Analysis: Leeds 1 Doncaster Rovers 2

Leeds United v Doncaster Rovers.'United's Cameron Stewart is brought down by Doncaster's Paul Quinn. Pic: Jonathan Gawthorpe.
Leeds United v Doncaster Rovers.'United's Cameron Stewart is brought down by Doncaster's Paul Quinn. Pic: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

Paul Dickov stood in front of Rovers’ travelling support at Elland Road at the end of a rollercoaster match and pumped his fists.

A stunning strike from David Cotterill and a timely goal from Billy Sharp helped deliver the 2-1 triumph - only the second on the road this term - and the big step closer to safety that drew such a reaction from Dickov.

Such overt outbursts of emotion have been rare from Rovers’ passionate boss this season.

The most memorable one prior to Saturday’s came in September when he stood and saluted the supporters after a 1-0 win at Sheffield Wednesday.

In the six long months since, Dickov and Rovers have not had much to cheer about on their trips away from the Keepmoat.

Suckerpunches after valiant performances and dark days like the mauling at Bournemouth have all combined to put Rovers at the bottom of the away results table in the Championship this season.

There will be plenty this morning arguing that every one of those days of disappointment were worth suffering through to deliver an afternoon like Saturday, ending the long Leeds hoodoo and compounding the woes of a downtrodden rival.

Whether Dickov will agree is up for question. But what is certain is that he will stride into his Cantley Park office this morning with plenty of pride at a job well done.

Leeds may be at a particularly low ebb following on and off the field problems but they still take some beating, and did so on Saturday.

It was the manner in which Rovers went about getting only their second ever victory at Elland Road which deserves plenty of credit.

Dickov warned last week Rovers could be facing a wounded animal ready to bite back and bit back hard.

Instead, Rovers found a wounded animal that was incredibly vulnerable rather than ready to strike back. And they showed no mercy, twisting the knife, particularly in a ruthless first half.

From the first minute, they went at Leeds, denying the hosts the opportunity to show they were not hurting from weeks of poor results and a month for which they were only paid half their wages.

Instead Leeds looked hurt, they appeared damaged as they could not get close to Rovers over what must have been a painful opening half hour.

In the second hour of the game, Rovers defended incredibly resolutely under an increasing amount of pressure from the hosts.

Rovers’ success in the first half was largely built on midfield dominance as Richie Wellens and Paul Keegan controlled the middle of the park.

Their dominance was only highlighted by the fact Leeds boss Brian McDermott withdrew the duo’s opposite numbers Rodolph Austin and Luke Murphy at half time, both of whom had been particularly poor.

Wellens and Keegan provided an excellent platform for Rovers swarming forward in wave after wave of high tempo play.

Such an approach caused panic among Leeds’ defenders with one such moment bringing a shout for a penalty when Wellens fell after darting in the box.

Rovers may have tapped gently on the door for 20 minutes but Cotterill smashed it open as he gave his side the lead.

The Welshman picked up a pass from James Coppinger, took a touch that put him on the right corner of the box and unleashed a piledriver which drilled into the far top corner, giving Jack Butland no chance.

Leeds began to force their way back into the game after the half hour mark but threatened mainly from distance, though Matt Smith turned the ball on target from close range with Sam Johnstone claiming comfortably.

Rovers looked content to see the half out with patient possession, looking to ensure Leeds did not level things up.

They held onto the ball superbly as the half entered stoppage time before another breakthrough appeared almost by accident.

A missed tackle 25 yards out presented a clear path through to Sharp who took a touch, turned Sam Byram and somewhat scuffed a shot into the bottom corner past a wrong-footed Butland.

The introduction of Michael Tonge and Aidan White for Leeds at the break certainly made a difference as the hosts approached the second half with a level of vigour and intent they could only have dreamed of in the opening period.

Rovers themselves looked nervy over the first 15 minutes of the half and misplaced passes in midfield saw the pressure rarely abate.

But while they could not push Leeds back, Rovers defended superbly.

The introduction of Lucas Neill into the back four was seamless. Paul Quinn kept his place at centre half with Neill slotting in solidly at right back.

Abdoulaye Meite was particularly impressive in dealing with Smith as well as cutting out a series of final balls to deny chances for Leeds.

It was the turn of the hosts to claim for a penalty when James Husband appeared to handle in blocking a cross from the right but Bond was again unmoved.

For a side who defended so resolutely for the vast majority of the contest, there will have been some disappointment at the simple manner which Leeds pulled their goal back just after the hour.

A deep cross was headed back across goal by Matt Smith with McCormack rising unmarked to nod past Johnstone.

Leeds had their way back in but Rovers were not about to open the door again. They stood firm in front of everything the hosts had to throw at them.

Coppinger even went close to securing the win when he ran on to a loose ball but lashed it well over the bar.

The most nervy moment came deep in the second half and there was a sense Rovers dodged a bullet.

Johnstone raced out of his area to charge down McCormack who knocked the ball past him. The keeper then pulled McCormack back and referee Darren Bond blew his whistle. After a prolonged period of protests from both sets of players, Bond flashed a yellow card.

Leeds failed to produce a clear cut chance of an equaliser until deep into stoppage time when Smith met a chipped cross from McCormack but sent his header over the bar.

They may well have been forced to hold on but there could be few arguments that Rovers deserved the three points.

Such a performance deserved the biggest of fist pumps.