Doncaster Rovers: Match abandoned farce

Referee Lee Collins talks to managers Paul Dickov and Chris Powell
Referee Lee Collins talks to managers Paul Dickov and Chris Powell

Last week it seemed that nothing could put a dampener on Rovers’ impressive start to the season.

The excellent win over Blackburn and the real scare given to Wigan ensured both the mood and the confidence in the camp were incredibly high.

Surely a Charlton side struggling to get up and running this season could not rain on the Rovers parade?

Unfortunately no one took account of a torrential South London downpour.

Delivering major disappointment to Paul Dickov’s men and another impressive away following were the elements and rather illogical handling of the situation by the match referee.

When Lee Collins emerged to abandon the match at half time, it was probably the right call.

The ball simply refused to roll more than a couple of yards at a time on a sodden surface with the game descending into farce and the likelihood of danger to the players only increasing.

But it was 4.35pm by the time Collins’ decision came, the delay coming due to a foolhardy decision to suspend play for half an hour in the hope the conditions would improve.

When the referee called the players off after 27 minutes at the Valley, the situation was certainly getting worse but not even close to being dire.

In the frustrating 30 minute break, the rain continued to lash down and there was little the groundstaff could do - even with the assistance of a few Rovers players armed with pitchforks and brushes, keen to see the game continue.

And who could blame them after racing into a 3-0 lead and looking capable of increasing that scoreline with every attack.

When play resumed just before 4pm, the rain had done its damage and quietened into a light drizzle. But the pitch was beyond rescue on the afternoon.

Had Collins let the game continue to half time rather than suspending play, there would have been a greater chance it would have been a lot closer to completion.

There was not even the solace of an early return north for the travelling support with the game ending just 15 minutes earlier than expected.

Though the rain robbed Rovers of a probable second win of the campaign, it could not take away plenty more positives from Dickov’s side.

As they showed against Wigan and Blackburn, Rovers are one of the division’s most ruthless counter-attacking outfits and certainly one of the most energetic.

Charlton were all at sea in a blistering opening period for Doncaster who sliced through them with ease.

Rovers were well worthy of their three-goal advantage before the impromptu break with the home defence categorically failing to deal with Rovers’ high- energy attack.

And at the opposite end, the pressing game continued to work for Rovers as Charlton struggled to get going with anything much more than speculative during those opening 27 minutes.

It was an afternoon to remember and forget in equal measure for Paul Keegan.

Again given the nod over Dean Furman, Keegan repaid his manager’s faith by opening the scoring after three minutes.

With what would have gone down as only his second goal in two and a half years at the club, Keegan charged into the box untracked to power home a header from a superb Theo Robinson cross from the right.

But by the time the game was abandoned, Keegan had a red card to his name and a one match ban that will likely stick even though no other incident from the game will.

Robinson was again the livewire for Rovers, charging through on a number of occasions and testing Ben Hamer’s reflexes with a shot from each corner of the box, one drawing a fine stop from the Charlton keeper at his near post.

Strangely, given the scoreline, it was Rovers keeper Ross Turnbull who was called upon more in the opening period.

Despite the slippery conditions he superbly dealt with a pair of powerful shots from Callum Harriott from outside the area and palmed away a superb volley from Bradley Pritchard.

His work was rewarded on 18 minutes when Rovers doubled their advantage.

Robinson beat the offside trap to surge to the byline and flash the ball across the face of goal with Chris Brown darting in to sidefoot home.

Rovers added a third on 23 minutes in rather comical fashion.

After a David Cotterill corner was tossed around the box, Richie Wellens lashed a shot on goal which former Sheffield Wednesday defender Morrison managed to head clear only to see the ball cannon back off the advancing Brown and past Hamer.

Rovers were brought back down to earth from dreamland when Collins suspended play.

When the final 18 minutes of the half were played, Charlton showed renewed vigour in the horrendous conditions despite their supporters’ constant chants of ‘call it off.’

With mistakes appearing all over the park, one led to Charlton grabbing a goal back.

Under pressure, Wellens attempted to stab a ball back to a teammate on the edge of the area only for it to skid through to Simon Church who turned smartly in space and slotted home.

There was suddenly an element of nerves in Rovers’ play, particularly in their own half and what appeared to be a situation heavily weighted in their favour was now on a knife-edge due to the unpredictability of the pitch.

Matters worsened two minutes before the break when Keegan was sent off.

Just eight minutes after being booked for dissent, Keegan was shown another yellow after pulling back Kermorgant on half way.

In the end, little of what transpired over the first 45 minutes counted.

But here’s hoping that, unlike the matchball, Rovers’ incredible momentum did not get caught in the puddles at the Valley.