Dave Kitson could not score in 18 matches for Stoke City in the Premier League, but regained his scoring touch in only his second game since returning to Reading to ensure that Steve Coppell had cause to celebrate his 1,000th match as a manager last night.
The striker, who has rejoined his old club on loan, struck eight minutes from time to provide a lift to Reading's faltering promotion push with only their second win in nine games.
Typically, Coppell drew greater pleasure from the result than his own achievement but admitted he was proud to become only the 17th manager to have reached the milestone, joining Sir Alex Ferguson, Sir Bobby Robson, Sir Matt Busby and Brian Clough among others.
"When it was first put to me that I was close to 1,000 games I must admit I couldn't be bothered with it but the more I have thought about it, about joining an exclusive club, the more I realised what a significant achievement it is and the more proud it has made me," he said. "But to any manager, the most important game is always the last one and it is that feeling that comes with winning that keeps you going.
"It was about the result today but I felt our performance was very professional and I would have been pleased had we come away with a nil-nil because of that, so to get the win was doubly pleasing."
After losing at home to Ipswich last Saturday, last night's victory was especially valuable for Coppell, keeping the leaders Wolves and Birmingham just about within reach. Mick McCarthy and Alex McLeish, respective managers of Reading's promotion rivals, were both present to weigh up their threat.
Much as Coppell hailed his team's performance as "solid", however, they created few clear-cut chances. Reading edged first-half possession, but the Doncaster manager, Sean O'Driscoll, had prepared his players well and their hard work kept goalkeeper Neil Sullivan's workload to a minimum. Bryn Gunnarsson ended the most fluid move from the visitors with a venomous goal-bound strike but a Doncaster boot kept it from reaching the goalkeeper, who dealt comfortably with a Kitson header just before half-time.
It was a contest that always gave the impression that one goal would settle it. Reading looked marginally more capable as they subjected Doncaster to second-half pressure, but the home side packed the pace to strike on the break.
A cross from Dean Shiels, on after James Coppinger had been carried off, was almost touched in by Paul Heffernan, while Brian Stock might have scored with a cleaner finish after a neat move involving John Spicer and Gareth Roberts.
The night looked to be heading for stalemate until the 82nd minute, when Chris Armstrong took advantage of a stretched Doncaster defence by supplying a low cross that Kitson curled home from 15 yards.
Doncaster Rovers (4-1-4-1): Sullivan; Chambers, Mills, Lockwood, Roberts; Stock; Spicer, Wellens, Woods, Coppinger (Shiels, 61); Heffernan. Substitutes not used: Hird, Hayter, Van Nieuwstadt, Wilson.
Reading (4-1-4-1): Hahnemann; Rosenior, Bikey, Duberry, Armstrong; Gunnarsson; Doyle, Harper, Matejovsky, Kébé (Hunt, 84); Kitson (Long, 89). Substitutes not used: Cissé, Federici (gk), Tabb.
Referee: P Taylor (Hertfordshire).
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