Today was certainly a case of shooting ourselves in the foot. It was another one step forward and two steps back which as City fans, we have become very familiar with. After two brilliant results on the road, the opportunity was there against Doncaster to climb further away from danger, but we bottled it.
It was a poor game overall from both sides in all honesty as a poor Ricoh surface didn’t allow for the standard of football we had seen at Highbury on Tuesday. It was a game of two halves for the Sky Blues though as a competent first half performance couldn’t be replicated in the second.
After the two late goals on Tuesday night we as fans were still buzzing going in to the match, and after 5 minutes our excitement and good-feeling was heightened further as we went 1-0 up. Jim O’Brien picked up the ball in midfield and played a superb pass through to Dominic Samuel who closed in on goal before finishing with aplomb in to the bottom corner. A good start, but perhaps a few of us got ahead of ourselves a little?
Despite taking a lead, the game was relatively even in the opening half as both teams struggled to get a real grip on the tie. The Sky Blues were knocking the ball around well in periods but the warning signs were there however as we gave up the ball sloppily in the midfield on numerous occasions. It was Doncaster who created the next chance after gaining possession, Abdul Razak was allowed to let fly on 12 minutes from the edge but Lee Burge managed to beat the ball away from goal.
Frank Nouble was the next to give the ball away on 14 minutes before bringing down his opposing number. Luckily for him and the Sky Blues though, the set-piece was wasted. Another piece of inept play though. Although City weren’t playing particularly well, they went close to doubling their lead on 18 minutes. A superb corner from Grant Ward picked out Chris Stokes who headed just wide after he managed to lose his marker in the box. Just minutes later and it was the post that thwarted City this time. A superb outside of the foot pass from O’Brien found Nouble out wide, he then shrugged off his man and drove in to the area before squaring the ball from a tight angle. As bodies were attacking the ball it came off the leg of a Doncaster player and struck the foot of the post before the away side managed to clear.
One thing that was evident from the stands in the first half was the work ethic of the group as they looked to press high as soon as possible. It was very intense off the ball work which allowed us to win the ball and break down attacks, but on 29 minutes the away side should of scored. A fast paced passing move allowed Nathan Tyson time to get a shot away from 12 yards, and despite having the whole goal to aim at he dragged his effort wide to let City off the hook. This summed up Doncaster in the first half to tell the truth, they looked dangerous in parts but they were just lacking that final ball/bit of quality to trouble the defence.
The final 15 minutes of the half were tightly contested but they didn’t produce any real talking points apart from a possible red card. Jim O’Brien had already been booked earlier in the half and with 40 minutes on the clock he lunged in from behind and it looked a certainty he would be shown the second yellow. However, the referee didn’t deem it as a second booking somehow and the Skipper got away with it. So overall it was a pretty dull first half but we went in 1-0 up and with 11 men still on the pitch… Thankfully.
After starting the first half so relentlessly, the same couldn’t be said for the second half as we didn’t look to get out of the starting blocks. Right from the off, the away side looked the better team as the Sky Blues looked fatigued and off the pace. A chance was missed by Rovers on 48 minutes before they managed to equalise just a minute or so later. Awful defending, including a moment when Dominic Samuel decided to dribble the ball straight in to his own box, allowed Richard Wellens to steal the ball and fire the ball in to the back of the net from six yards.
City just didn’t do anything in the second half, it was if they hadn’t even turned up. Everything just seemed so lethargic as the players looked physically drained and most likely, mentally too. We created the odd half chance but it was Doncaster who went close again as Harry Forrester attempted to curl the ball in to the far corner from the edge of the box, Burge held well though. As pressure mounted, the defence was breached again on 72 minutes as another individual error cost us dearly. Chris Stokes stumbled on the ball on the edge of the area and Jonson Clarke-Harris (Former City player who was released due to his poor attitude) was allowed to strike on goal. His initial effort was well saved from Burge down low but the striker was the first to react to the loose ball before slotting home to make it 1-2.
From this point on City still couldn’t seem to cause the away side any problems and Doncaster looked very comfortable. But just to add insult to injury, the Yorkshire side scored their third of the game to complete the collapse. A long ball out wide saw Aaron Martin make a mistake as his opponent stole the ball and raced down the wing, the defender then caught up with his man and he looked to shield the ball out for the goal kick. Ironically, in an interview earlier in the week the defender said he doesn’t mind clearing his lines when needed… Well, that’s what he should of done here! Instead, Curtis Main kept the ball in play and crossed to Harry Forrester who bagged Donny’s third to condemn City to defeat.
Obviously it was very dissapointing to lose the game, especially in the manner we did. As I stated earlier, it was a dire game all round and we were poor, but Doncaster were only slightly better. From open play the away side didn’t create too much, and City looked fairly untroubled as the final ball was lacking for Rovers. It was the fact that we threw away three goals that frustrates me the most, especially after defending so well in the previous two outings. It seemed as if Mowbray had sorted our naivety at the back, but a horror show brought us back down to earth. I felt that his substitutions were very questionable today, and this could of contributed to the result. He has however improved the squad mentally, but he can’t fix defensive frailties overnight. Furthermore, It was evident that the hectic block of fixtures had caught up with the players as we looked fatigued… We can’t use it as an excuse however, Doncaster had to cope with the same, albeit with a bigger squad.
Obviously to throw away what would of been three points is a worry, but we’ve got to put this game to bed and focus on Peterborough on Saturday. It is the squad’s responsibility now to act on these mistakes and prepare themselves psychologically so they aren’t repeated. We’ve shown we can defend at Chesterfield and Fleetwood, so we’ve got to use that as motivation to prove it again at London Road where a win is now a necessity.
A positive is that Dominic Samuel got himself on the scoresheet again, and he could be the man that fires us to safety. These last eight games of the campaign are pivotal in the clubs future, as i can do nothing but fear the worst if relegation did happen. No games are easy at this stage or at any stage for that matter, but it’s all about game management now. We need points regardless of performances and I pray to God that we get them! We’ve shown in glimpses that we do have enough quality to stay in this division, now let’s prove it!!!
Lee Burge – 6.5
Chris Stokes – 5.5
Aaron Martin – 5.5
Matthew Pennington – 6.5
Grant Ward – 7
John Fleck – 6
Adam Barton – 6
Jim O’Brien – 6
Frank Nouble – 5.5
Dominic Samuel – 7
Sanmi Odelusi – 6
Aaron Phillips – 6
Simeon Jackson – N/A