Doncaster Rovers and Crystal Palace did little to ease their Championship relegation fears as they played out a scrappy stalemate here yesterday.
Rovers enjoyed the better of the contest with Jason Euell, James O'Connor and Wayne Thomas going close, but they are now without a win in nine games – although they did at least pick up just a second clean sheet in 16 matches. It was a rare away point for Palace and they came closest to a goal as Neil Danns hit the post in the second half and the substitute Steffen Iversen fired over, but Scunthorpe's draw at Coventry means that Rovers and the Londoners remain just five and three points above the relegation zone respectively.
Palace's margin for error could be reduced to two points if Preston can beat Millwall today, but the Palace manager Dougie Freedman said: "I am comfortable as long as we have that three-point gap. It's coming down to us winning a game of football. We have three games to get as many as we can. The main thing in this division is not to get beat and we didn't."
Freedman brought Wilfried Zaha and Pablo Counago into his side at the expense of Iversen and the injured James Vaughan. Sean Scannell was suspended following his red card against Scunthorpe last week.
Despite the importance of the game, it was the visitors who made an assured start with the lively Zaha giving O'Connor a torrid time, and only a block by the goalkeeper Gary Woods stopped the winger's low cross picking out Counago.
The opening 20 minutes proved to be a predictably scrappy affair but Doncaster grew in confidence as they started to throw men forward to support their lone striker Euell. John Oster drove narrowly wide from distance before James Coppinger played in O'Connor, but the full-back's touch was heavy and his effort to pull the ball across goal was cleared by Anthony Gardner, making his 250th career league appearance.
Euell then shot wide after weaving through the Palace rearguard and the home side were furious to see their appeals for a handball in the box turned away after another Oster strike struck Nathaniel Clyne.
Thomas forced a sharp save from Julian Speroni with a powerful header as Palace spent the rest of the first 45 minutes penned in their own half. That pattern continued at the start of the second period as Euell fired wide after turning on the edge of the six-yard box from Simon Gillett's pull-back.
Gardner was fortunate to escape with a booking as he appeared to use two feet in a tackle on Gillett, and Euell, who was becoming a greater threat as the game wore on, forced Speroni into action with an acrobatic overhead kick. But Palace soon served a reminder of the threat they could pose just before the hour as a lovely cross from Counago saw Woods forced to make a sharp stop from Darren Ambrose's close-range header.
Palace sent on Iversen for Counago but Doncaster still dominated territory. Coppinger just failed to get on the end of a long goal-kick after Dean Moxey had slipped, before Euell dragged an effort just wide on 69 minutes. But Palace then wasted two gilt-edged chances to snatch the points. Iversen teed up Danns but the midfielder's shot came back off a post, before the former Tottenham forward blazed over from close range after a great run by Clyne.
Doncaster Rovers: Woods; O'Connor, Friend, Thomas, Dumbuya (Martis, 79), Stock, Moussa (Hayter, 73), Oster, Gillett, Coppinger (Shiels, 88), Euell. Substitutes not used Sullivan (gk), Kilgallon, Wilson, Mason.
Crystal Palace: Speroni; Clyne, McCarthy, Moxey Gardner, Ambrose, Danns, Agustien, Dikgacoi, Zaha (Cadogan, 90), Counago (Iversen, 68). Substitutes not used Price (gk), Wright, Davis, Garvan, Easter.
Referee: C Webster (Tyne and Wear)