempt at injuring another player, so unless the ref and the Lino yet again got it wrong (surely not?) we must assume it was unintentional?
The free kick was chipped into the box and again Marquis got himself into a great position but this time his glancing header went out for a goal kick.
That was the last real chance we had and even though the ref conjured up a generous four minutes of stoppage time the home side did the usual spoiling tactics to run the clock down.
So we managed to grab defeat from the jaws of victory yet again but it wasn’t a bad performance and the signs are there for some positive thinking. In context, five minutes of madness cost us the game and we were not out-gunned, out-classed or out-anythinged and on another day we would have come away with at least a point.
No time to dither, we have a home game against Norwich on Tuesday night and we need to get some more points on the board as the winter nights draw in because let’s face it, the ‘R’ word is starting to form on lips and we can all do without the spectre of that particular demon, thank you very much.
See you all there!