United travelled North on Tuesday night to visit a team that are -for now- in the thick of a relegation dogfight. Are we? It’s too early to tell, but with only three points separating us from the drop zone it’s not going to be too long before we start getting dragged into the mix if we don’t start finding wins.
United were forced into making a number of changes, with Mitov, Digby, May and Hoolahan unavailable, there were starts for Jensen Weir, Ben Worman and Harrison Dunk, with Jack Iredale pushed up into midfield. Kai McKenzie-Lyle wasn’t trusted in goal, so United turned to the emergency loan market, drafting in 6’9″ Tomos Holy from Ipswich – could he be our best ecclesiastically named goalkeeper since Nick Pope? Up front, Joe Ironside was rested, leaving Sam Smith to plow a lonely furrow as the lone frontman.
We’re not going to lie – there wasn’t a huge amount to note of the match itself. It was a typical dogged Plan B performance from United, not seeing much of the ball and not having any shots on target. Shilow Tracey played very well, James Brophy didn’t, so plenty more food for thought for Mark Bonner, who is arguably facing the most challenging period of his short managerial career.
United took the lead through a Dan Gardner own goal, coming on just seven minutes thanks to a nice Shilow Tracey cross, but we were pegged back twenty minutes from time thanks to a long range shot that Holy should have done much better with. Arguably the best chance to win the game fell to United in the dying seconds, as Harvey Knibbs headed against the bar and Joe Ironside was unable to turn home the follow up.
In his post-match comments Bonner stated how proud he was of another tough battling away performance from the U’s. We’re not going to disagree with him, but he knows more than anyone that we need to start finding wins. It’s good that we’re not losing these games, but it’s no good beating the likes of Portsmouth and picking up points agains Sheff Weds and Ipswich if you can’t beat the worse teams in the division. Doncaster aren’t a particularly bad team, they’ve just been on a bad run of form lately and we doubt they’ll still be in the bottom four come the end of the season. Our job is to make sure we don’t replace them there.
One final word is on Doncasters stadium. We’re often asked at UTAS about progress on our own stadium plans, and whether we think a capacity of 10 or 12 thousand is unambitious. Keepmoat is obviously a lovely modern stadium with great facilities, but you can’t argue that having three or four thousand fans rattling about in a stadium built for five times that is a bit of an vibe-killer. One of the best things about the Abbey is that even half-full it still creates a good atmosphere, and when it’s near capacity like against Ipswich & Wednesday the atmosphere is incredible. We really don’t want to lose that in some souless bowl next to the A14. Luckily there’s about as much chance of us winning the Champions League as there is moving any time soon.
Man of the Match: Shilow Tracey – he can be frustrating at times, but when he’s on form he’s raw and exciting to watch, and one of a few genuine game changers in the squad. Jack Iredale played well again too.
Soundtrack of the Match: Pink Floyd – Is There Anybody Out There?