REPORT: Doncaster Rovers 1 Stevenage 1
Boro make it eight games unbeaten, their longest unbeaten start to a league campaign since 1993/94
Doncaster Rovers 1 Stevenage 1
npower League 1
Stevenage stretched their unbeaten run to eight league matches but were perhaps a little disappointed that they did not hold on to a 1-0 lead at Doncaster.
In a bruising encounter against a physical Doncaster side which put in the sort of performance Boro themselves used to churn out under Graham Westley, Stevenage led through Oliver Risser before Chris Brown’s equaliser 10 minutes from time.
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On paper this looked like the toughest test of the season for Gary Smith’s Stevenage, but the Boro boss got his starting XI spot on as he opted for strength and height from the likes of Risser rather than the guile of Luke Freeman and top scorer Robin Shroot.
The match took a good 16 minutes to warm up and when it did Stevenage went ahead when Risser headed home from a short corner after Lucas Akins had forced a fine save from Doncaster goalkeeper Gary Woods who palmed the ball out.
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Plan A for Rovers involved long balls pumped into the Boro box, which is surprising because as Doncaster boss Dean Saunders tried to buy both Stevenage centre-halves – Mark Roberts and Jon Ashton – in the summer, he certainly knows that their strength is in the air.
On the floor, the home side’s play lacked fluidity with Kyle Bennett, a tricky little midfielder, struggling to orchestrate proceedings from inside the Boro half.
Doncaster did have chances with David Syers, gifted the ball in the box, firing over on the turn before David Cotterill had a goal ruled out for offside when running onto a shot from a team-mate that had been well saved by Chris Day.
Boro began the second half with Anthony Grant firing goalwards, and that chance aside they looked comfortable both in possession and out of it as the home side’s build-up play lacked both pace and imagination.
On one of the few occasions Doncaster did get the ball forward into a dangerous position Cotterill’s cross to the far stick saw a stretching Chris Brown head over from close range.
Stevenage had a chance themselves not long afterwards from the edge of the Doncaster area after Marcus Haber had been pulled down, but Filipe Morais’ free-kick was fired off target and over the bar.
As with the first half, Rovers’ best chance of a goal from the game was undoubtedly to be from a set piece and this proved to be the case with 10 minutes to go when the home side got a free-kick near the corner flag.
Rovers have plenty of height in their team and putting pressure on the Boro back line from the set piece the ball dropped to Brown who fired home from eight yards for 1-1.
It was a goal that then sparked a flurry of goalmouth action at both ends.
Firstly Akins’ volley was cleared off the line after Woods had missed a cross coming into the box, while at the other end Day pulled off a fine save with his knee from Brown on the volley.
Day was called into action again soon afterwards at the end of the match, this time from a Rob Jones header, but the save was the final action in either goalmouth and Boro travelled back home with another away point.
Doncaster: G Woods 7, Quinn 6, Spurr 6, Jones 6, McCombe7, Cotterill 7, Bennett 5 (Husband 64, 5), Syers 5, M Woods 5 (Hume 56, 6), Keegan 5 (Harper 46, 6), Brown 6. Subs: Maxted, Martis, Blake.
Stevenage: Day 7, Gray 6, Comminges 6, Ashton 7, Roberts 6, Dunne 6, Risser 7, Grant 5, Akins 6, Morais 5 (Tansey 77), Haber 5 (Charles 93). Subs: Arnold, Freeman, Lopez, Shroot, N’Gala.