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Carl Froch could box into his 40s

Cobra will be deadly in his 40s as Froch considers extending phenomenal career

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UPDATED:

22:01 GMT, 16 November 2012

As Carl Froch goes into his ninth successive world title fight the motivation for him to do a number on an American with nine kids has been intensified by the prospect of dominating British boxing deep into his 40s.

Nine more years From the age of 35 The new Bernard Hopkins Not impossible says the trainer who has helped develop Froch into the indisputable pound-for-pound king of the British ring.

Rob McCracken, who also coached the UK boxing team to its glittering medal haul at the London Olympics, believes Froch has honed himself into the ultimate fighting machine. He expects him to demonstrate as much in Nottingham this evening against American challenger Yusaf Mack, who is little known here but is a tough product of the mean streets of Philadelphia.

Into battle: Carl Froch (left) takes on Yusaf Mack in Nottingham

Into battle: Carl Froch (left) takes on Yusaf Mack in Nottingham

McCracken says: ‘Carl has reached the stage where he is up there now with the best British fighters of all time. Look at who he’s fought (Jean Pascal, Jermaine Taylor, Andre Dirrell, Arthur Abraham, Mikkel Kessler, Glen Johnson, Andre Ward, Lucian Bute) one after the other. He’s beaten most of them and he’s a three-time world champion.’

Even the two losses have played their part in creating a super-middleweight now being described as ‘a beast’ in the ring. Kessler had home-town advantage in a close decision. Andre Ward, in the fight which established him as third in the world pound-for-pound rankings behind Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, reminded Froch never again to go into a fight with his mind on anything other than the hard job at hand.

‘Carl has promised me that from now on he will always be 100 per cent focused every time he gets into the ring,’ says McCracken. ‘He wasn’t right against Ward but you saw the real Cobra when he destroyed Bute to win his third world belt.’

Demolition job: Froch beat Lucian Bute to win the world title

Demolition job: Froch beat Lucian Bute to win the world title

A repeat of that performance — in front of a sell-out crowd of 10,000 and a live Sky TV audience — will make Mack pay for this pre-fight jibe: ‘Froch is just a fake Joe Calzaghe.’

Very few believe that any longer and Mike Tyson, no other, now calls Froch ‘a great fighter who I love to watch and who can beat anyone in the world if he just tightens up his defence a little.’ Ward included Tyson believes so.

As does McCracken and the possibility of proving them right is driving Froch through tonight’s encounter with Mack and on towards re-matches with Bute and Kessler which should lead to a chance of avenging that one clear loss.

And then through the 40 barrier ‘Rob wants me to do it,’ says Froch. ‘I’m the one who has to do the fighting. But why not Age is a number. I live right. No smoking, no drinking, no putting on weight. I feel great. A lot of my recent fights looked like wars but I haven’t taken too much punishment.

Made it: Froch weighs in as he bids to defend his super middleweight title

Made it: Froch weighs in as he bids to defend his super middleweight title

'I was a late starter in the pros and I’m fresh. As long as I’m loving it I’ll keep doing it. And right now I’m loving it.’ There are echoes there of Hopkins, who will be 48 when he has what is being advertised as his farewell fight in New York next March.

McCracken says: ‘Carl is a natural born fighter who keeps himself in such tremendous shape that there’s no sign yet of any limit on his time in boxing.’

Mack is about to discover as much and I expect Froch to negotiate some technically awkward early rounds, then inflict a stoppage around the eighth.

Froch-Mach is live on Sky Sports 1 HD from 8 pm tonight.

Carl Froch

Eden Hazard: How Chelsea star developed into 32m world class player

As a barefoot toddler he stunned his local club with sublime skills. That boy grew into the 32m man who has lit up the Premier League. This is the story of the Eden Project

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UPDATED:

21:45 GMT, 13 September 2012

He was little more than a dot in the distance, but Royal Stade Brainois football club had just reseeded their pitch and he was treading where he shouldn’t.

It needed pointing out, and general manager Pascal Delmoitiez intended doing it forcibly, as he stepped out of the clubhouse behind the goal and headed for the other end.

As he approached the far penalty area, the object of his wrath remained little more than a dot, but his mood began to mellow. No more than primary school age, the youngster was carefully placing a ball on the spot, taking a couple of paces back and clipping it into the top corner, before retrieving it and starting all over again.

Not only was he barely waist-high to the advancing club official, he had nothing on his feet. It was a sight that stopped Delmoitiez in his tracks, but, sensing he may be in for a ticking off, the boy darted towards the garden fence of his home, behind the left-wing corner flag, clambered over it and disappeared inside.

The first to spot him: Pascal Delmoitiez of Royal Stade Brainois

The first to spot him: Pascal Delmoitiez of Royal Stade Brainois

The neat detached bungalow belonged to Thierry and Carine Hazard. The bare-footed penalty-taker was their son Eden. ‘That’s my first memory of Eden, and it remains a vivid one to this day,’ said Delmoitiez. ‘We don’t allow anyone on the pitch between games, as a general rule. To make matters worse, it had just been reseeded, so he was going to be told.

‘But as I got nearer, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. He was tiny, no more than five years old, yet every penalty was flying into the top corner. Then I noticed he had nothing on his feet. No boots, no trainers, not even socks. And it was a real ball, not a light plastic one.

‘I couldn’t understand how he was able to do that. I walked the length of the pitch, meaning to send him away with a flea in his ear, but I ended up knocking on his parents’ door and inviting him to practise with the juniors at our training ground nearby.

‘He was an astonishing talent even then. He would listen to what you told him, but you couldn’t really teach him anything. You just threw him a ball, or passed it to him, and let him get on with it. It all came so naturally.’

For club and country: Hazard has been instrumental in Chelsea's 100 per cent start to the season and impressed as Belgium drew with Croatia (below)

For club and country: Hazard has been instrumental in Chelsea's 100 per cent start to the season and impressed as Belgium drew with Croatia (below)

For club and country: Hazard has been instrumental in Chelsea's 100 per cent start to the season and impressed as Belgium drew with Croatia (below)

The ground, Avenue du Stade in the small town of Braine-le-Comte, around 30 kilometres south-west of Brussels, has an appealingly rural feel to it but is on the modest side. A tiny terrace, covered by a corrugated roof, offers sheltered viewing on one side, but there are grass banks on the other and behind the goal that adjoins what is still the Hazard home.

It houses Belgian League Division Five football, but perhaps a greater claim to fame is that it launched the career of a player who had every top club in Europe after him when he decided to move on from Lille in the summer.

Eden Hazard chose Chelsea and a handful of games in, their 32million outlay is already beginning to look one of Roman Abramovich’s sounder investments. He has forced a rethink among those who feared his slight frame might not withstand the physical challenge of the Barclays Premier League. There were plenty of them, but they did not include anyone from his formative years at Royal Stade or his second club, AFC Tubize.

Hazard moved five kilometres up the road to Tubize at 10 years old, and the Second Division club’s youth co-ordinator Fathi Ennabli provided Sportsmail with an insight into the impact he made, on and off the pitch.

‘I was with one of the youth coaches when we discovered Eden at a local tournament,’ he said. ‘He had just turned eight at the time and was tiny, but something happened every time he got the ball. His touch was exceptional and so was his acceleration over the first couple of yards. It was taking him past one player after another and I remember walking up and down the touchline, asking where his dad was.

Nurturing the talent: Fathi Ennabli of AFC Tubize helped Hazard to progress

Nurturing the talent: Fathi Ennabli of AFC Tubize helped Hazard to progress

‘Eventually I was pointed in the direction of Thierry. We had a good chat, and he said he was in favour of Eden joining a bigger club. I was relieved to hear that, but not what followed. He insisted Eden was still too young, mentally and physically, for that sort of step up and should stay where he was for another couple of years.

‘That was the longest two years of my life. He inevitably attracted interest from other clubs, and I soon got to hear that Anderlecht and Standard Liege were contacting Thierry on a weekly basis, begging him to let Eden join them.

‘But Eden is lucky to have parents like Thierry and Carine. They are both teachers, both incredibly down to earth, modest people, and, at that age, they felt he should remain as near to home as possible. Thierry was playing for us by the time Eden turned 10. He was decent himself, and it meant he knew the coaching philosophy at the club and could be sure his son would be given the right guidance.

‘So finally, Eden became our player, training with us regularly and playing for our youth teams. And he just got better and better.

‘There was something about him, apart from natural ability, that told me he was going to the very top. He always wanted to be out there, working on his game and trying to improve, for one thing.

Close family: (from left) Eden's grandmother Nicole, brother Kylian, mother Carine, Eden, brother Ethan, grandfather Francis and father Thierry

Close family: (from left) Eden's grandmother Nicole, brother Kylian, mother Carine, Eden, brother Ethan, grandfather Francis and father Thierry

‘He loved watching the French League. There was a highlights programme called TeleFoot, a bit like Match of the Day, and he never missed it. He would come in, full of enthusiasm for something Zinedine Zidane had done, and you just knew he couldn’t wait to try it himself. He was an avid watcher and would take it all in.

‘He had so much going for him. He was very quiet but unfailingly polite, and there was a steely determination about him. He was actually fearless. He was always up against bigger, often older, boys, but it never fazed him.

‘No amount of pressure could shake his self-belief. He knew how good he was and what he could do, and sometimes it even took his dad by surprise. I remember one game in particular. Eden was 12, and we got a free-kick a few metres outside the area. He took a couple of paces and bent it round the wall into the top corner. It was an incredible goal for a lad his age, but the referee said he hadn’t whistled and disallowed it.

‘Thierry was standing next to me, and while we were all shaking our heads, he shouted, “I’d like to see you do that again, son”.

Where it all began: Hazard's family home backs on to the pitch in Branois

Where it all began: Hazard's family home backs on to the pitch in Branois

‘Eden calmly put the ball down, waited for the whistle and clipped it in the same top corner. It was a carbon copy of the first one. Even by his standards, it amazed us all, and Thierry turned to me and said, “I think he did that to annoy me!”

‘He was playing on full-sized pitches by now, and word was spreading that we had a special talent on our hands. Clubs were contacting us all the time, and Lille were turning up to virtually every game he played. We knew we were about to lose him, and it was always likely to be Lille. It’s only half-an-hour away by train, and their academy even included a boarding school. The boys eat, sleep and learn there. It was ideal, and, at 15, we had to say goodbye to him.

‘He went with our blessing, but we didn’t exactly benefit financially from it. We received nothing to begin with, and we’ll only get a small slice of the fee Chelsea paid Lille for him, maybe around 150,000. But the money doesn’t matter. It’s enough for us that we played a part in his development.

‘Everyone here is incredibly proud of that. We’ve all followed his progress closely, and if there’s a chance to see him in action for Chelsea, everything else stops. There’s a huge lounge at the top of the main stand, looking out on to the pitch, and you can watch games from there.

‘It was pretty full the other Sunday, but there was a television on in the background, showing highlights from England. As soon as the presenter mentioned Chelsea, everyone turned away from our game and crowded round the TV to watch Eden.

Cool control: Hazard slots a penalty home in the 2-0 win over Newcastle

Cool control: Hazard slots a penalty home in the 2-0 win over Newcastle

‘There’s nothing he can’t achieve. His mental strength is as remarkable as his talent, and that has already shown itself at Chelsea. We heard people expressing doubts about him after a couple of friendlies and then the Community Shield. He perhaps wasn’t at his best in those games and the media questioned whether he could cope with the physical side of English football. When you think how much Chelsea paid, and the intense scrutiny he was under, that’s a lot of pressure for a kid his age. But just look how he responded.

‘He has been their best player in the opening Premier League games and that shows incredible strength of character. I know how hungry he is to keep improving, and I’m certain that will happen.’

They haven’t seen the last of Eden in Tubize, or Braine-le-Comte. On a recent visit home, the 21-year-old had dinner at Ennabli’s house to update him on early impressions of Stamford Bridge, while Tubize general manager Guy Brison revealed how Eden intends to ensure the Hazard name lives on in nearby Braine-le-Comte.

‘There are two old houses, side by side, that belonged to Eden’s grandad,’ he said. ‘He has bought them both, with the intention of turning them into flats and building a small sports hall behind, on what was the back gardens.

‘I have known the Hazards, the parents and grandparents, for years, and they are a very close-knit family. This is a way of keeping alive his grandad’s memory and it is typical of Eden. We are all proud of what he has done and, especially, that he will never forget his roots, no matter how far he goes in the game.’

Guide to new boxing season

Let's get ready to rumble! Your complete guide to the new boxing season

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UPDATED:

15:17 GMT, 7 September 2012

The new boxing season is underway and the coming months promise to be filled with wall-to-wall action.

Here, Sportsmail previews the best fights both at home and abroad.

SEPTEMBER

Saturday 8

Tony Bellew v Edison Miranda
Vacant WBC International light-heavyweight title
Alexandra Palace, London

Verdict: After destroying Danny McIntosh inside five rounds in April, this represents a step up in class for Liverpool’s Bellew who is seeking a second world title shot after losing to Nathan Cleverly last October. Miranda is a big hitter and has shared the ring with world-class fighters Andre Ward and Lucian Bute. But the Colombian has also fallen short when it really mattered and Bellew has the tools to stop him in the second half of the contest.

TV: Sky Sports

Raring to go: Tony Bellew fights Edison Miranda in London as he searches for another world title shot

Raring to go: Tony Bellew fights Edison Miranda in London as he searches for another world title shot

Andre Ward v Chad Dawson
WBA & WBC super-middleweight titles
Oracle Arena, California

Ward has struggled to find an opponent since his Super Six final win over Britain’s Carl Froch last December but now that he has, we have a real barnstormer on our hands. A fight between two boxers in their prime is not as common as it should be but both Ward and Dawson are exactly that. The latter moves down from light heavyweight after his majority-decision victory over Bernard Hopkins in April and will enjoy a significant reach advantage. Dawson has lost once, to Jean Pascal, and while I expect him to take Ward the distance, he will ultimately be undone by the American’s speed and ring craft.

TV: Sky Sports

Vitali Klitschko v Manuel Charr
WBC heavyweight title
Olimpiyskiy, Moscow

Verdict: The outcome of this fight could have serious repercussions for David Haye’s hopes of fighting Vitali. With his sights set on a career in politics, the Ukrainian may retire even if he wins but if he carries on, a fight with Haye could be made for February. Charr made himself known to the British public when he appeared at Haye’s post-fight press conference with Dereck Chisora to sound out the former world champion. The 27-year-old German-based Syrian is unbeaten and ranked inside the top 10 but while an aging Klitschko is not quite the force he was, he should deal with the young upstart before the final bell.

TV: BoxNation

Head to head: Vitali Klitschko (left) defends his heavyweight world title against Manuel Charr in Russia

Head to head: Vitali Klitschko (left) defends his heavyweight world title against Manuel Charr in Russia

Friday 14

Billy Joe Saunders v Jarrod Fletcher
Commonwealth middleweight title
York Hall, London

Verdict: Saunders defends his Commonwealth title for the second time when he takes on unbeaten Australian Fletcher at London’s iconic venue. The 23-year-old won the title with a stunning knockout of Tony Hill at the Royal Albert Hall in April before outpointing Bradley Pryce in June. Fletcher will be fighting outside his homeland for the first time in his 12-bout career and beat James DeGale on his way to winning Commonwealth Gold in 2006. Both boxers possess fearsome jabs and it promises to be an all-action affair that could in truth go either way. Home advantage may count in the end for Saunders but don’t be surprised if Fletcher edges the decision.

TV: BoxNation

Saturday 15

Sergio Martinez v Julio Cesar Chavez Jnr
WBC middleweight title
Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas

Verdict: The middleweight division is crammed full of talent right now and two of the very best go head to head in Vegas. Both are coming off wins against fighters from this part of the world after Martinez stopped Matthew Macklin and Chavez Jnr did likewise to Andy Lee. Martinez is considered to be among the top three pound-for-pound fighters in the world and is certainly the more accomplished boxer but Chavez Jnr is a very big middleweight, boiling down to the limit before piling the pounds back on before the first bell. That in itself will cause Martinez problems but the Argentine’s speed and movement will see him win by decision.

TV: Primetime

Showdown: Julio Cesar Chavez Jnr fights Sergio Martinez in an eagerly-awaited clash

Showdown: Julio Cesar Chavez Jnr fights Sergio Martinez in an eagerly-awaited clash

Matthew Macklin v Joachim Alcine
Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas

Verdict: Macklin returns to action on the undercard of Martinez v Chavez Jnr as he plots his path back to a world title shot. The Birmingham-born Irishman is one of three top class middleweights from these shores along with Darren Barker and Martin Murray but until a clash between the domestic rivals can be arranged, Macklin continues to ply his trade across the pond. Canadian Alcine, who has not been particularly active in recent years, is a former world champion at light middleweight but has suffered two defeats in his last six fights. This is something of a crossroads bout for both men but the younger Macklin has the better recent form to get back to winning ways.

TV: Primetime

Saturday 22

Ricky Burns v Kevin Mitchell
WBO lightweight title
SECC, Glasgow

Verdict: Rightly billed as a fight of the year contender even before the first bell, this Battle of Britain should more than live up to expectations. Burns has yet to earn the plaudits he deserves but victory in Glasgow over the Dagenham Destroyer would right that wrong. Unbeaten in five years, the Scotsman makes the second defence of his world title while Mitchell makes his second challenge for the top honour after he was stopped by Michael Katsidis two years ago. More reflective of his ability however was the 27-year-old’s victory over John Murray last year but he will need to improve on his most recent win over Felix Lora which was laboured at times. Expect Burns, who is the more disciplined fighter, to control the bout with his jab as Mitchell looks to come forward. I can’t see this one finishing inside the scheduled 12 rounds which will suit the home favourite.

TV: BoxNation

Battle of Britain: Ricky Burns (left) and Kenny Mitchell meet in Glasgow for the Scotsman's world title

Battle of Britain: Ricky Burns (left) and Kenny Mitchell meet in Glasgow for the Scotsman's world title

Saturday 22

Carl Frampton v Steve Molitor
Commonwealth super-bantamweight title
Odyssey Arena, Belfast

Verdict: Northern Irish sensation Frampton was scheduled to fight European champion Kiko Martinez but the Spaniard pulled out injured. His replacement represents an arguably tougher test with Molitor a former two-time world champion. The 32-year-old Canadian most recently held the IBF belt but was deposed by the same man he won it from, Takalani Ndlovu. His only successful defence of that title was a majority-decision victory over Nottingham’s Jason Booth and on that form Molitor is probably slightly on the wane. Nevertheless, this fight represents a sharp step up in class for Frampton and victory would propel him up the rankings. It would also put him ahead of his domestic rival Scott Quigg who is due to rematch Rendall Munroe in November. The 25-year-old impressed against the previously unbeaten Raul Hirales in May, showing a more technical side to go alongside his undoubted explosive power. Expect this one to go the distance, with Frampton doing enough on all three scorecards.

TV: Sky Sports

OCTOBER

Saturday 6

Rocky Fielding v Wayne Reed & Prizefighter Lightweights
Central Area super-middleweight title
Olympia, Liverpool

Verdict: Fielding fights for the second time since leaving Frank Warren for Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom stable as he headlines what promises to be an enthralling night in Liverpool. The Prizefighter series is often knocked by boxing purists but there is no doubt it delivers excitement in abundance. Fielding himself won the event last year and has gone on to improve his record to 11 without defeat. He fights for his first title against Reed who has lost two of his last three so expect an early finish from Rocky. The Prizefighter line-up is one to savour as Anthony Crolla joins Derry Matthews, Stephen Jennings, Terry Needham, Nathan Brough, Gary Sykes, Kieran Farrell and Liam Walsh with the first two mentioned looking to bounce back from high-profile defeats.

TV: Sky Sports

One to watch: Rocky Fielding (left) headlines the next Prizefighter tournament in Liverpool

One to watch: Rocky Fielding (left) headlines the next Prizefighter tournament in Liverpool

Saturday 13

David Price v Audley Harrison
British heavyweight title
Echo Arena, Liverpool

Verdict: British champion Price makes the first defence of his belt against the much-maligned Harrison. The Liverpool heavyweight won the vacant title when he stopped Sam Sexton earlier this year and will hope to continue his rise up the rankings. This is just his 14th fight and Harrison has nothing to lose after a comeback win against Ali Adams, who later failed a drugs test. Price’s jab is potent and, despite his giant frame, moves well around the ring. Harrison can’t possibly be as bad as he was against David Haye and will pose a stiff, if short-lived test but he won’t hear the final bell.

Saturday 20

Kell Brook v Hector Saldivia
IBF welterweight title, final eliminator
Motorpoint Arena, Sheffield

Verdict: Brook’s world title aspirations almost came a cropper against Carson Jones in June but his grit and determination ensured he made it through the final rounds to win by decision. Admitting his preparation was poor, the ‘Special One’ can’t afford to make the same mistakes again as looks to earn a shot at the world title against either Randall Bailey or Devon Alexander. Brook has long been billed as Britain’s next star and he showed his class against Matthew Hatton in March. Saldivia meanwhile lost his last title eliminator against Said Ouali who most recently suffered defeat to Jones. A line through that form suggests the speedy and elusive Brook should have the advantage as he continues his seemingly inevitable rise to the top.

Tough times: Kell Brook came through a difficult night against Carson Jones in Sheffield

Tough times: Kell Brook came through a difficult night against Carson Jones in Sheffield

Saturday 27

Nathan Cleverly v Vyacheslav Uzelkov
WBO light-heavyweight title
Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff

Verdict: After Cleverly’s promoter Frank Warren tried to match the world and his dog with the Welshman, he settled on Ukrainian Uzelkov for his fourth defence. Cleverly has been out of action since an incredibly one-sided victory over American Tommy Karpency in February. The 25-year-old had hoped for a unification bout with WBA champion Beibut Shemenov but must now wait until 2013 to add a second title to his name. Uzelkov has lost two of his last seven but did take Shumenov all the way before losing a unanimous decision. Cleverly failed to stop the durable Karpency but must do everything he can this time if he is to impress and earn himself the pay day he deserves.

NOVEMBER

Saturday 10

Wladimir Klitschko v Mariusz Wach
WBA Super, IBF, WBO & IBO heavyweight titles
O2 World Arena, Hamburg

Verdict: The younger Klitschko brother defends his plethora of titles against the undefeated Pole who has been largely untested during his 27-fight career. Wach will enjoy a slight reach and weight advantage and should prove to be a more credible opponent than some of Wladimir’s previous victims. ‘The Viking’ has promised to go for a knockout, fearing a hometown decision in Germany should it go to the scorecards but while he looks set offer some resistance, I’m backing Klitschko on points.

Big hitters: Wladimir Klitschko (left) will have his hands full with Mariusz Wach when he defends his titles

Big hitters: Wladimir Klitschko (left) will have his hands full with Mariusz Wach when he defends his titles

Saturday 17

Carl Froch v Yousaf Mack
IBF super-middleweight title
Capital FM Arena, Nottingham

Verdict: After a string of fights against the very best in the division, Froch takes a slight step down in class to face Mack. After his brutal demolition of Lucian Bute in May, Froch talked about a rematch with Mikkel Kessler but that has been put on the back burner until next summer at the earliest. Instead, Froch faces the Pennsylvanian whose defeats have come against impressive operators in Tavoris Cloud, Glen Johnson, Librado Andrade and Alejandro Berrio. This could conceivably be the Nottingham man’s final fight on home soil unless a deal can be agreed with Kessler for the City Ground. Froch will take on Bute next spring in their scheduled re-match and will be keen to put on a show in front of his adoring fans. An early to mid-fight stoppage looks on the cards.

Doncaster Rovers 0 Millwall 3

Doncaster Rovers 0 Millwall 3: Lions tear relegation rivals to pieces

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UPDATED:

22:03 GMT, 20 March 2012

Beleaguered Doncaster moved a step closer to relegation from the npower Championship as fellow strugglers Millwall significantly boosted their own survival hopes by coasting to victory at the Keepmoat Stadium.

Kenny Jackett's men were gifted a healthy advantage inside the opening 13 minutes, the unmarked Andy Keogh heading his fourth goal in six games before Harry Kane doubled the lead with a speculative strike from distance that deceived Carl Ikeme.

A lacklustre Rovers outfit were unable to respond and Millwall wrapped up the points shortly before the hour mark through Darius Henderson's 19th goal of the season in all competitions.

Rout: Millwall got one up on their relegation rivals with a thumping victory

Rout: Millwall got one up on their relegation rivals with a thumping victory

MATCH FACTS

Doncaster: Ikeme, O'Connor, Spurr, Hird, Beye, Barnes, Gillett, Coppinger (Dumbuya 77), Diouf, (Robert 78), Hayter (Oster 57), Piquionne

Subs not used: Woods, Bagayoko

Booked: Diouf

Millwall: Taylor, Craig, Robinson, Ward, Smith, Henry (Feeney 67), Abdou, Wright (Montgomery 88), Henderson, Keogh, Kane

Subs not used: Forde, Dunne, Bouazza

Goals: Keogh 8, Kane 13, Henderson 58

Booked: Robinson

Referee: Attwell

Attendance: 7,572

The Lions now sit nine points clear of the drop zone, but Doncaster are four adrift of safety with games running out – and the manner of this defeat will only serve to increase the pressure on manager Dean Saunders, who was subjected to criticism from sections of the home support.

Shelton Martis, Pascal Chimbonda and Kyle Bennett all dropped out of the Rovers squad, with Sam Hird, James O'Connor and James Hayter taking their places in the starting XI.

Millwall recalled Tony Craig and on-loan Tottenham youngster Kane in place of Alan Dunne and Hameur Bouazza, who were each named among the substitutes alongside new loan signing Nick Montgomery.

After a dire opening, the away side took the lead through their first meaningful attack in the eighth minute.

James Henry was allowed to progress unchallenged down the right and his excellent cross picked out former Wolves striker Keogh, who made no mistake from six yards.

Things swiftly went from bad to worse for Doncaster when Ikeme failed to keep out a powerful long-range effort from Kane that appeared to go through the hands of the goalkeeper.

Ikeme was at least able to get his body behind a low shot from Henry in the 18th minute, but Millwall continued to cut through their opponents' defence with ease, Kane volleying wide moments later.

Surprisingly, Tommy Spurr represented Rovers' greatest attacking threat prior to the interval, the full-back twice cutting in from the left before narrowly missing the target on each occasion.

Visiting goalkeeper Maik Taylor remained untroubled and his side were soon back on the front foot at the start of the second half.

A fierce strike from Henry was kept out by a combination of the woodwork and Ikeme, who then produced a superb one-handed save to thwart Henderson.

Millwall's top scorer would not be denied for much longer and added a third for his side in the 58th minute when he met another fine ball from Henry with a deft finish at the near post.

Frederic Piquionne went close for Rovers soon after, but Taylor was not called into action until the 79th minute, when Giles Barnes headed tamely towards goal to prompt ironic cheers from Doncaster's frustrated fans.

West Ham 1 Doncaster 1: Complacent Hammers lose ground after Coppinger strike

West Ham 1 Doncaster 1: Complacent Hammers lose ground after Coppinger strike

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UPDATED:

17:12 GMT, 10 March 2012

West Ham lost ground at the top of the Championship as they were held to a 1-1 draw by a battling Doncaster outfit.

Kevin Nolan's ninth goal of the season capped a dominant start for the hosts but they took their foot off the gas and were punished when James Coppinger levelled in the 73rd minute.

The hosts looked to have got off to a flying start when Ricardo Vaz Te had the ball in the net inside the opening minute but the Portuguese was penalised for a foul on Pascal Chimbonda.

Celebration time: James Coppinger hit a priceless equaliser for Doncaster

Celebration time: James Coppinger hit a priceless equaliser for Doncaster

Match facts

West Ham: Green, McCartney, Faye, Tomkins, Taylor, Noble, Lansbury (O'Neil 57), Nolan (Collins 80), Collison, Cole, Vaz Te (Baldock 25). Subs not used: Maynard, Morrison.

Scorer: Nolan 9.

Doncaster: Ikeme, Chimbonda, Martis (Hird 75), Beye, Spurr, Bennett, Barnes, Gillett, Coppinger, Diouf, Bagayoko (Oster 60). Subs not used: Hayter, Robert, Ilunga.

Scorer: Coppinger 73.

Referee: Andy D'Urso.

It took just another two minutes
before the Hammers threatened again as Carlton Cole collected a pass
from Jack Collison and rifled a 20-yard effort against the crossbar.

The inevitable breakthrough came
after nine minutes as Nolan stabbed in from close range after Rovers
failed to clear their lines following Henri Lansbury's shot.

Dean Saunders' men briefly relieved
the pressure when El-Hadji Diouf broke away down the right but his
threatening cross was plucked out of the air by Rob Green just as
Mamadou Bagayoko was closing in.

Sam Allardyce was forced to make a
change midway through the opening half when Vaz Te went down clutching
his hamstring. He was replaced by Sam Baldock.

With the home side beginning to lose
some of their impetus, Doncaster sensed an opportunity to get a foothold
in the game and Coppinger's powerful strike, which Green had to palm
around the post, underlined their increasing threat.

They continued to grow into the game
after the interval, with Diouf providing their most promising outlet.
The Senegalese whipped in a free-kick which Giles Barnes nodded narrowly
wide.

Off the mark: Kevin Nolan prods home

Off the mark: Kevin Nolan prods home

The Hammers sought to reassert their
authority with a prolonged spell of pressure but Rovers pressed the ball
well, restricting the space the hosts had to work in.

When Doncaster won it back they
caused panic in the penalty area as Coppinger's cross was left by Green
before James Tomkins eventually took charge of the situation to clear to
safety.

But with 17 minutes to go the
visitors deservedly drew level as Simon Gillett kept the ball alive in
the box and Coppinger capitalised to steer it in from close range.

Upton Park held its breath when
Coppinger delivered for Diouf with five minutes to play but he could not
make clean contact with his shot and Green turned the ball away for a
corner.

The draw extends West Ham's unbeaten
run to seven matches but Southampton's victory over Barnsley means they
are three points behind in the race for the title.

Doncaster, meanwhile, are still fighting for survival after taking six points from their last four games.

SIX NATIONS 2012: How David Strettle fell short by centimetres

So near yet so far… How England's Strettle fell short by centimetres

What happened

David Strettle came agonisingly close to scoring a try that, with a tricky conversion, would have levelled the scores for England but television referee Iain Ramage ruled he had failed to complete a scoring move.

High-flyer: Strettle dives for the line as Jonathan Davies tries to hold him up

High-flyer: Strettle dives for the line as Jonathan Davies tries to hold him up

How did Wales prevent a try

Leigh Halfpenny acted as a ‘speed bump’, slowing Strettle with a brave tackle to allow George North and Jonathan Davies to get back. ‘They put their bodies on the line,’ said ex-Wales defence coach Clive Griffiths. ‘You get whatever you can under him – arms, knees or whatever – to stop him getting the ball down.’

Back down to earth: Strettle closes in on the try line

Back down to earth: Strettle closes in on the try line

Could Strettle have done more

‘It’s a bizarre feeling to be turned over like that,’ said ex-England and Sale wing Steve Hanley. ‘All you want to do is get the ball down. You have got two huge guys on you but just don’t notice. Sometimes you get a bit of luck but not this time.’

Davies turns the tables: The Wales centre manages to get Strettle on his back

Davies turns the tables: The Wales centre manages to get Strettle on his back

Why did he think he had scored

Strettle believed he had got downward pressure on the ball but faced an agonising 162-second wait while referee Steve Walsh asked touch judge Pascal Gauzere, who said he did not have a good view, and television match official Ramage, who ruled: ‘It’s inconclusive. No try.’

Moment of truth: Strettle tries to get the ball down

Moment of truth: Strettle tries to get the ball down

What does the rulebook say

Law 22.1b Grounding the ball: ‘A player grounds the ball when it is on the ground in the in-goal and the player presses down on it.’ Law 22d Tackled near the line: ‘If a player is tackled near the goal-line but can reach out and ground the ball on or over the goal-line, a try is scored.’

Agonising delay: England await the fourth official's decision

Agonising delay: England await the fourth official's decision

Burnley 3 Doncaster 0: Paterson back with a bang for in-form Clarets

Burnley 3 Doncaster 0: Paterson back with a bang for Clarets

Martin Paterson marked his first start at Turf Moor since August with a goal as Burnley made it five winsout of six in the npower Championship.

A thigh injury suffered in the opening day draw with Watford ruled Paterson out for three months, but he delighted the home faithful by netting his side”s second goal four minutes from time, heading home after Jay Rodriguez rattled the crossbar.

Burnley manager Eddie Howe

High five: Burnley manager Eddie Howe

MATCH FACTS

Burnley: Grant, Trippier, Duff (Easton 62), Edgar, Mee, Wallace, Marney, McCann, Stanislas (Bartley 69),Rodriguez, Paterson (Austin 85). Subs Not Used: Stewart, Vokes.

Booked: McCann, Paterson.

Goals: Rodriguez 37 pen, Paterson 84, Hird 90 og.

Doncaster: Gary Woods, O”Connor, Beye, Hird, Ilunga, Gillett (Bennett 79), Stock, Barnes (Hayter 86), Coppinger, Sharp,
Diouf (Goulon 86). Subs Not Used: Friend, Chimbonda.

Booked: Stock, Beye.

Att: 16,756

Ref: David Webb (County Durham).

Top scorer Rodriguez gave Burnley the advantage at half-time, clinically dispatching a penalty after Doncaster”s Sam Hird was adjudged to have fouled Chris McCann.

Defender Hird completed a miserable afternoon by putting through his own net in stoppage time.

The result means Burnley move to within three points of the top six at the season”s halfway point, while Doncaster, who hit the post through Billy Sharp before half-time, remainin the relegation zone two points from safety.

Winger Junior Stanislas came into the Burnley starting XI as Marvin Bartley dropped to the bench.

El Hadji Diouf, fresh from signingan 18-month contract extension at the Keepmoat Stadium, returned to theDoncaster side following a spell on the sidelines with a hamstring injury, while defender Pascal Chimbonda recovered sufficiently from his hip problem to earn a place among the substitutes.

Doncaster started on the front foot, but a cleverly worked Burnley corner in the ninth minute ended with Rovers defender Herita Ilunga clearing Rodriguez”s effort off the line.

Eddie Howe”s side started to bombard the visitors” area and Rodriguez”s header was off target from Ben Mee”s long throw before James O”Connor got in the way of a goalboundStanislas shot.

Rovers weathered the storm and James Coppinger might have given them the lead with half an hour gone, only to hesitate on receipt of Diouf”s pass before firing over from the edge of the box.

Ten minutes before the interval Hird and Clarets skipper McCann came together in the area and, after some hesitation, referee David Webb pointed to the spot.

Rodriguez made no mistake from 12 yards, drilling straight down the middle for his 12th goal of the season.

Doncaster almost found an instant response as a measured move ended with Sharp”s glancing header from Brian Stock”s cross striking the post.

Gary Woods was sharply out of his goal to stop Paterson doubling Burnley”s lead, while Rovers midfielder Giles Barnes should have ensured matters were all square at the break when he side-footed wide from close range.

Woods was forced to extinguish trouble of his own making seven minutes into the second half as Rodriguez pounced to dispossess Simon Gillet from the goalkeeper”s poor clearance and drew a sharp save with a well hit drive.

Coppinger unleashed a dipping volley in the 25th minute that a backpedalling Lee Grant superbly tipped around the post.

As Doncaster pushed for an equaliser, gaps were starting to appear for Burnley on the break and Ross Wallace drilled into the side netting after been driven wide by Habib Beye.

The second goal arrived in the 84th minute as Beye”s headed clearance was thundered against the crossbar by Rodriguez and, with Woods prone, Paterson reacted quickest to nod into an empty net.

James Hayter replaced a frustratedDiouf and almost reduced the arrears in the closing minutes, but David Edgar hacked his close-range effort to safety.

Doncaster”s misery was complete instoppage when a searching Kieran Trippier cross was headed back across goal by Rodriguez and Hird put through his own goal.