Match Report: Bournemouth 1 Doncaster Rovers 2

Bournemouth vs Doncaster - Chris Brown chaes the ball ahead of Steve Cook
Bournemouth vs Doncaster - Chris Brown chaes the ball ahead of Steve Cook
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Rovers had lost their way, they found it again on the south coast.

Questions were asked after they were well beaten at MK Dons last Tuesday but Rovers answered by getting back to basics.

The victory over promotion rivals Bournemouth saw a return to the format that has been the main driving force behind their assent to the top of League One.

They sat on the back foot for the majority and produced the knockout shots at the most opportune moments.

And they never gave in.

Like so many this season, this was not a performance that was easy on the eye.

But like so many, the truly thrilling moments overshadowed what had come before.

Put this one down in the column with trips to the likes of Tranmere and Oldham.

Rovers again were unfazed by long periods without the ball and unshaken by conceding late in the game.

Bournemouth looked to be in the ascension when Billy Paynter pounced to put Rovers ahead on 66 minutes.

And they looked to have ended their four-match run of defeats when Matt Tubbs deftly lobbed Neil Sullivan five minutes from time.

But they did not account for Rovers resolve and James Husband fired home from the tightest of angles to secure the dramatic win.

Lessons were clearly learned from being overwhelmed by MK Dons while there was always a chance the same could happen against a similar Bournemouth.

Rather than relying on steel in midfield to break down the opposition, Rovers went back to two tight banks of four to reduce the space Bournemouth had to work through.

Counterattacks were quicker and punchier but the added presence in the forward lines brought by the return of Chris Brown and Billy Paynter helped ensure that.

Brown’s presence was something of a surprise given the severity of his knee ligament injury suffered just a month ago.

Though his return had been much more publicised, a week ago few would have predicted that Neil Sullivan would be back between the sticks for Rovers.

The 43-year-old is 23 years older than his opposite number Ryan Allsop who made his Bournemouth debut on Saturday.

But we are not talking about a creaking veteran used in an act of desperation.

Sullivan had plenty of work to do on Saturday and he did it very well.

Nerves were eased just five minutes into the game when Sullivan was well placed to deal with a header from Brett Pitman who had peeled away at the back post to meet a Marc Pugh cross.

There was little Sullivan could do from the subsequent corner when Cherries skipper Steve Cook crashed a header back off the bar.

Any of the home support worried about their debutant keeper breathed a sigh of relief a few minutes later when Allsop produced a simple stop to keep out the unmarked Brown.

Sullivan was tested with efforts from distance from the likes of Lewis Grabban and Pugh while his best of the bursts of saves came when tipping wide a rasping effort from Pitman from 30 yards.

Rovers’ own attacks were limited but arguably produced the more gilt-edged chances.

Paynter really should have done better in capitalising on defensive hesitancy in the Bournemouth box but he blazed over with team mates arriving.

Bournemouth took control of possession as the half wore on but were limited to half chances as Grabban got his head to a couple of crosses from Pugh.

Looking back, Eddie Howe will have rued his side not making their dominance of the early stages of the second half count.

Pitman curled a low free kick just wide from the edge of the D, makeshift full back Matt Ritchie dragged a shot wide from 20 yards while Eunan O’Kane sent a tantalising low ball across the box which his team mates failed to reach.

And there was fortune for Rovers when a drilled cross from the byline by Ritchie stuck under Rob Jones’ foot and allowed Sullivan to collect.

Rovers ended Bournemouth’s control with a 67 minute suckerpunch.

With the hosts committing men forward, David Cotterill strolled down the right on the counter and sent a low cross to the near post where Paynter pulled away and tapped home with Allsop unable to keep it out.

Pitman sent Grabban through as Bournemouth responded but Sullivan produced the stop of the match to tip the ball wide as the former Rotherham striker tried to place his shot.

Another break from the hosts brought the equaliser five minutes from time.

Substitute Steve Fletcher nodded on a high ball to send Matt Tubbs clear and he superbly looped the ball over the on-rushing Sullivan.

Supporters had barely sat down when Rovers hit back with another suckerpunch.

Husband was lucky not to concede a foul after wrestling control of possession and his attempt to shoot from a tight angle looked to have wasted a great opportunity as it was blocked.

But the ball came back out to him and he drilled home from an even more acute angle to put Rovers back in front and bring about that familiar feeling of relief-filled delight.