Rovers fall to four goal defeat

Dec 9, 2018 | Match Reports

Despite a handful of chances themselves in the first half, Rovers found themselves 2-0 down at the break.

The second half followed a similar suit, with Grant McCann’s men adding a further two goals to cement their victory at BS7.

Darrell Clarke made five changes to the side that won at Swansea City Under-21s in midweek, ahead of the game.

Joe Partington replaced Daniel Leadbitter at right back, as did Joe Martin with Michael Kelly on the other flank and Tom Lockyer also returned to reclaim his armband and berth at centre-half.

Ollie Clarke was back after missing the Gillingham game through injury, alongside Chris Lines who was also restored to the midfield.

With wet and blustery conditions, both teams struggled at first to get ahold of the ball however Rovers did manage to stretch their opponents slightly inside the opening five minutes, as Lines fed Tom Nichols down the left but the forward couldn’t find the angle to square it to his strike partner, Stefan Payne.

Shortly after and the hosts were pressing Doncaster again, this time Liam Sercombe drove through the midfield and fed Payne, the number nine shifted it wide to Joe Partington who returned the ball in the centre but Payne’s first touch took the shot away from him.

Moments later Payne was involved again, as his chipped cross flew just a few inches too high for Nichols in the centre.

However as so often the story has been at the Mem here this season, the first blood was drawn by the visitors against the run of play – a moment of individual brilliance as John Marquis cut in from the left and arrowed a fine strike into the corner.

In further typical fashion, Rovers failed to score when they perhaps should have and were denied by the woodwork once more, with Ollie Clarke crashing a half-volley onto the post after he had reacted quickest to the rebound.

Doncaster were looking dangerous on the break and D.Clarke’s side were almost caught out at their own free-kick, when Ali Crawford got free on the left and had acres of grass and options inside in front of him, luckily for Rovers the ball lacked quality.

Sercombe was looking bright for Rovers and tested the keeper just before the 20-minute mark after O.Clarke had broken through onto the defence and played his fellow midfielder in down the left. Sercombe checked onto his right and went for the near corner but Ian Lawlor saved well.

Donny’s threat on the break remained apparent but so to did Jack Bonham’s alertness as James Coppinger worked his way into the box off the left and took a snapshot at the near post but Rovers’ stopper denied him.

Up the other end the opposing keeper had work to do, with Payne unleashing a powerful drive from the edge of the box but Lawlor was to beat it away.

With just 30 minutes played, D.Clarke made the bold move of using his first substitution in a bid to find an equaliser, with James Clarke making way for Kyle Bennett.

Bennett was involved almost immediately as he held the ball up out right and teed Partington for a cross, it found Payne in the middle who tried a flamboyant flick goalwards that, had it been a yard or two more to the left, could’ve crept in.

Mallik Wilks looked to be one of Doncaster’s brightest sparks and very nearly found Bonham’s bottom left with a great strike but he was denied by a fingertip save.

The movement was not the issue for Rovers to this point but the final ball, as Payne’s cute give and go down the left with O.Clarke followed by a pass in between the two available blue and white shirts would have told you.

However Rovers couldn’t keep Wilks out for much longer, with the winger reacting well after Marquis had rattled the bar with a header to bundle the ball into the net from close range.

The hosts had one last stab at trying to return the deficit to just one in stoppage time, a potentially welcome boost going into the break as Lines disguised a superb ball into the box for Payne, the angle was tight but he almost managed to clip it into the far top corner but, no dice.

Five minutes into the second half and Rovers were limited to just a couple of long-range efforts, both flying wide under the influence of the wind, first from Lines and then from Bennett.

Despite that, the afternoon went from bad to worse as the hosts fell further behind, when Tom Anderson headed home Crawford’s whipped cross.

Just under 10 minutes later and the gap was increased further, an incisive Doncaster breakaway saw Wilks go one-on-one before calmly stabbing the ball beneath the onrushing Bonham.

A double Rovers switch followed the goal, with Payne and O.Clarke being replaced by Alex Jakubiak and Alex Rodman.

Wilks seemed keen for a hat-trick and was finding more space as the game went, once again testing Bonham this time down low to his left but it was saved.

Jakubiak’s first notable contribution came on the 68th minute, as he controlled a low pass into the box onto his left foot and let a decent shot go, but a deflection took it away from the target.

Craig went close to finding a goal for Rovers and what would’ve been his second in four days as he met Lines’ free-kick at the back post well but was scuppered by a great block.

Perhaps Rovers best chance of the half came with little under 15 minutes to go as Jakubiak carried the strongly past his man and onto the box before setting it right to Rodman, the winger delayed his strike slightly which allowed a defender to recover and block his strike.

They went even closer a few minutes later, another instance to tell the current story, as Bennett wriggled free outside the box and looked to curl a good effort into the bottom corner only to be denied by the post and see the rebound fall perfectly into the keeper’s arms.

That was to the last significant play as Doncaster managed the game and the ball in the final 10 minutes, in what was a tough day at the Mem for Rovers.

Rovers XI: Jack Bonham (GK), Joe Partington, James Clarke (Kyle Bennett, 30′), Tom Lockyer (c), Tony Craig, Joe Martin, Ollie Clarke (Alex Rodman, 60′), Chris Lines, Liam Sercombe, Stefan Payne (Alex Jakubiak, 60′), Tom Nichols.

Subs: Adam Smith (GK), Rollin Menayese, Ed Upson, Gavin Reilly.

Doncaster XI: Ian Lawlor (GK), Danny Andrew, Andy Butler (c), Mallik Wilks (Paul Taylor, 86′), Ben Whiteman, John Marquis, Ali Crawford (Tommy Rowe, 69′), Tom Anderson, Herbie Kane, James Coppinger (Alfie May, 78′), Shaun Cummings.

Subs: Marko Marosi (GK), Matty Blair, Jermaine Anderson, Danny Amos.

Attendance: 7,356 (364 away).