DONCASTER Rovers boss Dean Saunders used one of his 2012-13 League One ‘get out of jail’ cards in Saturday’s home game against Brentford.
After being second best for for long periods of the game, Rovers grabbed a late winner to put paid to Brentford’s hopes of extending their unbeaten league and cup run to eight games.
They also dashed the Bees’ hopes of their first away win of the season.
For the second successive home game it was a player who had come off the bench who grabbed the winner - Billy Paynter heading home in fine style from a left-wing cross by Martin Woods in the 85th minute to send the Doncaster fans home happy.
They will certainly have been relieved, but perhaps a little less confident that Rovers are good enough to bounce straight back to the Championship at the first attempt after seeing Brentford boss the exchanges for much of the the first 70 minutes or so.
Most sides have come to the Keepmoat this season with the clear intention of settling for a draw, but that wasn’t the case on Saturday.
Despite the fact that they hadn’t won on the road this season, and hadn’t won in Doncaster since the 1987-88 campaign, there was an air of confidence in the Bees’ play from the start.
With his side set-up for what Saunders expected would be a 4-4-2 Brentford line-up, Rovers found themselves short-handed in midfield and completely dominated in the first half as the visitors adopted a fluid 4-5-1.
Rovers just couldn’t get into any sort of rhythm and carved out just two good chances.
Kyle Bennett shot over from around 10 yards on 15 minutes and David Cotterill forced a good save out of keeper Moore at the expense of a corner from a 25-yard free-
kick on 40 minutes.
But for all their territorial dominance, and some impressive play by the likes of Harry Forrester, skipper Jonathan Douglas, Clayton Donaldson and Adam Forshaw, the Bees created few chances themselves in the first half.
Forrester just cleared the crossbar from 20 yards and
centre-back Tony Craig fired into the side netting at the far post from a corner.
Their best chance before they scored just before the break fell to leading scorer Donaldson. He intercepted a shocking back pass by Shelton Martis to keeper Gary Woods, only to shoot just wide of the far post when it looked easier to score.
Brentford’s pressure eventually paid off on 44 minutes as Douglas latched on to Forshaw’s precise through ball and coolly lifted the ball over keeper Woods.
Rovers skipper Rob Jones headed over with a 53rd-minute effort at the far post from a similar range to the winner he scored at Hartlepool a week earlier.
Although Rovers had come into the game more after the break, the Bees continued to look dangerous on the break and carved out a couple of half-chances from the edge of the box.
Rovers drew level with a superb 25-yard-plus angled shot by Cotterill out of nothing on 75 minutes. It was the former Welsh international’s fifth goal of the season and it set the scene for Paynter’s late winner.
Cotterill said: “We started off very sloppy and we went away from our game plan, which was disappointing because we’d trained really well and everything had been short and sharp and we’d knocked the ball about really well.
“I think it (the way they attacked us) probably did surprise us a little bit. But we’d studied them and we knew that they liked to get the ball down and pass it and that they were going to be a good team as well and that it would be a fight for us.
“But we brought on the pressure ourselves and every time we made a mistake they were getting in.
“They missed a few chances and had Clayton Donaldson had his shooting boots on he could probably have had a hat-trick, but we were probably owed a bit of luck after the Hartlepool game.”
Describing his goal, Cotterill said: “I managed to get to the knockdown from Dave Syers. I stepped to the side and got my strike away and luckily for the boys it finished up in the back of the net.
“It was something that we needed because we were down a little bit and we got a bit of a pasting at half-time, which we needed.”
Just prior to his third goal of the season, and his second league goal in successive home matches, Paynter had been denied from Cotterill’s chip over the top by a magnificent tackle by Harlee Dean.
Brentford boss Uwe Rosler said: “Their first goal came from a shot out of nothing and that can happen in any game.
“Sometimes you have give credit to your opponents and the shot was a bit of wonder goal, which was what they needed to get back into the game. For their second goal Harlee Dean didn’t do his job in the box and it’s as simple as that.”