Match Report: Crewe 1 Doncaster Rovers 2

Doncaster Rovers hold out for another three points has they  cut Crewe to size
Doncaster Rovers hold out for another three points has they cut Crewe to size

THE race for the Championship is almost turning into one big game of chicken.

That has nothing at all to do with why Rovers’ super sub Billy Paynter chooses to hook his shirt over his head and furiously flap his arms every time he scores for Doncaster.

You would have to ask Billy yourself for an explanation of one of the most bizarre celebration rituals you are likely to see up and down the country. And even then he might not tell you.

But the noisy Rovers fans who made the journey to Gresty Road - and sang their hearts out for the duration of a somewhat scrappy encounter - weren’t half relieved and overjoyed to witness Paynter’s customary headless chicken dance twice in the space of four fabulous second half minutes.

The last time Paynter, who took his tally for the season to 13 with his timely brace, did his dance Rovers won at Bournemouth by the same scoreline as they did on Saturday - two potentially enormous away wins during what is turning into a sensational League One promotion race.

Fantastic, that is, for the neutral. If you happen to follow one of the five sides still in with a shout of automatic promotion, these last few weeks of the season should probably come with a health warning.

As Rovers ran the clock down on five long minutes of injury time, nerves were shot to pieces among the travelling faithful.

And with just two weeks of the normal campaign remaining, you still can throw a blanket over Rovers, Bournemouth, Brentford, Yeovil and Sheffield United.

Not one of those sides has been able to break clear of the pack. You lose, we lose. Or, like at the weekend, everyone wins.

It really is a case of who blinks first? Whose nerve will hold? Who is going to chicken out of the race for promotion?

It could yet go right down to the last kick of the season when Rovers travel to Brentford.

At a blustery and cold Alexandra Stadium, Rovers at one point looked like they might be about to crack. under the pressure

Chances were going begging, Crewe keeper Alan Martin was having a blinder, and when Rovers did find the net on two occasions the offside flag came to the home side’s rescue.

Tuesday night’s luckless display against Carlisle seemed to be repeating itself. With teams around them winning, Doncaster’s luck appeared to running out at just the wrong time.

Rovers might have considered themselves unfortunate not to be ahead before the break.

The industrious John Lundstram was the stand-out midfielder on show, breaking forward on several occasions and he twice tested Martin’’s handling from distance.

Iain Hume, recalled at the expense of Kyle Bennett, also went close when he drifted in off the right touchline and fired wide.

The Canadian should have done better when he was sent clean through, only to dink the ball straight into Martin’s hands as he attempted to lob it over him and tap into an empty net.

He then saw his clever flick from just two yards out pushed wide by Martin as the visitors ended the half on top and cranked up the pressure on Crewe.

They had to be grateful that Neil Sullivan stayed big to deny Byron Moore after the striker was sent clear by Chuks Aneke, but in the main they had coped well with Crewe’s tippy tappy play and did not want the half time whistle to interrupt their best spell of the game.

They tried to carry on where they had left off at the start of the second period.

But a lapse in concentration from Hume, who gave the ball away needlessly on half way, suddenly had Doncaster on the back foot, and wondering if it was going to be their day.

Hume’s sloppy pass was capitalised upon by Max Clayton in some style, Crewe’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final hero latching onto Aneke’s through ball before firing past Sullivan into the far corner.

Following last week’s surprise defeat to Carlisle, it was a blow which might have knocked lesser teams for six.

But this Doncaster team are made of stern stuff - and their sensational comeback came courtesy of Paynter who was introduced on the hour mark for Hume.

He had barely been on the field for five minutes before he made his mark in fine style, seizing upon a wayward Crewe throw in, sauntering forward, before curling home a delicious effort into the bottom corner.

Cue the funky chicken.

And just moments later Doncaster’s vocal following were treated to more of the same. This time Paynter was in the right place at the right time, following a Jamie McCombe flick on, to finish left footed in clinical fashion and turn the game on its head in a flash.

Shell-shocked Crewe hardly knew what had hit them.

A late surge from Railwaymen might have really de-railed Doncaster’s quest for a top two finish had substitute Oliver Turton not wasted a gilt-edged chance from just six yards out with the goal at his mercy.

But Rovers held out for another vital three points, digging deep in typical fashion, and for a fifth time this season coming from behind to win.

If they show similar resolve in their final two fixtures of a gruelling season, they’ll be dancing like a chicken in the streets of Doncaster very soon.