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The Final Straw
The Final Straw

No Joy in Doncaster

By: Andrew Doherty
Date: 28/10/2023

LAST season we won this corresponding fixture 2 - 1. Doncaster were a team without confidence but it took Town until the last five minutes to overtake the home said, with goals by Maher and late substitute Lloyd.

Moving forward to now, Lloyd sits on the substitutes bench at Cheltenham while Orsi who set up Lloyd's goal is living up to his potential at Crawley. Their absence isn't the reason however for Town's current poor showing. Confusion reigns among the players who seem to be operating on different wavelengths. For fans, there's no excitement right now. Dour football, dour manager, fragile defence, frustrated supporters. Following my last report on Tuesday's home defeat to Colchester, my eagle-eyed friend Arseen spotted that I'd got the score wrong at the end, but in doing it I couldn't even manage to create the fake news that we'd won. That would have been unthinkable, especially after the first half of some of the most turgid rubbish we've witnessed all season. Doncaster meanwhile started the season poorly and are coming off a 0 - 3 home defeat but have shown signs of getting in their stride.

Today's team with the task of improving our league position was: Cartwright - Efete, Maher, Rodgers, Amos - Conteh - Clifton, Holohan, Eisa - Wilson, Rose. The change of goalkeeper was no surprise, and the return of Clifton would hopefully mean greater muscle in midfield. It was a damp and grey day in Doncaster, which doesn't add to anything we already didn't know, but the Eco Power, formerly known as the Keepmoat, is impressive, especially for a modern stadium. Just as impressive were the volume and enthusiasm of the 2,300 Grimsby supporters in today's crowd of 8,746. Town were in their white and blue third kit today. Doncaster wore their customary red and white hoops.

On 2 minutes a great chase down and tackle by Amos started a move but Wilson's shot was well wide. Rose followed up with a shot after another Amos pass into the danger area. Doncaster won the game's first corner after an Amos deflection from a cross but Bailey shot wide. A lovely Holohan flick recalled the silky skills of Paul Gascoigne as he beat the defender and set up Rose to cross from the right but Clifton headed over. An Amos cross was pushed back by Rose inside the box to Clifton who seemed to be caught by surprise and lost the opportunity. Town were playing with purpose. On 14 minutes Doncaster broke. Maher lost a battle in the corner. Molyneux passed short to Westbrooke who crossed to Close in a clear training ground move. Close's shot booked over the bar. Back to the training ground, then. An Amos through ball to Clifton led to Town winning a throw deep in Doncaster territory. Town were doing fine. In defence Maher was imperious. Amos almost broke the spell when robbed by Nixon. Ironside received the pass but in spite of having a clear shot struck it over the bar. Westbrooke was then tripped. From the free kick, Holohan cleared. Amos was beaten. A cross came in but Maher was on hand to clear for a corner. On 30 minutes Conteh tripped Nixon with a heavy tackle on the edge of the box. The referee reached into his pocket … and pulled out the spray for a free-kick. The shot was blocked, but Broadbent was clear on the left and received the clearance. Cartwright did well to block with his feet. Town won two free-kicks on the right which Eisa delivered but both moves ended with a foul in Doncaster's favour. On 37 minutes Town had their best and only clear chance when Rose did brilliantly in midfield to hold off the defender and supply Holohan who raced on and forced a good save from keeper Jones. Maher put in a good block after Efete crushed Molyneux. A handball ended the threat. Holohan was booked for a foul on Senior, and that was the end of the action in a goalless first half. Town looked solid but only managed one clear-cut chance against a poor home side.

The sky was now bright and the rain had stopped but it was cold. We can't expect too much in Doncaster but Town's fans did expect a sharper performance in front of goal. Town started the second half brightly. A good tackle by Amos allowed Eisa to go on a run and switch play, passing to Rose whose through ball was cut out. It was a nice move. Conteh then intercepted the ball in midfield to start another. Clifton laid the ball off to Eisa whose shot was blocked. Rose then went close. Although Doncaster had a corner, Town had the initiative, and good work by Holohan in rounding the defence led to a cross to Rose whose flick came off the post. Town were playing well as a unit. Holohan again found space on 58 minutes, finding Eisa but Town were unable to create any clear chances. Doncaster won a free kick on the right after Holohan was pushed off the ball while attempting an attack. The game was open. Town were switched on. Moves were fluid but frustratingly breaking down as we have been seeing so often. On 67 minutes a great interception by Maher saw Clifton race away, only to be bowled over by Close who received a yellow card. The resultant free-kick led to an Amos cross and corner. Clifton's cross landed at the keeper's feet and so that move ended. Another good move saw a lot of passes but no end result. It was hard to get away from the idea that Town were misfiring in spite of playing well. Doncaster countered on 71 minutes. Holohan, perhaps tired from his endeavours, was beaten for pace and the referee had no hesitation in awarding a penalty. Ironside stepped up and placed a perfect shot to Cartwright's left. Doncaster 1, Town 0. Town had the chance to respond within two minutes but Wilson slipped in the box. Rose was then booked for a tackle on Bailey as Doncaster secured sought to slow the game down. Town pushed on. Eisa crossed from the left but Clifton at the back post was unable to beat the defender. Town were still moving the ball well. Eisa won a corner on 79 minutes. Amos wasted the opportunity by sending the corner kick over everyone. Jones was booked for time-wasting at the restart. As Holohan was visibly tiring now, Doncaster attacked. Bailey went close and won a corner. The ball bounced and came onto the head of Faal who incredibly missed and sent the ball over from close range, Eisa's physicality won a corner on 85 minutes but it came to nothing as time was running out. On 86 minutes Pyke replaced Amos in what seemed a last-ditch and forlorn attempt to get back into the game. Two minutes later Doncaster won a corner. The ball came to Bailey who crashed a long-range shot and brought a great save out of Cartwright who tipped the ball onto the bar. Five minutes were added. As Eisa floated a free-kick straight to Jones in the 93rd minute, another loss seemed inevitable. And so it proved. Final score: Doncaster Rovers 1, Grimsby Town 0. The poor run continues.

"The rats have all got rickets" goes the John Cooper Clarke line. Even the rats would shy away from Doncaster. Grimsby seems like Monte Carlo in comparison with Doncaster. As I walked back to the station through the industrial wasteland, the ankle-high litter and along the dual carriageway and concrete, I reflected on the performance. Town worked hard and played well as a team, especially in the second half, against mediocre opponents. But the cutting edge once again wasn't there as Town's labours were in vain, mainly as we simply weren't sharp enough when playing the ball into the box. It was a joyless day again but especially so for manager Paul Hurst and assistant Chris Doig who were relieved of their duties after a string of poor performances and results.

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