Doncaster Rovers 3, Norwich City 1
His name does not have quite the same ring as Roy of the Rovers, but Doncaster fans will not worry about that.
James – or as the fans chanted, Jimmy – Coppinger produced one of those goals straight from the pages of the Tiger for the benefit of his home crowd in Doncaster's Championship encounter with Norwich City.
Such was the velocity of his unstoppable 25-yard shot that in the pages of a comic, it might have been depicted with a kind of jet trail between his right boot and the ball, and a goalkeeper making a despairing leap as it whistled past his left ear.
There is in fact something of a cartoon feel to a visit to the Keepmoat Stadium. Doncaster fans turning up in their wonderful red and white hooped shirts could be arriving for a Where's Wally? convention, and the Viking on the club badge bears more than a passing resemblance to Noggin the Nog.
The pleasant arena – sadly with fewer than 10,000 paying customers inside last night – even has the cartoon illustrator's proper floodlight pylons that can be picked out on the skyline, a welcome change from the modern kit construction grounds where the lights are almost hidden from view.
You may also want to watch:
But before darkness descended, it was Jimmy of the Rovers who lit up proceedings against the Canaries and in the end he gave more than 1,000 travelling fans their first taste of league defeat on the road since the trip to Leyton Orient in April.
The 29-year-old Coppinger's three goals – one stunning, one very simple and one rather fortunate – secured Doncaster three points and, on a night of strange results, pushed them up to fourth in the table, which on this showing is not at all flattering.
- 1 'Vindicated at last' - Pension compensation on the horizon for WASPI women
- 2 Sneak peek inside first £2.7m luxury mansion for sale
- 3 New landlords relaunch pub with three-course dog menu
- 4 Tributes to popular entertainer after death following tragic accident
- 5 'It was as if Covid didn't exist' - Latitude-goers report positive tests
- 6 Plot of gold? Land up for sale for £750,000
- 7 Neighbours' shock as man's body found in flat weeks after he died
- 8 Body of man in 20s found at nature reserve near Norwich
- 9 Fly-tippers dumped dead relative's rubbish – just half a mile from recycling centre
- 10 Norfolk couple's hopes of £1m 'doorstop' sculpture dashed
Gamely though City battled in the second half, they were second best for most of the opening period, when Rovers moved the ball in slick fashion and were prepared to shoot on sight and goalkeeper John Ruddy – back in the side after recovering from the dead leg that forced him to miss the 2-1 win over Barnsley – was bombarded from long range.
John Oster and Coppinger had already tested Ruddy when the hosts moved ahead in the 14th minute with what City boss Paul Lambert described as a 'wonder goal'.
James O'Connor won possession in his own half and set Rovers on the attack and Coppinger advanced a few paces before letting fly from at least 25 yards with a venomous right-foot shot that flew into the top corner of the net to Ruddy's left.
City, who had abandoned their usual diamond formation in the early stages, sought an instant reply and Chris Martin, who began the match in a wide left role, went close to providing it after 17 minutes with a curling right-foot shot that was just wide.
But Coppinger was given too much room as Doncaster pushed forward again and skipper Martin Woods struck a first-time effort just wide from his pass before Woods returned the compliment by tapping a free-kick to Coppinger, whose shot was deflected on its way through to the 'keeper.
Billy Sharp, twice, Simon Gillett and Coppinger all threatened to increase Doncaster's advantage before the break, while defender Leon Barnett's header from an Anthony McNamee cross was City's only other effort of note.
• HALF-TIME: Doncaster Rovers 1, Norwich City 0
Rovers extended their lead less than five minutes into the second half when Coppinger scored his second.
Woods and Sharp set up full-back George Friend for a shot that Ruddy managed to parry but Barnett could not clear the loose ball and Sharp regained possession, squaring to Coppinger in the six-yard box for a simple, sidefoot finish.
City almost replied inside two minutes when veteran 'keeper Neil Sullivan pushed Chris Martin's free-kick wide and then blocked Russell Martin's follow-up effort.
Suddenly the Canaries had their tails up and, from the resulting corner by McNamee, Andrew Crofts had a powerful header cleared off the line by Mustapha Dumbuya before skipper Grant Holt fired just wide from the rebound.
Ruddy made his best save of the night to deny Woods after another storming run by Coppinger, but City pulled a goal back on 65 minutes when Russell Martin scored his first for the club, Holt clipping a neat cross into the six-yard box for the full-back to head into an empty net.
City immediately replaced McNamee with another striker in Simeon Jackson and there were appeals for a penalty when Holt was shoulder charged, but referee Eddie Ilderton, who gave two spot-kicks against City on a not very Good Friday last season, was not about to atone.
The Canaries were much livelier after Martin's goal and Wes Hoolahan tried a long-range volley but Sullivan was right behind it.
Lambert replaced Holt with Oli Johnson in the hope the substitute would conjure up a late equaliser, but Doncaster wrapped the game up with four minutes left – even though there was an element of good fortune about the way Coppinger completed his hat-trick.
Barnett, already booked for a trip on Woods, fouled substitute Dean Shiels and from the free-kick on the corner of the penalty area, Coppinger's shot took a deflection off the City wall and looped over Ruddy, giving the 'keeper no chance. It was, in this instance, more luck than judgment but it was enough to give the Yorkshire-born forward the match ball.
• RESULT: Doncaster Rovers 3, Norwich City 1