Wash Out: Rovers weather woes return
Everything looked set up for another good day out for Doncaster Rovers today. Fresh off the back of a record-equalling 7-1 win away at Southend in midweek, confidence is sky high in Darren Moore’s squad and a quick follow-up against a Tranmere side sliding towards the bottom three felt like the perfect momentum-builder.
As it is, the weather has intervened and so another fixture has gone by the wayside, a third Rovers game being chalked off the calendar already this season (following the expulsion of Bury days before our match with them and the as-yet unresolved Bolton debacle) leaving Moore and his side playing catch-up further.
Today was probably the perfect time to play Tranmere too. They were trounced 5-0 at Sunderland in midweek, are without several key players through injury including forward Morgan Ferrier and top scorer Stefan Payne would also have been suspended. There is no blame attached to the postponement but it feels as though the fates often contrive to make things as difficult as possible for Rovers, and so it is again.
It’s not the first time though and it certainly won’t be the last. So, for a bit of bonus content in the wake of today’s lost game, here are three prior times that the weather scuppered things for us.
Frozen out of crucial Leeds clash
All set for a blockbuster battle in a lunchtime kick-off on Saturday February 16th, 2008, a winter cold snap put paid to a sell-out occasion at the Keepmoat Stadium with Leeds United the visitors. Overnight frost combined with the fact the game had been moved to a midday start on police advice meant the surface at Rovers’ new stadium wasn’t deemed fit for football.
In addition to the lost revenue of a midweek rearrangement meaning a lower crowd on both sides, Rovers were chomping at the bit for this local derby as they looked to maintain an automatic promotion push. Sean O’Driscoll’s side were on a four-match winning streak having just seen off his old club Bournemouth away in the week before and were on a run of nine wins in eleven games which included only one defeat, at home to eventual champions Swansea.
Leeds on the other hand were without a win in six games in pursuit of overcoming their 15-point deduction, a run which began in the reverse fixture against Rovers as Brian Stock’s free kick won a memorable bout at Elland Road in January. In a more pronounced way than today’s form guide with Tranmere, the game had come at the perfect time for Rovers and the worst for Leeds, so the postponement of the game ruined a great chance to stamp our authority.
As a result, Rovers form dropped off as they were sent on a run of four away games in a row by the freeze off, losing their next game at Carlisle. Leeds found the winning knack and won the rearranged fixture at the Keepmoat thanks to a sublime Alan Sheehan free kick with Rovers on a run of only one win in five. Ultimately, fate would put the two sides on a collision course for Wembley in May where James Hayter’s diving header sealed Rovers’ return to the Championship after 50 years away.
Three points washed away at The Valley
It is no longer the most noteworthy game between the two, but Rovers’ ill-fated trip to Charlton on August 24th, 2013 is still talked about today for the shambolic nature of an abandonment that would ultimately cost Paul Dickov’s side their place in the Championship come the end of the season.
On an extremely wet afternoon in South East London, Rovers stormed ahead into a 3-0 lead after only 23 minutes before referee Lee Collins temporarily suspended proceedings due to the downpour. It is inarguable that standing water was compromising aspects of the play but both sides remained committed and when the decision to resume was taken it seemed all was fine.
The home side mounted something of a comeback, pulling one back and when Paul Keegan, who had opened the scoring with a rare goal, was sent off just before half time, things looked finely poised for the second half. However, Collins then decided to abandon the tie and Charlton’s willingness to keep the pitch playable was called into question owing to the scoreline.
This was no more apparent than during half time, when Rovers players desperate to earn the three points took to sweeping standing water off the field themselves as Charlton’s groundstaff half-heartedly poked at it with pitchforks. Despite manager Chris Powell’s insistence that his side were “ready to go out”, it didn’t feel as though the Addicks had adhered to the fair spirit of getting the game played.
Adding further insult to injury, Keegan had only his second Rovers goal (of three total) taken off him due to the abandonment but his red card stayed and he was suspended for the next game, a 3-1 home loss to Leeds. Charlton won the rearranged fixture 2-0 to go above Rovers in the table and Dickov’s side went down in cruel fashion on the final day by goal difference instead of finishing clear in 20th.
Magic of the Cup deserts Rovers
The following season, a rare spotlight was being shone on Rovers in the FA Cup. Drawn away to Conference South minnows Weston-super-Mare in the 1st Round, the classic David-and-Goliath narrative was talked up with BBC even sending their Football Focus programme to Weston’s Woodspring Stadium for the occasion. A couple of hundred Rovers fans made the trip, which was about an eight-hour round trip by road or, for this writer, a four-train odyssey south, anticipating a classic cup tie.
Instead, with most fans in the ground and little Weston all set for their big day in the limelight, referee Tim Robinson and his officiating team strolled out onto the pitch, chucked a match ball at a two-metre patch of mud in one corner of the field and decided it was enough to call the whole thing off and spoil the day for everyone involved. A massively disappointing decision and one that left everyone involved out of pocket, not least the home side who would now have to settle for a hastily reconvened midweek match at less than capacity.
All notions of romance were thrown out thanks to one bit of a mud, despite the fact most of the pitch seemed fine and the non-league outfit had gone above and beyond to get the game played. Unlike the previous two examples, Rovers did win the game when it was eventually played as you would expect, dismissing any worry of a giant-killing with a 4-1 win in which Curtis Main got a brace.
Rovers got past eternal FA Cup rivals Oldham in the next round thanks to a late own goal before falling to League One rivals Bristol City in a 3rd Round replay.