just thought i'd share this, my boss [a fan] emailed it to me just now...
A revelation, yet simultaneously another instance of sport’s often rough justice. Promoted Doncaster exhibited some of the finest football seen in the game’s second tier since Brian Clough inspired Derby County, yet lost to Cameron Jerome’s 46th-minute goal, from an isolated Birmingham attack.
Before and after Mehdi Nafti was sent off in the 24th minute for a reckless tackle, Doncaster played the opposition out of sight. They were denied victory by two agile saves from Maik Taylor and the rejection of a penalty appeal when he blatantly felled Lewis Guy.
So fluid was Doncaster’s passing, so swift their positional interchanging – “the Arsenal of the Championship” somebody quipped – that Birmingham struggled just to find the ball while they still had 11 men. Once Nafti had gone, they gave up the search, withdrawing to let Doncaster’s intricacies founder against rugged defensive ramparts.
“It wasn’t pretty, but was effective. We dug deep,” Birmingham manager Alex McLeish admitted.
Yet Doncaster counterpart Sean O’Driscoll has a problem. Admirable as their subtleties are – support for the man on the ball providing alternatives in every area, playing to feet at close quarters in the opposition’s penalty area – Doncaster’s dominance was not registered with goals in the bank: now only three in five matches.
O’Driscoll was reluctant to acknowledge the shortcoming. Asked how the goals were going to be delivered from a 4-1-2-3 formation that uses captain Brian Stock as the fulcrum in midfield behind Richie Wellens and James Coppinger, he took refuge by saying: “That’s the way we play, focusing on performance, getting 60 per cent possession”.
Possession, though, however attractive, is only the means to an end; it’s the points that count.
The home crowd were reduced to cheering rebounds that fell in Birmingham’s favour, or the odd throw-in, until Jerome seized on Marcus Bent’s glance from Liam Ridgewell’s free-kick, lifting Birmingham into second place.McLeish admitted: “I’m grateful for the spirit, but we’ve got to play better. We lack a bit in wide areas, I’m going to have to think about playing 4-2-4 with two wide men.