Venue: Keepmoat Stadium (Sunday 4th May 2015, 12.15pm)
A second venture over the border into the county of the White Rose beckoned over the May Day Weekend, following a second “Manchopper Draw” decision. This time, the eventual winner was The Vikings of Donny, Doncaster Rovers. Having stated the previous day when in the company of the Football Spoon & Dan Watkinson that I’d never been to either Sheffield or Leeds station, I was visiting both within 24 hours of each other.
On another dank, drizzly morning, I set off at just after 9am. Firstly, I had to head West to Warrington Central station, to catch the Express through to Yorkshire, before coming right back on myself via Manchester, Stalybridge and finally Leeds. With the rain now abated I took my place on a very smart looking Northern Rail train (nothing like those we slum on in the Red Rose county), my late arrival cutting my waiting time, and set off on the half-hour-or-so leg onwards to Doncaster.
After another trouble free journey, I set off on a half-hour walk from station to ground, which was accomplished without getting lost, in some minor miracle. Upon arrival, I lapped the ground to have a look at the surrounding area and, after seeing a few Power rangers (I think), came across none other than a walking, talking slice of pizza. Now I can assure you, I was free of substances at that moment! The unexpected appearance of the pepperoni coming around the corner meant here was no picture sadly!
After ensuring I was still sane, I came across the cash only turnstile, where I handed over the cut price £15 entrance fee and entered into the concourse of,,,,,then I realised I had absolutely no idea where in the ground I actually was! Only after purchasing the matchday programme “RTID” for the standard £3 did I discover I was in the end of the ground which houses the big screen, which is pretty much no more than a glorified advertisement slot. The opposite end is the scoreboard end, which today housed the travelling Iron fans. To the right and left are two stands which mirror each other, the right hand flank from my position also houses the family area, and the left houses the tunnel and dressing rooms areas beneath it.
To be fair, there isn’t a whole lot interesting about the Keepmoat. That is until you look up. The floodlights are quite something, protruding as they do from out of the roof of the four corners. It’s a very smart looking stadium, don’t get me wrong, it’s just a bit too bowl like for my liking. Onto the history then of the Rovers….
The club formed in 1879, in somewhat comical circumstances. A local railway worker gathered some of his mates together, played the “Yorkshire Deaf and Dumb Institute”, then they walked back, had a rest (and probably a pint) and decided to play some more. They came up with the name Doncaster Rovers and thus the club was born.
After playing Rawmarsh in their first competitive game under the guise, Donny quickly became the main team in town, having their first professionals, apparently, in the late 1880’s. They first entered the FA Cup in 1888, losing to Rotherham United and became founder members of the Midland League in 1891, finishing the inaugural season as runners-up and the following season featured the club playing in the Midland League’s top tier and winning the Sheffield & Hallamshire Cup for the first time, by beating Sheffield Utd at Bramall Lane. They were to win two Midland League titles, coming in 1897 and 1899.
The club were elected to the football league in 1901, as replacements of New Brighton Tower. Their first season in the League saw them finish 7th in Division 2, before being voted out a year later in favour of Bradford City, having finished in the bottom three. After one season in the Midland League, they were re-elected. Just three seasons later, they were back out and after a few unspectacular seasons back in the Midland League (bar a second S&H Senior Cup), the original club went into liquidation and despite a new club being formed for the 1914-’15 season, the First world War broke out, ending all football as the Army took over Donny’s ground.
After the war, the club rejoined the Midland League at a temporary venue, Bennetthorpe Ground. After two seasons, they moved to Belle Vue, finished runners-up, won the Wharncliffe Charity Cup and were re-elected to the Football League, this time in Division 3 North for 1923-’24, replacing Stalybridge Celtic. Their first game back was a 0-0 against Wigan Borough. After a spell of both mediocrity and relative success, the club finally won the Division in 1935, being promoted to Division 2, but lasted just two seasons before dropping back.
After WWII, Doncaster competed in the longest ever football match. The contest, against Stockport County in the Division 3 (North) Cup, saw a 2-2 result after 90 minutes. After a further 10 minutes of extra-time each way, the game was to continue until a winner was determined, as per the rules of the day. This conspired to go on for 203 minutes in total, before with darkness falling, the game was halted. Legend has it that fans left the ground and had their dinner before returning to watch the remainder!
After winning the Division 3 again the following season, followed by immediate relegation, the club won the Division again two seasons later, with players such as Harry Gregg in the side along with another player by the name of Alick Jeffrey. Apparently, he too was to join Gregg at Manchester Utd, but a leg break ended his hopes of a move. Of course, in the long run, it may have saved his life….
In 1998, Rovers dropped out of the Football League, with the fans organising a funeral procession past their Belle Vue ground. Their then owner, Ken Richardson, was later found guilty of trying to burn the ground down for cash. The club managed to recover from this, win two consecutive Conference Cups (1998 & ’99) and after a five year hiatus, won the Play-off Final and, in doing so, returned to Division 3. This was immediately won at the end of their first season back in the League. In 2006, Donny beat both Manchester City and Aston Villa in the League Cup, before bowing out to Arsenal on penalties in the quarter final, after Gilberto had equalised in stoppage time in extra time. The Keepmoat was then completed at the end of this year, with the first game being played there on New Years Day against Huddersfield Town, with Mark McCammon netting the first ever goal at the venue.
In 2007, the club won the Football League trophy in Cardiff, by beating Bristol Rovers 3-2 AET, the club’s first major trophy. The following season saw the club return to the second tier, via a 1-0 play-off final win over Leeds United at Wembley. In 2010, the club became the first team to survive the drop having been bottom at Christmas, but two seasons later, the club were relegated back to League 1, despite the signings of El-Hadji Diouf, Frederic Piquionne, Carl Ikeme, Pascal Chimbonda, Herita Ilunga and Habib Beye.
2013 saw the club dramatically return to the Championship at the first time of asking, in now famous fashion. Needing to win to achieve automatic promotion, they conceded a penalty with five minutes remaining at Brentford. Up stepped Marcello Trotta, he hit the bar, Rovers broke, Coppinger scored and Donny were champions ahead of AFC Bournemouth. Despite the signing of famed footballer Louis Tomlinson, the club’s stay in the Championship lasted 1 year, with the club returning to League One for this season.
Sitting in my seat, the build up to the game included keeping a close eye on wayward shots from the Donny players who were busy testing Stephen Bywater. Then, it was time for the MAAAIIINNN EVENT. The two sides entered the pitch, whereupon a minutes applause was to take place for the anniversary of Rovers fan Ray Dunning, who sadly passed away a year ago to the day at Leicester City. Strangely, as the applause started, you could feel a change in the atmosphere and the sun broke through the clouds for the first time all day. It was like Ray had made his entrance and it definitely inspired his team on.
Paul Dickov’s Rovers side started on the front foot and it was little surprise when they took the lead after just 10 minutes, Kyle Bennett’s free-kick being headed past his own ‘keeper by Neill Canavan. Down my end, and it was almost level immediately, as Scunny’s Dutch forward Kevin Van Veen looked to go down a little easy under pressure, the ball fell to Neal Bishop, but with the goal gaping, he crashed his shot off the bar.
Harry Forrester was causing all sorts of problems for the Iron defence, who were anything but. It was exciting for Donny Dog, who ended up carrying Pukka Pies up the stand and began banging on the rear to start a chant off! The Dog also had a companion in the shape of a dinosaur-cum-dragon thing. I’m not sure why that was there, even more so than the pizza.
Anyway, Forrester was instrumental in the second goal, his ball to Bennett setting up the cross and eventual header from Nathan Tyson to double the Vikings’ lead. Then, with me heading down to the food bar, something tod me to stop. I took heed and was rewarded with a third goal, as skipper Rob Jones towered above everyone to meet the outstanding Forrester’s corner. 3-0, game over.
After spending the whole break queuing up at the criminally understaffed food bar (those working there were already rushed about), I came back out into the daylight just as the sides got the second period underway. About five minutes into the half, and Scunthorpe gave their fans something to cheer as Kevin van Veen netted the scrappiest of scrappy goals to reduce to arrears to two. Though, the fans got a bit ovrer excited, the flare was lit, thrown on the pitch and a few got thrown out as it all got needlessly unsavoury. But, no need to dwell on the minority, back onto the game…
van Veen almost doubled his tally when his shot was cleared off the line, but Nathan Tyson was given the opportunity to show van Veen how to do it, when that man Forrester caused all sorts of trouble down the left, won a penalty, but despite his efforts and begging, Tyson was the man to take it. Up he stepped, and sent the Iron stopper, Luke Daniels, the wrong way. 4-1. Just two minutes later, Forrester was agin brought down in the area, and Tyson had the chance for his hat-trick, and this time Forrester accepted defeat. The striker completed his hat-trick by smashing his spot-kick down the middle of Daniels goal for 5-1.
From then on, the game began to settle down as the substitutes began to take the flow away and the home fans began to serenade both Dickov and his assistant, Brian Horton, with chants of “*insert name*, What’s the Score?!”, to which both responded by holding up five fingers and a thumb. But there was still time for Iron youngster Hakeem Adelakun to grab a consolation. His cross-cum-shot from a free-kick deceived the young Slovakian home ‘keeper Marko Marosi and ended up in the net. Moments later, the ref signalled the end of the game and I set off, with the intention of catching the train direct to Manchester, completely forgetting I had to go via Leeds, which rendered my jogging after getting lost (shock, horror) around the lake, obsolete.
After finally arriving, rather angry at myself, at the station and despite the efforts of a handful of Iron fans to get me arrested on the basis I was a Doncaster fan, I was soon on the train back to Leeds, wonderfully separate from those who’d been stuck on the earlier train back. After arriving at Leeds, I had a 20 minute wait for the carriage back to Manchester and finally onwards to home. A great day, despite not seeing much of the town itself, and well worth the effort of getting to. Thanks to both sides for serving up a treat of football entertainment for us all.
My Doncaster Rovers M.o.M.- Harry Forrester (individual performance of the season) Mention to Nathan Tyson.
My Scunthorpe United M.o.M.- Luke Daniels
Game: 9- Enterainment from start to finish.
Ground: 7- Tidy, smart, lacking in character, though the floodlights are decent.
Food: 6- Chips were ok, but £2.50 a bit steep (though all in League are tbf).
Programme: 8- Another fine issue from a league club. All he info you’d want and more.
Fans: 8- Some of the better I’ve heard at league level this season, though not loads of competition.
Value For Money: 8- Game was great, programme worth price ok travel (£14.50).