“You’ve still got Coppinger haven’t you? He’s great to watch,” said my non-Rovers-supporting mate as we took our seats. He was in luck. We all were.
The first of a hat-trick of Coppinger assists came on 20 minutes. Slipped in by Niall Mason; Coppinger bided his time at the byline before pulling back for Ali Crawford to finish neatly.
At the other end Rochdale were lively, and had threatened twice before Danny Andrew’s mistake allowed Ian Henderson two close-range efforts at a goalkeeper-less net. Joe Wright heroically blocked the first on the line; the second was inexplicably and hilariously ‘Rosenthaled’ off the crossbar. Buoyed by the let-off Rovers attacked; Ben Whiteman and John Marquis both going close from neat passing moves.
Goal number two came from a Coppinger corner, dropped perfectly onto the head of Andy Butler. But this match wasn’t done. On the hour Marquis fouled Kgosi Ntlhe for a penalty – Henderson fairing better from 12 yards than he had, six.
Assist number three was Coppinger personified. Out on the right he sold a defender outside, and then inside, and just as it looked like he’d run out of room, whipped in a cross so pinpoint all Jermaine Anderson had to do to turn it home was remember to breathe.
Ntlhe got the better of Marquis from another corner to set up a nervy final ten minutes, but Rovers held out, and deserved all they got from a gutsy away display, and the magic ageless feet of James Coppinger.