DONCASTER Rovers climbed into an automatic League One promotion spot after claiming their fourth successive win over Oldham Athletic at the Keepmoat Stadium.
But they will have to play better than they did for over an hour of last night’s game, decided by a David Cotterill goal, if they hope to stay there.
Rovers showed just one change to their starting line-up, Chris Brown coming in for fellow striker Billy Paynter.
Centre-back Jamie McCombe, sidelined for nearly two months with a hairline fracture of his spine, was on the bench.
The Latics were boosted by the return of leading scorer Jose Baxter and defender Reece Wabara following a one match ban.
The visitors, who had climbed out of the relegation zone on the back of successive wins, had the first meaningful shot on goal on seven minutes - midfieldeer James Wesolowski firing wide with a 20 yarder.
Although the crowd was well down Saturday’s gate of just over 8,000, the Rovers fans in the South stand did their best to create an atmosphere.
Rovers keeper Gary Woods was alert to the danger and rushed to the edge of his area to beat Oldam striker Matt Derbyshire to the ball.
Centre-back Tommy Spurr headed wide from a 17th minute corner.
There had been no lack of endeavour in the first 20 minutes or so, but little goalmouth action to warm up the crowd on a bitterly cold night,
Oldham skipper Dean Furman shot wide from around 15 yards after Rovers had failed to clear the danger from a 28th miinute corner.
Oldham had enjoyed the better of the exchanges first half-hour and had launched a number of shots on goal from outside the box without ever troubling Woods.
Rovers forced to make a change on 34 minutes, Sammy Clingan replacing Martin Woods, who has shown up well in recent games.
Striker Iain Hume forced a save from Oldham keeper Dean Bouzanis on 37 minutes with a header from David Cotterill’s cross.
Baxter showed his class by going past two players before getting a low shot on target from the edge of the boz which Woods made save at the second a
Rovers got the second half under way knowing that they would need to raise their game if they were to claim their 12th league win of the season.
There was little sign of that happening in the opening ten minutes during the best chance fell to Derbyshire, who shot over from the edge of the box.
Paul Keegan shot high from 25 yards with Rovers first effort on goal since the break on 57 minutes.
Rovers brought on David Syers, a more attack-minded midfielder, in place of James Harper on 63 minutes.
Chris Brown and Syers had goal-bound headers cleared off the line in quick succession in the 66th minute.
Rovers broke the deadlock on 68 minutes with a superb swerving 25 yard angled free-kick which beat the keeper at the near post.
It was his third goal in the last three games.
Hume had an overhead shot deflected for a 72nd minute corner from which full-back Paul Quinn headed wide.
Hume had an angled shot saved at the expence of an 84th minute corner with Brown shooting wide in a one-on-one three minutes later. Both Bouzanis and Hume were both sent-off in stoppage time after an ugly confrontation.
Rovers: G Woods 6 Quinn 6 Jones 6 Spurr 7 Husband 7 Cotterill 7 Keegan 6 Harper **6 Martin Woods *5 Hume 7 Chris Brown 6 Substitutes Maxted Syers **63 Blake Michael Woods Martis Clingan *34 McCombe
Oldham: Bouzanis 6 Connor Brown 6 Byrne 6 M’voto 6 Wabara 6 Grounds *6 Furman 6 Wesolowski **6 Croft ***6 Derbyshire 6 Baxter 6 Substitutes: Jacob ***90Montano *73 Smith **73 Millar M’Changama Winchester Sutherland.
Goals: Rovers: Cotterill (68)
Sent-off: Rovers: Hume. Oldham: Bouzanis
Bookings: Rovers: Cotterill. Oldham:Mvoto, Baxter
Ref: Gary Sutton (Lincs)