Match report: Crawley Town 1 Doncaster Rovers 1

james husband scores Rovers equlaiser.
james husband scores Rovers equlaiser.

THOUGH they returned to the automatic promotion places, there was a sense of opportunity lost for Rovers after a dour draw in Sussex.

A lacklustre performance, devoid of spark, energy and creativity left them second best for much of the contest and saw them miss a golden opportunity to go clear at the top of League One.

Chances were at a premium to say the least throughout a game bogged down in the middle of the park.

Crawley fielded Dannie Bulman in front of the back four, stifling Rovers’ midfield.

And a high defensive line meant flick-ons from Billy Paynter and James Coppinger had little success.

Rovers defence – so reliable for so much of the season – again looked a little nervy with both Jamie McCombe and Rob Jones showing a lack of conviction with decisions at times.

The hosts simply had more zip to their play throughout, largely thanks to midfield duo Josh Simpson and Matt Sparrow while Nicky Adams was a constant outlet on the left in the first half.

Joe Walsh’s tame back header which dropped straight into Gary Woods’ hands was the game’s first chance after 14 minutes.

Simpson’s driven effort from 25 yards was a little more menacing nine minutes later but flew well over.

However, the midfield man showed much more composure with his quality strike to give Crawley the lead on 25 minutes.

Adams galloped down the left, sent in a low cross and Simpson powered a superb first time effort into the bottom corner.

Brian Flynn’s men had their first opportunity on goal two minutes later with an agonising miss from Coppinger.

David Cotterill sent him through on the right with a well-weighted full time pass, Coppinger charged to the corner of the box and scuffed a shot which shaved the outside of the far post.

Rovers looked increasingly threatening through the Cotterill-Coppinger combination as the half wore on but the final ball was consistently disappointing.

However there was no disputing the quality of Cotterill’s delivery as Rovers equalised two minutes before the break. Cotterill found space on the right and sent in a superb high cross to the back post with James Husband strolling in unopposed to produce an excellent diving header past Paul Jones.

Very little changed in the pattern of play as the early stages of the second half played out and it took until the hour mark for either side to test the opposition keeper.

Billy Clarke tried his aim from 20 yards but his low strike was straight at Woods.

And a minute later, former Rovers full back Mustapha Dumbuya nicked the ball off Tommy Spurr, darted into the box but took his shot too close to Woods who gathered at the second attempt.

Jamie Proctor really ought to have given the hosts the lead on 65 minutes when he rose to meet Dumbuya’s deep cross but could only turn a header wide of the far post.

After this flurry of chances, Crawley went on to dominate the half as Rovers simply could not get their key attacking players on the ball.

Crawley just seemed to want the win more than their visitors with Dumbuya and Clarke having increasing influence on the game, both crafting several half chances.

Rovers produced a late flurry in injury time, sending plenty of balls in to the box but created no clear cut chances.

*CRAWLEY: P Jones, Dumbuya, Sadler, Connolly, Clarke, Sparrow, Simpson (Torres, 41), Walsh, Proctor, Bulman, Adams. Subs not used: Essam, Hunt, O’Brien, Elford-Alliyu, M Jones, Maddison.

*ROVERS: G Woods, Quinn, McCombe, Jones, Spurr, Cotterill, Fowler (Bennett, 75), Harper, Husband, Coppinger, Paynter. Subs not used: Maxted, Wakefield, Middleton, M Woods, Sinclair, Ball.

*Referee: Andy D’Urso

*Attendance: 3,267