West Ham United v Doncaster Rovers: Paul Goodwin’s verdict

Rovers' Giles Barnes heads past Brighton's keeper Peter Brezovan. Picture: Andrew Roe
Rovers' Giles Barnes heads past Brighton's keeper Peter Brezovan. Picture: Andrew Roe

FORTUNE favoured the brave at the City Ground - and Doncaster now have nothing to lose when they visit West Ham on Saturday.

It is just Rovers’ luck that they should run in to two of the Championship’s form sides as they look to build on Dean Saunders’ best and most significant win since he took charge.

But Tuesday night’s magnificent victory now means anything Rovers pick up against the Hammers, and when Reading visit the Keepmoat next week, can almost be regarded as bonus points.

Saunders was bold in both his team selection and tactics against Forest - setting his team up in almost a 4-2-4 formation - and it paid off in spectacular style.

Despite a serious lack of first team football, Frederic Piquionne was thrown straight into the starting line-up and obliged with one of the best goals ever seen from a Doncaster player.

Kyle Bennett also earned a somewhat surprise recall and, in addition to his vital goal, produced an energetic and penetrating performance from the left flank.

Simon Gillett was relentless and tenacious back in his preferred central role, while Pascal Chimbonda gave his best display in a Doncaster shirt and excelled during the late rearguard action.

But this performance was not about individuals.

It was about a team who are fighting tooth and nail to preserve their Championship status - dispelling the myths about dressing room divides in the process.

Piquionne’s intelligent play, combined with Bennett and James Coppinger’s licence to get forward, meant Rovers carried more of a goal threat than in recent games.

Doncaster threw bodies forward and got the ball into dangerous areas quicker than normal, a tactic that clearly unsettled the home side.

West Ham under Sam Allardyce will be better equipped to cope with a similar ploy this weekend - but Rovers’ best form of defence can be attack at Upton Park.

They have nothing to lose against the promotion favourites and they will travel to London in bouyant mood after their first win in eight.

Saunders likes setting targets and by my reckoning Rovers need in the region of 15 points from the month of March to give themselves every chance of avoiding the drop.

They already have four in the bag - and a similar return from West Ham, Reading and then Derby would set up a fascinating finish to the season.

There was a sense of real togetherness in the camp as Rovers celebrated their win on the pitch on Tuesday night.

As a frustrated Sean O’Driscoll made his way down the tunnel, Saunders was punching the air with delight in front of the travelling fans.

It was a watershed moment in the season.

There should be no looking back from this point - the only way is up for Rovers.

@paulgoodwinDFP