Oh no Theo! Doncaster Rovers slip out the Cup

Theo Robinson misses his penalty
Theo Robinson misses his penalty

Rovers went down fighting as they exited the Capital One Cup at the hands of troubled Fulham at Craven Cottage.

Their hopes looked to have been ended by half time as the hosts opened up a two-goal advantage with strikes from Bryan Ruiz and Dan Burn.

James Coppinger celebrates his goal

James Coppinger celebrates his goal

But a superb second half show from Rovers gave the Championship’s bottom side a scare as James Coppinger grabbed a goal back before Theo Robinson saw a penalty saved. Fulham keeper Marcus Bettinelli was involved in the game’s two biggest incidents.

First, he was lucky to stay on the pitch after handling outside his area just seven minutes in. And then he got down well to keep out Robinson’s penalty 12 minutes from time. Rovers went into the game with an air of confidence against a Fulham side that has taken just one point from their eight league games.

But the departure of Felix Magath looks to have injected new belief into the Cottagers who - for the first half at least - showed real attacking verve.

The outcome may have been a better one for Rovers had Bettinelli’s early fate been different.

He handled just outside his area after rushing to close down Coppinger. The positioning, wide left, gave Kevin Friend a decision to make and he chose the softer option of a booking. Excellent quality brought the opening goal after 16 minutes. Hugo Rodallega played a knockdown into the path of the onrushing Ruiz who smashed the ball into the top corner.

A deflected Dean Furman strike from the edge of the area was Rovers’ best chance of the half as the ball looped onto the roof of the net. To their credit, there was little panic throughout the night despite the lack of possession and they consistently looked to play the ball out from the back.

The defending for Fulham’s second was unimpressive.

McCormack collected a short corner and had all the time in the world to send a ball to the back post where skipper Burn had little resistance as he turned a header home from three yards out.

Dickov went for broke at half time, throwing on Harry Forrester and Robinson for Wellens and Bennett. Forrester’s energy made a major difference as Rovers went at the hosts.

He played in Coppinger who cut back from the byline and smashed a shot past Bettinelli on the angle.

Suddenly the nerves that have blighted Fulham so far this season re-emerged as Rovers found their confidence-booster.

The hosts however proved difficult to break down but Rovers looked to have their in when Robinson headed a high ball back and off the arm of Tim Hoogland.

Friend pointed to the spot, Robinson stepped up and somewhat tamely went for the bottom corner where Bettinelli’s outstretched arm tipped the ball to safety.

It denied Rovers the equaliser their second half efforts deserved. But the performance of those second 45 minutes will have offered renewed confidence for the weeks to come.