Multiple injuries overshadow a strong, competitive performance from Rovers against Rafa Benitez's Newcastle United.Rovers – 2 (Williams 19' , 45')
Newcastle – 2 (Hayden 51' , Perez 90')
Tuesday 20th July, 2016
Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster
Rovers produced a solid and battling performance to eventually draw 2-2 against a strong Newcastle United side in an entertaining fixture at the Keepmoat.
Darren Ferguson made 3 changes to the starting 11 from the defeat against Middlesbrough with Cedric Evina, Joe Wright, who was making his first appearance at the Keepmoat, and Andy Williams coming in for Mitchell Lund, Joe Pugh and Tyler Garratt.
The away side’s team included a whole host of Premier League experience including the likes of Matt Ritchie, Jonjo Shelvey and Jack Colback. Teenager Adam Armstrong also made the starting line-up for the magpies having scored 20 goals in League One in a loan spell with Coventry City last season.
It was Armstrong who had the first real chance of the game when he latched on to a good cross from Dutch international Daryl Janmaat, his half volley forcing Ross Etheridge to tip the ball around the post.
After 18 minutes the game was just starting to heat up, and Rovers struck first when Newcastle goalkeeper Matz Sels tried to be too clever with the ball which resulted in him barging John Marquis in the back for a clear penalty to Rovers. Last season’s top scorer Andy Williams stepped up and fired low into the bottom corner to give Rovers the lead.
Following the goal Rovers midfielder Tommy Rowe showed his class with a number of sweet passes and strong tackles which is the type of play that has seen him become a firm fans favourite in his relatively short time at the club so far.
United almost responded just moments before half time, a great pass from Shelvey split the Rovers defence and Armstrong was sent through one on one, only to be denied by a great save from Etheridge.
Rovers made the championship side pay in first half stoppage time. With the last play of the half, Rovers won a corner and from the resulting set play, Andy Butler was free at the back post to head the ball towards Williams who powered a header home beyond Sels.
Half Time: Rovers 2-0 Newcastle.
Both sides made a whole host of changes at the break and it was the Magpies’ that paid off immediately. Former Arsenal youngster Isaac Hayden unleashed a right footed shot that forced Rovers’ second half keeper’ Marko Marosi into a great save.
Hayden wasn’t to be denied however and got his name on the scoresheet from the resulting set piece when his first time volley was deflected over Marosi and into the net. 2-1 at this stage and the game was set up for an enthralling second half.
Newcastle then had two chances to equalise in a matter of minutes; first Armstrong found space in behind and was denied by the home keeper’ before Hayden came close once again with a shot from outside the area which hit the post and somehow stayed out.
Rovers then suffered two key injury blows in quick succession when Harry Middleton and Craig Alcock were both stretchered from the field with what looked to be serious injuries just a few weeks before the start of the League 2 season.
Ayoze Perez came close to bringing Newcastle level when he showed his ability by cutting inside from the left and firing a low shot which hit the upright.
With just five minutes of normal time remaining the chances continued to flow for the away side as substitute Florian Thauvin raced clear down the left only to be denied again by the legs of Marosi.
Yoan Gouffran was the next player to go close, a teasing ball in from the left beat everybody apart from the Frenchman who could only scoop his shot over the bar.
Newcastle showed their class as the game headed into injury time as Perez turned the Rovers defence inside out before firing a clinical finish into the corner for 2-2.
Rovers managed to withstand the strong pressure and held out for a creditable draw against strong opposition, with plenty of positive signs shown from the home side ahead of the upcoming league campaign.
Full Time: Rovers 2–2 Newcastle
Team Line-ups –
Rovers: Etheridge (Marosi, 45), Wright (Lund, 37), Butler, Alcock (McCormick, 65), Middleton (Fielding, 60), Coppinger (Trialist, 63), Rowe (Mandeville, 45), Evina (Garratt, 45), Blair (Calder, 45), Marquis (Pugh, 63), Williams (Longbottom, 64).
Newcastle: Sels, Janmaat (Sterry, 45), Mbemba (Saivet, 65), Lascelles (Dummett, 45), Colback (Hayden, 45), Anita (Gamez, 45), Ritchie (Gouffran, 45), Aarons (Perez, 45), Shelvey (Wijnaldum, 79), Mitrovic (Gayle, 45), Armstrong (Thauvin, 60).
Attendance: 5698, Away: 2252.