Heffernan keeps Rovers’ feet firmly |on road to safety
Doncaster Rovers 1 Bristol City 0
Wednesday 18 February 2009
Doncaster Rovers have built their impressive post-Christmas revival in the Championship on the back of a skilfully constructed passing game but they dealt a setback to Bristol City’s top-six ambitions last night more by graft than craft.
Sean O’Driscoll’s team still found time for some moments of quality after Paul Heffernan’s early goal gave them a flying start, but the match was more a test of their new-found resilience and City’s first league defeat in two months was a triumph for Doncaster’s defensive talents, with the centre-backs Matt Mills and Sam Hird putting in outstanding performances.
Bottom of the table at Christmas, Doncaster seemed to be finding their promotion to the Championship a step too far. Yet O’Driscoll kept to his principles, insisting Rovers could play their way out of the trouble and after seven wins in eight matches there is growing confidence that he will be proved right.
“We’re not really playing any differently,” assistant manager Richard O’Kelly said afterwards. “But we have learnt a bit about the character you need to win games at this level and it was a real team effort tonight.”
A lack of goals, particularly at home, has been a problem for Rovers, who could not give their new signing Dean Shiels his anticipated debut after the Northern Ireland was injured on international duty. Yet last night they took less then four minutes to make what proved to be the decisive breakthrough, when City’s Louis Carey could not cut out Martin Woods’ through ball and Heffernan swept them in front.
Against opponents stronger physically than themselves, Rovers had to work hard to protect their advantage, the veteran goalkeeper Neil Sullivan saving well before half-time from Stern John and Gavin Williams, who had the ball in the net only for the referee Clive Oliver to spot a foul.
Rovers, for whom Woods was denied by Adriano Basso late in the first half, needed the cushion of a second goal. Their pace on the break looked to offer the best chance to extend their lead but they missed an opportunity from a set-piece early in the second half when Mills missed the target with a strong header.
City replaced John with John Akinde at half-time and sent on Ivan Sproule, who came off the bench to score last Saturday, as they pressed for an equaliser with conviction. They were up against a defence equally determined to resist, however. “The pitch cut up and we had to go route one but there was not enough quality and we could have had 15 men on the field and not found a way through,” said the Bristol manager, Gary Johnson. “It is an opportunity missed but I’m still confident we can finish in the top six.”
Doncaster Rovers: (4-4-1-1) Sullivan; O’Connor, Mills, Hird, Chambers; Spicer (Roberts, 90), Wellens, Stock, Woods; Coppinger ( Byfield, 86); Heffernan (Lockwood, 81). Substitutes not used: Guy, Price.
Bristol City: (4-4-2) Basso; Orr (Iriekpen, 78), Carey, Fontaine, McAllister; Williams (Sproule, 65), Johnson, Skuse, McIndoe; John (Akinde, ht), Maynard. Substitutes not used: Henderson, Murray.
Referee: C Oliver (Northumberland).
Latest in Sport
Mario Balotelli to Liverpool: Best memes as Twitter reacts to imminent £16m transfer
Sami Khedira to Arsenal? Arsene Wenger reveals Gunners are still in the market for defensive midfielder
Mario Balotelli to Liverpool: Risky business to think Balotelli can replace Suarez
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football
Paul Scholes: Manchester United need five experienced players who can turn round a desperate situation
- 1 Jeremy Clarkson 'sees no problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC
- 3 London restaurant 34 creates champagne glass modelled on Kate Moss’ left breast
- 4 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Bin bag full of cats' heads discovered near Manchester's Curry Mile
Disgusting, frustrating, but intriguing: how the country really feels about its politicians