THE injury woes which blighted the second half of Doncaster Rovers’ 2010-11 Championship campaign, struck again in the first game of the new season in Saturday’s opener against Brighton at the new Amex Stadium.
Record signing and top scorer for the last two years, Billy Sharp, and fellow striker James Hayter, were both stretchered off with leg injuries during the second half of the club’s 2-1 defeat.
Rovers No 2 Richard O’Kelly, not known for making controversial claims, described the tackle on Sharp by Brighton defender Lewis Dunk as being ‘horrendous’.
“I thought it was a spiteful and nasty challenge,” he added. “After the two yellow cards which we got in the first half it must have been a red.”
He was less critical of the incident which led to Hayter being hurt in the 89th minute.
“James was involved in a collision in the box,” he said. “He attempted to hook the ball and someone caught him with their studs.”
Sharp left the stadium on crutches with his left leg encased in a special boot from the knee downwards.
“I’ve no idea at this stage of the extent of their injuries; we’ll have to assess them,” said O’Kelly.
Both men would seem likely to miss tomorrow’s Carling Cup first round tie at home to Tranmere Rovers. Reflecting on the game, which saw Rovers lead 1-0 at the break courtesy of a 39th minute goal by Sharp, O’Kelly said: “We were very pleased with how things had gone in the first.
“They made a change at half-time, bringing Craig Noone on and he looked lively, What we didn’t do in the second half was to start well.But we weathered the storm and started to break play up. From our point of view you are looking to progress from there and keep the ball a bit better rather than trying to score a second goal.”
Having seen Rovers deny the Seagulls a goal when they had been under more sustained pressure earlier in the half, O’Kelly was disappointed to concede an 82nd minute equaliser during a period of the half when there was little between the two sides.
“It was a good strike but you have to look at our defensive unit and wondered if we could have done better (dealing with Liam Bridcutt’s free-kick)” he said.
“It was disappointing but at that stage we were thinking ‘can we still win the game?’ Then we lose James Hayter just after putting on our final sub which was harsh.We’d made changes after losing James and instead of being 4-1-4-1 we went to 4-4-1 and our understanding in the middle of the park probably wasn’t the best.”