WELL, I enjoyed watching Doncaster’s 3-3 draw against Ipswich this afternoon – bags of incident, late goals, great goals, scrappy goals, crunching tackles and some pretty hopeless defending. Doncaster manager Sean O’Driscoll, however, was less positive.
“I thought the first half was like watching paint dry,” he said.
I like O’Driscoll. He’s a bit different. You see, there are managers who will deliver amusingly quirky soundbites after a game. And there are managers who will diss rivals and referees to cover a poor performance. And there are managers who treat every press conference as if it were gladiatorial combat.
O’Driscoll does none of that. Instead, he speaks very quietly. So quietly, that if you stand 10 feet away, you can’t make out what he’s saying. As a result, it can be somewhat disorientating the first time you experience one of his press conferences.
Taylor Parkes, who routinely writes the funniest articles in When Saturday Comes, once described the Doncaster manager as follows: “Sean O’Driscoll speaks so quietly that he’s drowned out by my wristwatch, and looks like he’s just been told his dog has three weeks to live.”
But in the era of the personality manager, O’Driscoll’s quietness is itself remarkable. It kind of makes him a character in his own right. (Harry Redknapp has long though so. When O’Driscoll was a player at Bournemouth in the 1980s, his then-manager Redknapp nicknamed him ‘Noisy’.)
It’s not just his quietness that marks O’Driscoll out as a bit different, though. His post-match thoughts are often delivered in a manner so downbeat that he makes Ted Chippington sound like Graham Norton. But if there’s room for a Norton in this world, there should always be room for a Chippington.
“I thought it was a poor performance,” O’Driscoll said after today’s game. “We put in a poor performance and scored three goals. Whether that’s down to the opposition or not, I don’t know. I didn’t think we got out of first gear. We haven’t played like that for a long time.”
But your team scored three goals, Sean, came the response from the assembled journalists. And even though the opener, scored by young striker Waide Fairhurst, was a bit scrappy, the other two were crackers.
He answered: “But that hides a multitude of sins, doesn’t it? We can talk about the goals, but I can’t remember us putting two passes together. We’re a passing team, so that’s worrying.”
I’ll be honest; I thought Doncaster’s passing was a bit better than that. But O’Driscoll went on to criticise his side’s defending, and those remarks were spot on.
Not that Ipswich’s defending was any better. Eight games into the season, Roy Keane is still waiting for his first league win. The fact that they’ve kept one clean sheet all season is surely a factor.
The first goal they conceded today was soft, with left-back Damien Delaney getting in Richard Wright’s way as the keeper came to collect former Norwich defender Jason Shackell’s looping cross, and Fairhurst hooking in the loose ball.
But Ipswich had the better of the second half, drew level through teenage midfielder Jack Colbeck’s low drive – his first goal in senior football – and probably should have gone on to win the game.
Except that they then went behind again, when Martin Woods smashed in John Oster’s corner from the edge of the box. That was with 16 minutes to go. Then the game went a bit crazy.
Ipswich scored twice in three minutes, both times from set pieces as Doncaster dozed, rightly earning O’Driscoll’s criticism. Tamas Priskin charged in to head home Grant Leadbitter’s free kick, and then Lee Martin bundled in from close range from a corner after Tommy Smith had headed against the bar and Jaime Peters’ follow-up was cleared off the line.
At 3-2 up, Keane looked set for his first league win of the season. It would have come as a welcome relief after a testing couple of months, which saw reserve keeper Shane Supple quit the club – and the game – citing disillusionment with football, and Keane publicly declare that one or two members of his squad would never play for him again after a particularly pathetic display at West Brom. (Subsequent team selections have suggested that the object of Keane’s ire was midfielder Owen Garvan, who has not been selected for a matchday squad since.)
But if Keane was hoping to hang on for the win, he reckoned without Quinton Fortune.
Keane and Fortune were team-mates at Manchester United for half-a-dozen years. But since Fortune left Old Trafford in 2006, his career has taken a whole series of detours. A handful of games at Bolton, an unsuccessful trial at Sheffield United, a short stay in Serie B with Brescia, an even shorter stay in Belgium with Tubize.
He’s not even getting in the starting line-up at Doncaster, but he did make an impact from the bench today. With six minutes left, he collected the ball 25 yards from goal and curled a beauty into the top corner. Even O’Driscoll admitted it was “sublime” – although his praise was not unqualified.
“If he can score a goal like that every week, then it’s not a problem. I’ll stick him in the team,” O’Driscoll said. “But there are other parts to a midfielder’s game, and they were the things that let us down today.”
Keane couldn’t help but see a little humour in the fact that he was denied victory by an old mate – even if the draw meant that Ipswich had made their worst start to a season in 45 years.
Asked if Fortune had ever scored a goal like that at Old Trafford, Keane said: “He bloody didn’t, no. Not even in bloody training. Don’t worry, I’ll be seeing him in a minute.”
Sometimes, Quinton, you just can’t please anyone. Still, I enjoyed your goal, just as I enjoyed the match, just as I enjoyed listening to O’Driscoll’s thoughts on the match. And I could never spend an afternoon watching paint dry.