Morecambe well and truly ‘Copped it’ as Doncaster Rovers laid down a marker for the season ahead.
On James Coppinger’s 500th appearance for the club, Rovers produced one of their best performances in recent seasons and a result to make League Two really sit up and take notice.
A perfect day was rounded off in picturebook style when Coppinger slammed home a superb fifth goal and celebrated with his adoring fans aloft the shoulders of his teammates.
The respect that Coppinger commands in the dressing room would have provided Rovers’ players with a very clear incentive to mark their skipper’s anniversary in the best way possible.
And it could hardly have gone any better as Andy Butler tapped home from a fourth minute corner to quickly settle the visitors, Matty Blair scored an early contender for goal of the season and Coppinger read, and performed, the script on his big day down to a tee.
For the first 25 minutes Morecambe simply could not live with Rovers’ quick and incisive passing.
From the word go they controlled the game and after Harry Middleton flicked Coppinger’s corner into the path of Butler, who finished with aplomb, confidence oozed from Darren Ferguson’s side.
Andy Williams almost made it two on nine minutes when he got in behind but fired wide but it wasn’t long before a brilliant team move, finished off by the ever-impressive John Marquis, put Doncaster firmly in control at the Globe Arena.
The only negative on an otherwise memorable afternoon came as Rovers allowed the physical hosts to almost bully their way back into the contest and conceded in poor fashion just before the break. Cole Stockton’s finish from the edge of the box was impressive, but it might have been prevented had Marko Marosi not wasted an opportunity to clear his lines in the build-up.
Rovers had looked far superior to their hosts but all of a sudden the game was finely poised again.
However, Doncaster seemed intent on getting the job done for Coppinger - and they did it in some style.
Butler saw an effort cleared off the line before Marquis tapped home after Coppinger ghosted into the box and his shot came back off the post.
Blair, playing at right-back, then did his best Coppinger impression by drifting inside, leaving two defenders for dead, before poking home a sensational fourth.
And just for good measure, prior to Alex Whitmore’s red card for a reckless tackle on Coppinger, the man of the moment put the gloss on the win by lashing home from 25 yards.
ON ANOTHER LEVEL
It might still be early days, and this new-look side is still gelling, but they have very quickly fostered a confidence and belief that they can dominate teams at this level, if they go about things in the right way. When Rovers passed and moved with speed and tempo, the Shrimps had no answer other than to resort to underhand tactics.
Getting the first goal appears to be crucial for this side. When they get a foothold in the game, and they perform like they did for the first half of the first half on Saturday, few sides at this level will be able to live with them.
For his rare breed of loyalty, Coppinger could not have been more derserving of a day like this.
But the 35-year-old is showing there is plenty of life in the old dog yet.
Coppinger is relishing playing at the tip of the midfield diamond and he still possesses the fleet of foot and speed of thought to cause defences at this level all sorts of problems.
His goal had quality written all over it, and epitomised a team performance that left Morecambe somewhat stunned and red-faced.
Coppinger and Rovers set the standard here.
If they can replicate this level of perfomance on a consistent basis it will be a short stay in League Two.