As you can read match reports from various sources all over the internet as well as being able to view highlights and also you know… watch the game live with your actual eyes, it seems a bit archaic to write a match report for an unofficial fan site in this day and age.
Rather than add another match report we have decided to publish a post match review that is more of an opinion piece in order to spark debate and offer an alternative to the more traditional match report format.
• Going into this game the general consensus was that McCullough still isn’t a permanent solution at right back, Williams is ineffective as lone front man and either Wellens or Middletons need a rest having both played 120 minutes against Leeds and 90 minutes against Wigan and yet… and yet inevitably Dickov did nothing to attempt to remedy these problems and the result was a listless and painfully dull performance.
• I’m not one for booing but after last season’s dismal home form, the boos heard at the final whistle were hardly a knee jerk reaction but more understandable frustration and foreboding that this season could be as disappointing as the last.
• The attendance for the Leeds game was low especially considering the huge amount of away supporters and Wednesday nights crowd of 5,164 was even worse. With Rovers having been so poor for so long at the Keepmoat however who can blame people for staying away?
• Southend manager Phil Brown arrived at the Keepmoat with a clear game plan. Sit back, invite pressure, try and nick a goal from somewhere and if not for Stuckmann’s stunning second half save it would have worked. Entering into Dickov’s third season as manager it is still unclear what his style of play, game plan or even preferred formation actually is. For all their flaws Saunders and SOD had very distinctive game plans. Dickov still seems unwilling or unable to stamp a particular style on his squad.
• Stuckmann tops the winners list and was an easy choice for man of the match with one world class save and a couple of other decent stops too. Hopefully he is the goalkeeper we have been crying out for since Sullivan started to decline.
• Curtis Main didn’t pull up any trees when he came on but it is a testament to his character that his confidence seemed unabated after his horror show against Leeds. He will need to continue to be thick skinned and maintain his self belief if he is to emerge from his current poor run of form.
• Mackenzie and Butler didn’t really put a foot wrong and have the potential to form a formidable defensive spine along with Stuckmann.
• The Rovers fans – It was another dire display for the Rovers faithful to endure. Dickov would have a lot more good will from his critics if he could find an answer to our lacklustre home form.
• Taylor-Sinclair has looked solid in his first two games but he was awful tonight. He gave away possession numerous times, was shoved off the ball and his set pieces never beat the first man. Improvement needed.
• Forrester also gave the ball away far too often and was poor throughout. He was either missing all together or a liability and his decision making was once again all wrong. Possibly his worst game of 2015.
• It was a game too far for both Wellens and Middleton, both of whom looked knackered and it was no surprise when Middleton was replaced by Chaplow on 54 minutes. Chaplow instantly looked lively and a period of Rovers dominance followed albeit with very few chances created.
Being unbeaten is all well and good but until Rovers win a game this stat runs the risk of becoming negative rather than positive. If Rovers lost to Port Vale on Saturday it will be ‘4 games without a win’ rather than ‘3 draws and a loss’ and the dissenting voices against Dickov will grow louder. Dickov has to find a way to win at home and he has to do it fast. Under normal circumstances it would be ridiculous to say the pressure is on after 4 games including a victory over Leeds, but this pressure has built up from last season and if things don’t improve even Rovers seemingly uninterested board will be forced to act.
A night to remember as Rovers beat Leeds on penalties…
As the Rovers players lined up before kickoff it was a surprise to see both Evina and Middleton in the starting line up. Evina is still finding his feet again following a stop start career at Rovers so far and this was a baptism of fire for Middleton who was starting only his fourth game since making his first team debut way back in 2012.
Despite the deafening noise from the Black Bank and following a scrappy opening 20 minutes it was Leeds who struck first as McCullough was out of position and dived in on the right hand side allowing Leeds to break. Stuckmann got a hand to the resulting shot but only succeeded in pushing the ball out to Lewis Cook who couldn’t miss.
Rovers nearly hit back immediately as Coppinger lifted the ball over Ross Turnbull from close range only to see his effort cleared off the line. Leeds looked to be in control of the tie after this scare and almost went 2-0 up after Doukara played a one two on the right wing but Dallas couldn’t connect with his cross.
Leeds were to be their own worst enemy (adding themselves to the list of clubs that hate Leeds) however when Taylor-Sinclair fed Evina, who was scythed down in the box by Scott Wooten on 31 minutes. Andy Williams stepped up and made the 5000 or so Rovers fans in attendance collectively shit their pants as Ross Turnbull looked to have saved Williams penalty, only for it to wriggle under his body. Williams caused problems for Leeds again minutes later when a sensational 60 yard crossfield ball from Coppinger landed at Williams feet and he escaped the attention of two Leeds defenders before Turnbull saved his shot.
There were to be three main talking points going into the second half. The first was goalscorer Lewis Cook committing the most ‘Leeds’ tackle of all time on Aaron Taylor-Sinclair. In the left hand corner of Rovers half with no real advantage to be gained Cook lost control of the ball and then dived in with both sets of studs showing and off the ground. It was an easy decision for the ref. Rovers began to settle after Cook received his marching orders and should have gone 2-1 ahead when Evina pulled the ball back to Coppinger who somehow contrived to miss the target from 8 yards.
The third and perhaps most contentious talking point of the first half was a Rovers ball boy falling on his arse while trying to retrieve the ball. This sparked never ending debate about whether Dickov had positioned him in the right place or even if he should be a ball boy at all. Would the ball boy have caught the ball had he been employed under Sean O Driscoll’s more free flowing and aesthetic ball boy system? Was it the smoke from the pyrotechnics that caused the ball boy to so embarrassingly fall to Earth with a soft thud?
Rovers utterly dominated the second half with Coppinger running the midfield and continuously causing problems for Leeds. Williams saw his turn and shot saved well by Turnbull on 57 minutes and Coppinger had numerous efforts that flashed just wide. Coppinger turned provider for Rovers best chance of the second half as his teasing cross was somehow missed by everyone, with Williams closest to connecting at the back post. It was not to be for Rovers inside 90 minutes however, despite carving out enough chances to win four games and a couple of penalty appeals.
Perhaps unsurprisingly considering the age difference between the two sides, Leeds actually came out stronger in extra time despite having a numerical disadvantage. Indeed Rovers fans could only look on in abject horror as Antenucci’s weak shot looked to have gone in off Stuckmann only to hit a post and nestle back in his strong arms. Rovers held on though as penalties loomed.
After Tyson, Forrester and Williams converted it was up to Wellens to finish the job and he did so emphatically following Sam Byron and Chris Wood delivering two of the worst penalties in living memory for Leeds.
• It appeared that Dickov had learned nothing from the Bury game or pre season as McCullough again started at right back and again left Rovers horribly exposed leading to the opening goal. Following the sending off however, McCullough settled and actually delivered one of his finer performances in a red and white shirt.
• Speaking of the opening goal, Stuckmann should be disappointed with the manner in which he parried the ball straight into the centre of the penalty area. It was to be a poor night for the big German who failed almost every test that came his way with poor distribution and nearly allowing Antenucci’s effort to slip past him.
• So Middleton’s first big test… While he was anonymous for large stretches of the game he was neat and tidy and had bags of energy. A couple of late crosses into the box were high points and compared to recent youth team graduates Liam Wakefield and Alex Peterson who looked woefully out of their depth in their first few games, Middleton should consider this a huge success. An exciting prospect.
• Coppinger must be a horrible player to play against with ten men and he rolled back the years with a phenomenal performance. When Coppinger is on form he is unplayable and he stole the show in a famous victory, once again confirming his status as club legend.
• Tyson also was fantastic after coming on with twenty minutes remaining, culminating in smashing home one of the most emphatic penalties I can remember in the shoot out.
• Tyson’s explosive cameo must have been grim viewing for Curtis Main who delivered perhaps the worst single performance ever in a Rovers shirt. I counted 5 touches from Main. Two were passes straight to the opposition under no pressure, and the other three were long range shots wildly blasted over. Main needs to start performing and soon or he will go the same way as Theo Robinson.
• If ever anyone had any doubts about the Black Bank they must surely have dissipated completely. On a night when social media was awash with neutrals commenting on the atmosphere, the Black Bank achieved a number of goals that would have seemed impossible only a year ago. Create an atmosphere as good as Belle Vue? Check. Build a media profile so all encompassing that the South Stand has virtually been renamed the Black Bank? Check. Do all this while still keeping traditional working class football values and keeping everyone happy in the process? Check and check. A truly inspirational achievement.
Man of the match
Stuckmann and Main aside this was a very strong performance from the entire team but it has to be James Coppinger. He loves a big occasion and he thrived again here. A performance that the phrase ‘he did everything but score’ was invented.