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Life President
May 29, 2005
Had to write an 800 word report on the game last night for an assesment, and here it is:

DONCASTER held Southend to a goal-less draw at Roots Hall to take a slight advantage in the League One play-off semi final.

Rovers, who finished three places and four points ahead of their Essex counterparts, will be pleased to take this advantage after a game that could have gone either way whereas Southend will feel that they should have capitalised on some good chances.

A competitive and understandably tentative start to the game saw both sides unwilling to commit fully to an attack and instead opted to play it safe, with neither side breaching their opponents box in the opening exchanges.

Southend lined up in a familiar 4-4-2 formation and remained unchanged from the team that had been beaten just once in their last 15 games and had not been beaten at home since the beginning of January. This confidence showed, as they were the first to test their opposition with a free kick whipped into the box by Charlie Mulgrew that met the head of captain Adam Barrett, an effort that glanced just wide.

Doncaster responded in a similar fashion with Jason Price, recalled to the squad at the expense of Mark McCammon, flashed a cross-come-shot across the face of goal that was easily gathered by ‘keeper Darryl Flahavan.

The exchanges continued throughout the first half, with Southend’s James Walker drilling a low shot wide of the left post before Doncaster’s James Coppinger collected the ball 20 yards from goal and lashed an effort towards goal that was calmly collected by Flahavan.

The first real chance went Doncaster’s way in the 29th minute, as a Gareth Roberts free kick was met by defender Simon Mills, his slight touch on the ball beating Flahavan but sending it just wide of the far post.

This seemed to shock Southend into life, as they began to dominate possession and carve open opportunities, with both Mark Gower and Lee Barnard seeing shots saved by veteran Neil Sullivan.

Southend continued to mount the pressure, with Mulgrew causing the Rovers defence problems with a series of corners, one of which Adam Barrett met with a fierce header that crashed just wide of the post. This was followed by Southends best chance of the game, as Gower crossed a ball bypassing both the Doncaster ‘keeper and defence which Southend full back Simon Francis met sweetly only to see his effort saved by Sullivan at point blank range in the 43rd minute.

Southend will have felt aggrieved not to have taken a lead in the first half which they dominated, and were determined to correct this as they flew out of the traps in the second half. Lee Barnard carved open the Rovers defence with some clever play, releasing James Walker one on one with Neil Sullivan but lacked the finish and shot inches wide of the far post.

Southend sought to stem to take the lead and replaced the ineffectual Tommy Black with Alex Revell, who signed for his home town side from Brighton in January. He
had an instant impact on the game, collecting the ball on the right wing before taking it past the impressive Gareth Roberts and providing a cross that James Walker stretched to meet but to no avail.

Doncaster narrowly missed out on automatic promotion on the final day of the season but showed little sign of a hangover as they continued to press Southend. This pressure told as a defensive mix up in the Southend ranks awarded a gilt edge chance to Jason Price, who disappointingly fired straight at ‘keeper Darryl Flahavan.

Price looked to redeem himself, delightfully flicking the ball over Peter Clarke before crashing an effort into the direction of the Southend goal; however Flahavan continued to frustrate the Rovers front man in what proved to be Doncaster’s last chance at goal.

Following a period of subdued play, with neither side willing to throw bodies forward in search of the opening goal, Doncaster began to settle and cause Southend problems. Attacking midfielder Lewis Guy was replaced by Doncaster’s top scorer James Hayter, a change which almost reaped dividends as Hayter found Heffernan who drilled a left footed shot into bottom corner. Fortunately for Southend, Flahavan was equal to and collected it comfortably.

The game took a bizarre turn in the 89th minute when Rovers forward Paul Heffernan received a straight red card for a deliberate head butt on Charlie Mulgrew right in front of the referee, a mystifying act that sees him suspended for the return leg and the final should Doncaster reach it.

In what was a definitive game of two halves, Southend will feel hard done by not to have found the net at home but will be pleased to have kept a clean sheet against a Doncaster side packed of attacking prowess. Doncaster will feel equally aggrieved having dominated the second half in retaliation, but will be confident of reaching the final at Wembley with the impressive home record they have at the Keepmoat Stadium. The return leg takes place on Friday 16th May at 7:45pm.

Southend: Flahavan, Francis, Barrett, Clarke, Mulgrew, Black (Revell, 60), Gower, Bailey, McCormack, Walker, Barnard. Subs not used: Collis, Moussa, Kanu, MacDonald.

Doncaster: Sullivan, O’Connor, Roberts, Hird, Mills, Guy (Hayter, 80), Stock, Green, Coppinger (Taylor, 90), Heffernan, Price (McCammon 88). Subs not used: Lee, Woods.

Sent Off: Heffernan (88)

Man of the Match: Roberts.


841 Words