A Fan's View: Doncaster 2 Albion 3
By Site Editor
Updated Monday, 12th April 2010
SussexBaggie gives his view on Albion's promotion winning game
Following our late equaliser at Watford five days previously, the three SussexBaggies made it our priority to attend this game in any way possible. Thankfully, the demand for tickets from the Albion supporters was not matched by their counterparts from South Yorkshire, so it was relatively easy for us to purchase tickets in the West Stand.
Our day started at 6am, due mainly to the fact that we had a 500-mile round trip ahead of us and we still needed to pick up our tickets on arrival at the ticket office. We had bought our tickets and were mingling outside the ground as ‘neutrals’ just after midday.
As expected, Roberto Di Matteo stuck with the 4-5-1 formation which has served us so well in recent weeks, with the only two changes being the inclusion of Steven Reid and Simon Cox in the starting line-up in place of Gianni Zuiverloon and James Morrison.
In truth, we started the game relatively slowly and, if anything, they looked like the side who could clinch promotion, with James Hayter and former Albion player James Chambers being denied by Scott Carson and Gabriel Tamas respectively.
This pattern continued for the first 30 minutes with the hosts having a decent amount of possession and Albion struggling to impose themselves.
However, as is so often the case in football, the team under the cosh took the lead, which in this case, meant joy for everyone connected with the Albion. The goal was scored by Graham Dorrans who curled a superb free-kick from the edge of the area beyond Neil Sullivan in the Doncaster goal to give Albion an undeserved lead.
The ensuing 15 minutes were probably the quietest in the game, with Albion comfortably containing the Doncaster attackers who had been so lively in the opening exchanges and the hosts doing likewise with the likes of Chris Brunt and Roman Bednar.
However, Doncaster very nearly found a route back into the game as we approached the end of the first half with another former Baggie, Shelton Martis, only being denied by a fine reaction save from Carson.
Almost immediately after this we doubled our lead. Brunt, who is making a habit of scoring goals in our most important matches, latched onto a poor defensive header by Chambers and scored at the second attempt after Sullivan had saved his initial effort. The temptation to Boing at this stage was almost unbearable, but thankfully we remembered we were surrounded by home supporters and resisted the temptation to copy the celebrations occurring in the away end, especially seeing as Brunt celebrated his goal right in front of us!
As was to be expected we conceded almost straight after the restart as the lively Jay Emmanuel-Thomas was allowed to cut inside Marek Cech and send a low, left-foot shot past Carson to give the previously subdued home crowd some hope of a fight-back.
A distinct lack of goalmouth action followed, with Albion and Doncaster cancelling each other out due to their similar style of football. The closest either side came to a goal in this period was when Bednar saw his shot comfortably saved by Sullivan at his near-post.
Just as the three SussexBaggies were preparing ourselves for a tense last 15 minutes, Albion scored again. The goal was scored by Bednar who converted Brunt’s excellent cross on the volley to send the away supporters into raptures and make the Albion supporters sitting in the home end breathe a little easier.
This goal prompted a triple substitution from Sean O’Driscoll, with one of his replacements, Dean Shiels, having two long-range efforts comfortably saved by Carson.
However, the hosts made sure of a nervous last five minutes when Hayter headed in an Emmanuel-Thomas free-kick after shaking off the attentions of the Albion defence.
At this stage, the tension very nearly became unbearable, with Doncaster having a lot of possession in and around the penalty area without really creating any chances of note. The one chance they created came with just seconds of stoppage time remaining, when Brunt effectively cleared a deep cross from John Oster off the line, beating the lurking Hayter to the ball in doing so.
This ended a thrilling encounter, one which Doncaster will probably feel slightly disappointed that they were unable to take anything from but, judging from the reaction of the vast majority of their supporters at the end of the game, were very happy to let us enjoy our moment.
We got the job done and this is really all we could have asked for at the start of the game. I don’t think it was vintage Albion, but our creative players, such as Dorrans and Brunt, did enough to win us the three points.
The pitch invasion that occurred immediately after the game meant that the players and coaches disappeared down the tunnel relatively quickly, but I’m sure the real celebrations are going to be saved for our home game next week against Middlesbrough.
I won’t use this report to talk about areas which need strengthening ahead of our return to the Premier League, but I certainly think we have more options in midfield than during our last promotion two years ago, although it is clear we could do with some reinforcements in defence.
My Man-of-the-Match yesterday was Graham Dorrans, as I felt no-one really stood out and his excellent free-kick is enough to earn him my vote. After a few quiet games, he once again took control of the game and made sure that the Doncaster midfield had to work hard for every pass they made. Other impressive performances came from Scott Carson and Chris Brunt, who have both been excellent in recent weeks.
Arriving back in Sussex on Saturday night, with an Albion scarf draped along the back of the car so it was visible to anyone driving behind us, it became clear what an outstanding achievement this was by a very young manager and a squad who have competed in the most competitive Championship in recent years.
For this reason, credit must be given to Roberto Di Matteo, Eddie Newton, Ade Mafe, Michael Appleton and Dan Ashworth for the work they have done this season to prepare our squad properly for every game. Of course, a large proportion of the credit must also be given to the players who have once again stepped up to the task admirably.