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All in the past - Doncaster

February 25 2010

Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace

Matches between Crystal Palace and Doncaster have only become commonplace recently, but there is some “previous” worth investigating, writes Simon Pophale.

The Football League structure kept Palace and Doncaster apart for years. Despite our entrance into the league in 1920/21 and Doncaster appearing a couple of seasons later.

However, when Doncaster joined the Third Division had been regionalised, which meant that we would be kept apart until the formation of the Fourth Division, in 1958/59 but our first meeting with Donny came a season later, in 1959/60.

Freefall

The 1950s can be considered (discounting present events) to have been the most successful times in Doncaster’s long history; eight years of consistent finishes in Division Two (now the Championship) meant that the Vikings were mixing it with the bigger fish in the pyramid.

After winning the Division Three North title in 1949/50, with only six defeats from 42 matches; Rovers finished in their highest position in 1950/51 of 11th.

Towards the end of the decade a decline had set in, big names like Harry Gregg had been sold to Manchester United and a key figure for Rovers was Alick Jeffrey who not only had been the clubs youngest player, at 15 years and 234 days, broke his leg.

The striker who had a ratio of around 1 in 3 at the time, was sorely missed and although he made a brief return in 1957, he was forced to retire through injury at the age of 18. Rovers, now starting to ship goals and struggling to score them, were relegated in 1957/58 and were relegated again the following season, into the fledgling Fourth Division.

The very first meeting between the sides occurred at Doncaster’s former home of the Belle Vue and we edged a 2-1 win as we made progress by finishing in the top half of the table while Doncaster, adjusting to life in the basement, finished 17th.

Season 1960/61 saw us motor towards promotion and on the way, we despatched Doncaster twice scoring 10 times and conceding only twice. The meeting at Belle Vue, which would be our last visit to this ground, saw us hit five in atrocious conditions.

With the weather providing wet and windy Northern hospitality, we served up a humbling with goals from Byrne, Gavin and Woan. Doncaster, yet to get off the mark during that season, found a consolation but this result could have been a microcosm of the season; we finished 2nd while Doncaster ended it in 11th.

From the darkness, into the light

We never met again in the league until Donny ascended into the Championship on the back of a revival. Our last meeting at the Belle Vue saw an upswing in fortunes for us which, despite a small hiccup in the 1970s, saw us remain in the top two levels of the league.

Doncaster sadly remained ensconced in the lower half, with the ignominy of falling out of the league completely in 1998. Ten years ago, we might have been struggling for our existence but Donny were not even in the League, so their progress is remarkable.

David Penney brought them back into the League in 2002/03 and they were promoted to the third tier a season later. In 2006 he left to be replaced by Sean O’Driscoll who has led Donny to the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy victory over Bristol Rovers and, one season later, promotion to the Championship, beating Leeds in the final at Wembley.

Last Time Out

Our first visit to the Keepmoat Stadium was not a happy one. It was our last away match of the 2008/09 season and we were soundly beaten 2-0 with goals from Dean Shiels and James Hayter, a result which saw Doncaster finish above us last season.

A sign of maybe how far they have come and with Donny mid-table this season, nothing less than a win will suffice, especially following the humbling we experienced at Selhurst earlier this season.

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