MATCH REPORT: Doncaster Rovers 1 Stevenage 1

Doncaster Rovers' Chris Brown fires in a shot against Stevenage at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Doncaster Rovers' Chris Brown fires in a shot against Stevenage at the Keepmoat Stadium.

While Rovers boss Dean Saunders would undoubtedly have been happy to share the spoils midway through the second half when his side trailed 1-0, he could easily have been celebrating a second home win.

A Stevenage defence which had looked solid for most of the game in the first ever meeting of the two clubs at Football League level, suddenly looked vulnerable in the closing stages after Rovers had drawn level with a goal by striker Chris Brown on 79 minutes after time looked to be running out.

Had Rovers not salvaged a result, David Cotterill’s disallowed goal just before the break would have added to Saunders annoyance.

Cotterill was given offside when latching on to a loose ball after Stevenage keeper Chris Day had done well to get a hand to Kyle Bennett’s goal-bound shot from about 15 yards out.

Players and fans alike celebrated as the former Swansea man found the back of the net from a tight angle, but their joy was short-lived as they realised that the linesman on the East Stand side had his flag up.

Saunders said he felt it was a goal at the time and that the match footage confirmed his view.

“It was a disgraceful decision,” he claimed. “I’ve just seen it on the match DVD and it’s a great shot by Kyle Bennett and David Cotterill is onside running in for a rebound. If he was offside then you could chalk off 60 or 70 goals I scored when I was playing. It was a scandalous decision; why the linesman got involved I don’t know.

“It was a shot and the referee gives a goal and there were no appeals. It was a great finish with his left foot and the decision could have cost us the game.”

Rovers, whose appeals fell on deaf ears, could also consider themselves a bit unlucky when a shot by Cotterill appeared to hit a Stevenage player on the hand. It would probably been a harsh decision but I’ve seen many such incidents result in a spot kick over the years.

Second-placed Stevenage had featured in a goalless draw at Belle Vue in a Conference clash almost 10 years to the day in what turned out to be Rovers’ last season outside the Football League.

But they capitalised on a bright opening to open the scoring on their first visit to the Keepmoat Stadium after just 16 minutes.

Oliver Risser, given the nod over leading scorer Robin Shroot, headed home from a corner after keeper Gary Woods had done well to deny Lucas Akins.

Given the fact that the club’s meteoric rise in the last few years has been based on an outstanding defensive record it was always going to be a big ask for Rovers to score at least two goals to win the match.

That was even more the case with potential match-winner Bennett finding himself closely marked for much of the game before being substituted after 64 minutes.

David Syers had a chance to level the scores but shot wide from about 10 yards.

Added interest in the game was fuelled by the fact that Saunders had sounded out Stevenage - who quickly rebuffed his approach - about the availability of their centre-backs Jon Ashton and Mark Roberts during the summer.

He later signed Sheffield Wednesday’s Rob Jones and Huddersfield’s Jamie McCombe and claimed in the build-up that he had got the better pairing.

The game did nothing to make him change his mind.

Jones has proved the best of Saunders’ summer signings to date, and was easily the pick of the four with McCombe not losing anything in comparison with the Boro duo on the day.

Despite being booed by some supporters at the break, Rovers finished the half on top and were still in the game.

But it could have been a different story had keeper Woods, who again looked solid, not saved well from Anthony Grant’s long-range effort early in the second half.

Iain Hume came off the bench for his home debut on 56 minutes and helped to change the complexion of the game and he sparked off the move which ended with Brown going close with a header from Cotterill’s cross on 67 minutes.

Rissler headed wide of the far post from a corner in what was Stevenage’s last real chance.

Rovers drew level on 79 minutes. Jones had got on the end of a far-post header from Cotterill’s corner and knocked it down for someone to hit and there was Brown to rifle it home,

Brown tested Day with a shot on the turn, as did Jones with a header, but the visitors held out.

“I was very pleased with a point away from home,” said Stevenage manager Gary Smith. “Having seen footage of Doncaster I thought it would be a tough affair and that we’d be involved in an aerial battle, and it proved to be exactly that.

“This is a tough place to come and Doncaster are going to get their share of points here so I’m very pleased to come away with another point on the board, though a little bit disappointed we didn’t earn all three.”