Doncaster Rovers 3 (Meite 26, Brown 36 pen, Duffy 67) Charlton 0.
Kevin Nolan reports from the Keepmoat Stadium.
As damp squibs go, this so-called six-pointer took the biscuit if metaphors can be mixed at the start of this report. You would safely assume that a clash between sides respectively placed 21st and 22nd in the Championship would be a blood-and-guts knockdown brawl with no quarter asked or given. Most of time, you'd be right. But not on this occasion. You'll come across more aggression in a dove sanctuary.
With a gritty Cup victory over Huddersfield up the road still fresh in the memory bank, Charlton were confidently expected to tackle this vital game in great heart. Instead they obediently rolled over and allowed Paul Dickov's spirited side to patronise them from whistle to whistle. As the second half wore on, Rovers passed the ball metronomically between them to cock-a-hoop cries of "Ole!" from their jubilant fans. Their victims seemed neither humiliated nor irritated by the experience. On the contrary, their attitude was one of weary resignation, if not acceptance, of their fate.
There's something ominously dispiriting going on behind the scenes at The Valley, or so it seems to your ear-to-the-ground reporter. Rumours are cheerfully bandied about, none of them encouraging. With two days left in the transfer window, the scuttlebutt is of outgoing rather than incoming players. The question mark hanging over Yann Kermorgant seems a good place to start.
Since nobody tells us anything, we're at liberty to call the moody Frenchman's body language as we see it. And without pre-judging the outcome before Friday, this was a bloke going through the motions with his suitcase already packed for the seaside. He didn't fall out with a single opponent, nor did he squeeze in even one moan at the referee. At one point, he shook hands after being unceremoniously decked by James Husband. All very civilised but you wouldn't have seen any of that a few weeks ago. And the prolonged wave he gave to his fans at the end had rather more "Adieu" than "Au Revoir" about it. Sue me if I'm wrong.
Anyway, sorry about that, now I'm spreading disheartening rumours of my own. You can't help wondering, though, if our new owners have arrived to dismantle rather than improve the current team. The curious decision to allow Michael Smith to leave, for instance, smacked of hard-nosed business rather than long term vision. The big Geordie has scored three times in two games for Swindon and may, next season, be operating a division above Charlton. He was worth a look. And the arm which Chris Powell draped around Dale Stephens after substituting him a quarter hour from the end seemed one of parting sorrow. The beleaguered manager needs an arm round his own shoulder (you up for that, Roland?) rather than the dog's abuse he's coming in for from certain quarters. Debate his decisions by all means but keep it decent. This is one of ours who deserves better. And more than one of us demands it for him.
As for the game itself, that was over and done with as soon as Donny decided that nearly a half hour of softening-up was enough and polished off their helpless victims with two goals within ten minutes of each other.
The opener was a scrambled egg of a goal, not that Rovers much cared about its quality. After Johnnie Jackson performed heroically to scrape Bongani Khumalo's header off the line at the expense of a right wing corner, the immediate danger seemed ended. Not a bit of it as Mark Duffy worked a quickly taken flagkick, before rapping a close range effort against Ben Alnwick's legs. The rebound cannoned off Abdoulaye Meite inside the near post and this one-sided match was already effectively over.
Ten minutes later, the formalities were all but completed. Richie Wellens' piercing pass into Billy Sharp's feet allowed the returning local hero to turn for goal inside the penalty area before being chopped down by Lawrie Wilson. A red card for Wilson and a spotkick were equally inevitable; Chris Brown calmly found the bottom right corner from 12 yards.
Resuming with ten men, the Addicks were facing a morale-destroying hiding but Rovers chose to coast and spared them. Midway through a routine second half, though, the excellent Duffy split a tiring defence to beat a blameless Alnwick from distance.
As time slipped away, Sharp had a chance to claim the goal his inspiring contribution merited but after rounding Alnwick, inexplicably failed to find the target. No matter - his effect on Rovers is galvanic and his goals might well keep them up. Wellens also might have been suitably rewarded for his captain's example but unluckily hit the bar from 40 yards. Somewhere during the dismal proceedings, Jackson shot over the bar and Simon Church did likewise but they were hardly moments to cherish and you are free to disregard them.
We journey on, meanwhile, to Wigan where hopes are high but expectations are correspondingly low. You never know with Charlton, of course, so don't rule them out. But something has to change and quickly. Help me, Roland, help help me, Roland....
Doncaster: Turnbull, Tamas (Quinn 77), Khumalo, Meite, Husband, Coppinger, Keegan, Wellens, Duffy, Brown (Peterson 89), Sharp (Cotterill 77). Not used: Furman, Maxted, De Val, Stevens.
Charlton: Alnwick, Evina (Wood 46), Morrison, Dervite, Lennon, Wilson, Cousins, Stephens (Ajdarevic 79), Jackson, Church (Harriott 76), Kermorgant. Not used: Thuram-Ulien, Green, Sordell, Pigott. Booked: Stephens. Sent off: Wilson.
Referee:Paul Tierney. Att: 7289 (448 visiting).