ON the day that Doncaster Rovers celebrated being ‘handed the keys’ to the Keepmoat Stadium, York City almost spoilt the party.
Rovers, who will officially take over running the £32 million complex this week, needed penalties to finally see off the battling Minstermen and claim their first ever League Cup win over them after three previous firs- round defeats.
Chris Brown, Martin Woods, Kyle Bennett and Robbie Blake, all converted spot kicks as Rovers won the penalty shoot-out 4-2 after it finished 1-1 and extra time failed to provide a goal or a winner.
Having started last season three divisions below Rovers, the Minstermen went into Saturday’s game just one division below Dean Saunders’ side and for much of the game there seemed even less of a gulf between the two sides.
Whereas York are looking to build on last season’s promotion momentum, Rovers are still coming to terms with relegation back to League One and are very much in a transitional period - just three of Saturday’s team started last season’s opener at Brighton.
The start of any season, however, is not the time for looking back rather the time for looking forward.
Rovers can’t afford to dwell on the past - good or bad times.
If anyone connected with the club thought that League One would hold few fears for Rovers provided they got their act together, then Saturday’s game will have come as a reality check.
Admittedly, Rovers’ new-look team will need time to gel and it will also need strengthening - something manager Dean Saunders hopes to do something about this week.
But the York game gave a taste of what is to come.
Teams, as did York, will view Rovers as a prize scalp.
They worked hard to stop Rovers playing and also posed a threat with the ball, as will the majority of Rovers’ League One rivals.
York’s hopes of celebrating their return to the League Cup, and clearing the first round hurdle for the first time since the 1997-98 season rose in a spirited first-half performance.
Both sides lacked a cutting edge in the box in a goalless first 45 minutes and most of the efforts on goal came from long range shots.
Apart from a couple of headers, Rovers best chance of breaking the deadlock was from a 34th-minute free-kick by David Cotterill, who also shot just wide shortly after.
The game opened up more after the break and Rovers keeper Gary Woods saved well from a rising effort by Patrick McLaughlin.
But he could do nothing to about a tremendous 25-yard strike by Michael Coulson on 67 minutes which gave York the lead.
Rovers, who looked better balanced in attack when James Coppinger moved out wider in the second half, were thrown a lifeline on 73 minutes when Cotterill was fouled in the box and Brown converted the resulting penalty.
Extra time failed to produce a winner. But all ended well with Rovers boasting a 100 per cent return in the shoot-out while two City players shot over.
The defence again looked solid, with skipper Tommy Spurr and summer signing Rob Jones, in particular, showing up well.
Bennett again showed that he will be a handful for League One defences with his pace and balance, though he will be the first to admit that there needs to be more of an end product at times.
Cotterill showed glimpses of the form which won him a string of Wales caps and he is looking like decent signing.