Stevenage 1 Doncaster Rovers 2: Paul Goodwin’s verdict
NEVER mind cult hero status, Rob Jones is fast becoming Doncaster Rovers’ very own super hero.
‘Always believe in Rob Jones’, sang the vocal travelling support prior to kick off, perhaps with just a hint of trepidation about what lay ahead following the departure of Dean Saunders.
By the final whistle, after the joint caretaker boss had nodded in a dramatic stoppage time winner, Rovers’ on-looking co-owners might have been tempted to join in too.
If Jones does harbour any ambitions of holding onto the job, along with Brian Flynn, then he could hardly have dreamt of a more positive start at the helm.
His back post header from David Cotterill’s 94th minute corner not only sealed a superb comeback victory - Rovers’ tenth away win of the season - but it also created a new club record for consecutive league games unbeaten on the road (12).
Throw in a crucial cameo from club stalwart James Coppinger, making his 300th league appearance for Doncaster, and this was a memorable afternoon in Hertfordshire not to be missed.
For even the creators of Clark Kent would have struggled to come up with a better script than this.
When a manager departs in circumstances like Saunders, there are always question marks about how a team, and certain individuals, will react.
But the way Rovers harried and then later rallied, recovering after James Dunne spectacularly fired the home side ahead midway through the second half to turn the game on its head, provided all the reassurance required that this squad do indeed have every belief in Jones and Flynn.
Given the previous week’s upheaval, Rovers would almost have been excused for a rare off day on their travels. These players, however, have genuine standards.
And despite Stevenage’s spoiling style, and Dunne’s thunderbolt, Doncaster were still able to get their new interim era off to the best possible start.
The dramatic and high octane climax that determined this game was merely wishful thinking during a tame first half that saw both sides, in the main, cancel each other out.
However, Rovers did create the best two openings of the half, both after good work from Chris Brown who was outstanding on his return to the starting eleven.
Brown hustled and held the ball up brilliantly all afternoon, first flicking on for Iain Hume who saw his shot parried by Steve Arnold in the Boro goal, before more clever play from the front man released Syers, only for the midfielder to drag his shot wide.
There was a niggly undertone to the game, perhaps stemming from Stevenage’s frustration at their inability to get behind Doncaster’s well drilled defence.
Saunders might have departed, but Rovers were delivering the same kind of disciplined display that has seen them profit spectacularly on the road this season.
Immediately from the restart, the game showed signs of opening up. However, there was no hint of what was to follow, as Dunne broke the deadlock in stunning fashion.
Greg Tansey’s left wing corner was headed clear to the edge of the box where Dunne connected with a thunderous volley that rocketed past Gary Woods into the roof of the net.
Now Jones and Flynn had their work cut out, and the previous week’s distractions might have taken their toll on weaker dressing rooms. But Doncaster again came up with the answers, while also riding their luck slightly.
On came Coppinger for a landmark appearance, and the Rovers veteran seemed intent on making his mark.
Jamie McCombe got lucky when his clearance was charged down by Sam Hoskins, who then broke clear and went to ground under the defender’s challenge, only for the referee to wave play on.
It turned out to be a pivotal moment because seconds later Doncaster were back on terms and Coppinger was the creator.
The substitute’s delicate dink over the top found David Syers and when his initial effort was blocked by Arnold, Hume was on hand to ram home the rebound
A timid game had suddenly come to life as the home side again came on strong in the final ten minutes. But Rovers held firm, and they weren’t content with just a point either.
Syers saw a volley blocked, McCombe headed Cotterill’s cross inches wide before Syers missed a gilt edged chance in stoppage time when Hume picked him out perfectly from the left but he miscued his volley from six yards out.
A draw might have been a fair result. A point at Stevenage, and a record-breaking one at that, would not be sniffed at.
But there was to be one more incredible twist as the clock ticked towards a fifth and final minute of added time.
In front of the noisy travelling Rovers fans, the visitors had one final opportunity to score with a Cotterill corner from the left, and who should rise highest at the far post to head home than that man Jones?
Mobbed by his teammates, it was a picture book ending to a memorable afternoon.
Once the final whistle had gone, Doncaster’s players danced in delight, and in unity, in front of their supporters.
The message was clear; we still believe, we’re sticking together. It won’t have gone unnoticed in the Rovers boardroom.
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Saturday 18 May 2013
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