West Ham United 1 Doncaster Rovers 1

Rovers players celebrate James Coppinger's equalising goal. Picture: Steve Uttley
Rovers players celebrate James Coppinger's equalising goal. Picture: Steve Uttley

JAMES Coppinger’s scrambled goal earned Rovers a share of the spoils at promotion chasing West Ham but it could have been so much better for Dean Saunders’ side.

Rovers recovered from going behind to an early Kevin Nolan effort to have the better of the game, certainly in terms of possession and pressure.

Buoyed by the excellent victory and performance at Nottingham Forest on Tuesday night, Rovers exuded confidence and assurance to frustrate the hosts and the supporters at a packed Upton Park.

The Hammers have keeper Robert Green to thank for securing them a point after a fantastic late save to deny the brilliant El Hadji Diouf.

And victory would have been no more than Rovers deserved from a game they controlled.

This certainly did not look to be the case in the first ten minutes when the hosts started at a frighteningly frenetic pace.

They looked to have the lead just seconds in when Ricardo Vaz Te galloped onto Kevin Nolan’s through ball and poked home from the edge of the area, only for referee Andy D’Urso to pull play back for a foul on Pascal Chimbonda.

Carlton Cole then rattled the bar with a superb curling effort from the edge of the area and the former England man spurned a glorious chance when he failed to get any power on Vaz Te’s cut back.

The pressure took its toll on Rovers on nine minutes as West Ham took the lead.

Carl Ikeme parried James Tomkins’ header from Vaz Te’s high cross and Nolan was on hand to bundle home from close range.

Rovers looked set for a drubbing but it transpired West Ham’s most threatening period had been and gone.

The visitors began to enjoy good spells of possession, driven by a very fluid midfield with Coppinger and Kyle Bennett operating in almost free roles.

The industrious Simon Gillett had Rovers’ first chance on 25 minutes when he drilled over from 25 yards, a similar distance from which Coppinger drew a fine save from Green who tipped around the post at full stretch.

Rovers’ best chance of the half came five minutes from the break when Giles Barnes rose well and turned Diouf’s excellent cross just over the bar.

The pattern of the game continued after the break.

Barnes missed another good headed chance after meeting a Diouf free kick while Habib Beye was denied by Green from an acute angle as a corner led to a scramble in the area.

It took ten minutes for the hosts to register a chance when Cole flicked a header over from close range.

Mamadou Bagayoko ¬– back in the starting XI for the ineligible Frederic Piquionne, the only change Saunders made – really should have drawn Rovers level on 59 minutes when he met Bennett’s searching cross.

Bagayoko rose well but the ball as much cannoned off his head as it was directed by the forward and it went well wide.

The pressure from Rovers continued to grow and it had an effect on West Ham with Green and Tomkins almost forced into a major area.

Coppinger’s low cross sparked a mix-up between the two but they managed to clear just in time before Gillett could pounce.

Saunders withdrew Bagayoko, whose opportunities were few and far between, and replaced him with John Oster which encouraged Rovers to build up through the wide areas.

The interplay between Chimbonda, Coppinger and Diouf was excellent and one such move almost handed the latter a goal.

His neat flick to Coppinger sent the winger clear and he cut back to Diouf who skipped past two men but was stopped by a last ditch tackle from Tomkins.

Just when it looked as though luck would evade Rovers, they grabbed the equaliser on 74 minutes.

Diouf’s low cross scuffed off Gillett’s boot as he tried to turn it in but it bounced away from Green allowing Coppinger to scramble it home.

It was a goal that Rovers deserved immensely and they could have had another shortly afterwards but for Green’s top class save.

Diouf met Chimbonda’s cut back 12 yards out and drilled a shot on target with Green getting his hand to the ball on the line and turning it wide.

West Ham did manage to exert pressure in the late stages without truly testing Ikeme.

Their best chance came when a corner fell to Jack Collison in acres of space ten yards out but he pulled his shot well wide.

West Ham: Robert Green, George McCartney, Kevin Nolan (Danny Collins, 80), James Tomkins, Jack Collison, Ricardo Vaz Te (Sam Baldock, 23), Matt Taylor, Abdoulaye Faye, Mark Noble, Henri Lansbury (Gary O’Neil, 57), Carlton Cole

Substitutes not used: Nicky Maynard, Ravel Morrison.

Rovers: Carl Ikeme, Pascal Chimbonda, Shelton Martis (Sam Hird, 75), Habib Beye, Tommy Spurr, Kyle Bennett, Giles Barnes, Simon Gillett, James Coppinger, El Hadji Diouf, Mamadou Bagayoko (John Oster, 61).

Substitutes not used: James Hayter, Fabien Robert, Herita Ilunga.

Referee: Andy D’Urso.

Att: 34, 650