SKIPPER Rob Jones couldn’t have picked a better time to score his first league goal for Doncaster Rovers as he rescued a late point for the club at Victoria Park.
The 6ft 7in centre-back, born just down the road at Stockton, headed home at the far post from Kyle Bennett’s cross to deny struggling Hartlepool their first win in eight league games after being pushed up into attack late on.
Although relieved to see his side add to their impressive away tally, Rovers boss Dean Saunders argued that they had deserved to come away with all three points.
He was fuming at referee Scott’s decision to award the home side a penalty midway through the second half - a decision which looked like costing Rovers the game until Jones’ late equaliser.
Full-back Paul Quinn and centre-back Shelton Martis were adjudged to have obstructed big striker Steve Howard as he looked to get on the end of Darren Holden’s long throw.
But it was the type of marking you see from virtually every set-piece these days, most of which goes unpunished.
“We were robbed by the referee,” claimed Saunders after DVD footage of the incident confirmed his feelings at the time of the incident.
Saunders had warned that Neale Cooper’s side were better than their position in the table suggested and that failure to cash in on their chances had cost them dear in recent games.
But for Jones’ late goal, Saunders could well have been saying exactly the same thing about his own side post-match.
Their confidence boosted by successive home wins in the previous seven days, Rovers made the early running against a home side low on confidence and also short of goals.
But time and again promising moves broke down in and around the box.
For all Rovers’ endeavour, United keeper Scott Flinders was barely troubled as Rovers failed to make the best use of a stream of good crosses into the box from the likes of David Cotterill.
The former Swansea man continues to prove one of the best of the club’s summer signings and he looked dangerous on the ball whenever in possession.
Martis, back in the side after missing the midweek JP Trophy win over Chesterfield, would probably be the first to admit that he should at least have got his header from a 34th-minute corner on target.
United, for whom Howard had headed over when well placed on nine minutes, lost left-winger Evan Horwood (leg) in the 36th minute.
His replacement, James Poole, went close to doing what Rovers sub Jordan Ball had done on Tuesday night - scoring with his first touch.
Poole’s 20-yarder beat keeper Gary Woods, who had another sound game, but it came back off the left-hand post.
Apart from when Bennett fired wide of the far post in stoppage time with an angled 20-yarder, it was United who had the better of the play in the last ten minutes of the half.
Midfielder James Harper, who also threatened later, went close to breaking the deadlock on 50 minutes. Flinders didn’t appear to see his shot from the edge of the area until the last second and did well to get down low and palm the ball away for a corner.
Poole continued to be a threat and Woods did well to tip his 20-yarder over the bar for a corner.
Flinders pulled off an equally good save to deny Cotterill from long range on 83 minutes.
Just when it looked as though time was running out, up popped Jones to give Rovers a share of the spoils and leave the home side again rueing the fact that they had failed to defend another lead.
“It was probably a game of two halves,” said Jones. “I think we controlled the first half but I think that we allowed them to get back into the game and they scored with a dubious penalty.
“But we kept going and probably a draw in the end was a fair result.
“Had we scored at any point of the first half we probably would have won the game, but it wasn’t to be today.
“But we showed a good reaction after the goal and we’ve come away with a point so it’s not all doom and gloom.
“They hadn’t won in seven (league games) and they are struggling and you could see that in the first 20 minutes when they were a bit tentative, But all teams grow in stature when they don’t concede under pressure.
“They got the goal and that gave them another boost but, as I say, we reacted well, as we do most times.
“I’ve been an emergency striker quite often so it wasn’t a new thing for me.
“I’d rather not (play in attack) because that means we are winning the game comfortably, but I do what I’m told to do.”