Had this match been played out exclusively in the parts of the pitch that weren’t penalty area Rovers could be hugely satisfied, having moved the ball with a confidence that belied the divisional gap. But football doesn’t work that way and in the two 18-yard-boxes the clinical difference told; despite winning a dozen corners Rovers failed to test Wayne Hennessey, Palace were ruthless.
It took just eight minutes for Jeffrey Schlupp to knock the wind out of 11,000 Doncastrians; released by a Luka Milivojević, his low shot clipped off Paul Downing’s leg and inside the far post.
A set-back, but not a disaster – Rovers were set up to go forwards not park buses – and Grant McCann’s men worked their way back into the game. James Coppinger and Ali Crawford in particular pulled the strings, but chances remained fleeting. And just as minds wandered towards a potentially enthralling second half, Palace struck again; Milivojević chipping to Andros Townsend, and he nodded across for the impressive Max Meyer to make it 2-0. There endeth the game.
The second half saw Rovers adopt a crowd-stirring shoot-on-sight policy that might’ve forced a nervousness in our visitors had it still been 1-0. But despite the step up in urgency the only thing testing Hennessey was the concept of taking a goal-kick in under two minutes, and with the 64th minute withdrawal of Crawford and Coppinger Rovers threat evaporated.
A game that gave many positives, but proved a flat end to a great Cup run.
by Glen Wilson