It’s Jekyll and Hyde from Stevenage as Doncaster win seven-goal thriller

Darren Sarll on the touchline.

Darren Sarll on the touchline. - Credit: Archant

Stevenage put in distinctively differing performances in each half as Doncaster Rovers won a rollercoaster of a match at the Lamex.

The league leaders ran out 4-3 victors, helped by a thoroughly one-sided first half which saw the visitors score three goals in an 11-minute spell in a disastrous defensive display from Darren Sarll’s men.

Yet the second half saw a much better performance as Stevenage looked to claw back a three-goal deficit, and somehow they almost managed to do it as they pushed their opponents right to the end.

They fought back to 3-2 before conceding once more, but a Rowan Liburd tap in on the dot of 90 minutes made for an edge-of-the-seat four minutes of injury time which ended with Tom Pett curling just inches wide of the top corner as Darren Ferguson’s men escaped with all three points.

Sarll revealed after the match that he had lost four players to injury in the 24 hours ahead of the game, including top scorer Matt Godden who signed a new two-year deal in the week.

At the back Kgosi Ntlhe was also out with injury while Luke Wilkinson was suspended so Fraser Franks played at left-back with Jack King sitting in the middle alongside Dean Wells.

Yet no defenders were near Andy Butler as the centre-half headed in unmarked from a free-kick for 1-0. How the 33-year-old, a huge, bulking frame of a defender, was allowed the space in which to pick out his spot will have left Sarll scratching his head.

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A second goal followed for the visitors, one which was drilled low inside the far post by Liam Mandeville, before Boro went close through a Charlie Lee header which somehow Marko Marosi clawed off the line.

Then Stevenage were punished a third time, and it came from the superb Matty Blair.

Somehow Tommy Rowe had ghosted in behind the Boro back line from a Niall Mason ball in, and while the defenders were caught ball-watching he nodded a header towards team-mate Blair who struck a fabulous volley into the top corner.

Sarll made a double substitution at the break with Pett and Michael Tonge coming on for Dale Gorman and Lee and they instantly had an impact with Stevenage offering much more going forward.

Pett tried his luck with a curled effort which Marosi gathered while Ben Kennedy, Stevenage’s standout performer of the day, saw his shot deflected wide and Wells volleyed over.

Kennedy, with a trademark scampering run down the right, teed up Pett for a low, drilled strike for 3-1. And then Tonge put in a superb pass for Franks, with the defender controlling the ball with his knee and volleying home a terrific shot to move the home side to within one goal.

All of a sudden it was game on, but within two minutes it suddenly appeared to be game over once more. Again it was a free-kick, and as Marquis’ header came back off the woodwork it hit Jamie Jones and nestled in the net.

Stevenage continued to push forward though and Rowan Liburd tapped in for his side’s third on the stroke of 90 minutes.

And yet the four extra minutes could not produce an equaliser for Boro, with the closest being Pett who, after more fine work from Kennedy to stay on his feet on the left, curled just wide as the Stevenage bench put their hands on their heads in despair.

It was a spirited fightback and a necessary one, but Boro just fell short as Doncaster held on.

Stevenage: J Jones, Franks, King, Wells, Henry, Gorman (Pett 46), Schumacher (Liburd 70), Lee (Tonge 46), Cowans, Kennedy, McKirdy. Subs: Day, Kerr, Slater, Wilmot.

Doncaster Rovers: Alcock, Baudry, Butler, Marquis, Rowe, Houghton, Blair, Mandeville (Keegan 73), Mason, Coppinger (Williams 84). Subs: L Jones, Calder, Wright, Beestin, Evina.

Att: 2,705