Doncaster Rovers 0 Sheffield United 1: Rovers suffer third straight home defeat

Andy Williams and Neill Collins battle for possession. Photo: Andrew Row

Andy Williams and Neill Collins battle for possession. Photo: Andrew Row

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Doncaster Rovers are looking over their shoulders at the wrong end of League One after suffering more derby day heartache against Sheffield United.

Che Adams' first half goal was enough to settle a scrappy South Yorkshire derby and condemn Rovers to their third straight home defeat.

Doncaster's fourth successive loss to their big city rivals leaves them just six points clear of the relegation zone and without a win since the 3-0 victory at Southend United on January 3.

Darren Ferguson, banned from the touchline and forced to watch proceedings from the stadium's control room, selected an attack-minded line-up but saw his side struggle to test Sheffield United goalkeeper George Long for long periods.

Confidence in the final third appeared almost shot towards the closing stages and Rovers must now lift themselves for another South Yorkshire derby at Barnsley next weekend.

Andy Butler and Nathan Tyson returned to the starting line-up but Thorsten Stuckmann had to settle for a place on the bench, while Conor Grant and James Coppinger were injury absentees. With Lynden Gooch and Cameron Stewart included, Rovers' side had an attacking look to it.

Former Doncaster striker Billy Sharp, meanwhile, missed out on a return to the Keepmoat Stadium with a foot injury.

The Blades began the brighter and went close twice in the opening five minutes, first when Baxter's hooked effort had to be tipped over by Chris Neal, before Neill Collins' header from a corner clipped the bar and went over.

After being forced onto the back foot, Rovers gradually grew more into the contest and almost profited from a route one approach. Andy Williams controlled a long ball into the box but his effort was blocked by Long.

Neither side could wrestle the initiative but both teams had their moments in front of goal.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin headed John Brayford's cross into the side-netting for the visitors, while Adams might have done better with a lob after latching onto a through ball.

Williams was the chief outlet for Rovers. He saw a close range effort blocked by Collins after good work from Nathan Tyson, a header hooked off the line by David Edgar and then a chipped attempt saved by Long.

It took a moment of individual brilliance to break the deadlock four minutes before half time. Baxter found space in between the lines to chip a delightful ball over the top for Adams who poked it past Neal with a first-time finish. For the seventh successive home game, Rovers found themselves behind.

From a Rovers perspective the first period had been unconvincing, often relying on hopeful balls forward and appearing slightly disjointed in terms of their distances between midfield and the front two. Half time saw Butler replaced by former Blades defender Craig Alcock, and a shift from 3-5-2 to a more traditional 4-4-2.

The opening of the second period saw a flurry of half chances at both ends. Collins' header was saved by Neal, and Louis Reed volleyed wide following a Blades counter-attack. For Rovers, Stewart tested Long at his near post with a decent hit, before Harry Middleton's drilled cross just evaded Tyson.

Neal kept his side in the game on 72 minutes, making a vital save from Reed after the midfielder had been put in the clear by Adams.

However, it proved to be in vain as Rovers flattered to deceive in the final third and the Blades held out with relative comfort for their first win in four games

Rovers: Neal, McCullough, Butler (Alcock 46), Taylor-Sinclair, Evina, Gooch (Mandeville 62), Keegan, Middleton, Stewart (Chaplow 77), Williams, Tyson. Subs not used: Stuckmann, Lund, Lecygne, Davies.

Sheffield United: Long, Brayford, Collins, Edgar, McEveley, Campbell-Ryce (Flynn 74), Hammond, Reed (Basham 83), Adams, Baxter, Calvert-Lewin (Woolford 86). Subs not used: Howard, Coutts, Done, Sammon.

Attendance: 10,168

Referee: Mike Dean