Match Report: Doncaster Rovers 0 Millwall 0

Paul Quinn heads away under pressure from Scott McDonald. Picture: Andrew Roe
Paul Quinn heads away under pressure from Scott McDonald. Picture: Andrew Roe
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If Rovers fans required a soundtrack to 2013, Ronan Keating’s ‘Life is a Rollercoaster’ might be an appropriate choice.

From the unparalleled high of Griffin Park in April to the unexpected low of John Ryan’s regrettably messy resignation in November, throw in three managers along the way and all the twists and turns of the on-off takeover saga; when the clock strikes midnight tomorrow Doncaster supporters won’t be about to forget the last 12 months in a hurry.

They won’t, however, really care to remember the final game of an extraordinary year with any fondness.

Yesterday’s dour goalless stalemate with fellow strugglers Millwall defied the drama that has gone before it. Both sides looked every inch teams who have been drained of self-belief.

But the hard earned point at least means Rovers will head to Loftus Road on New Year’s Day having halted a worrying four-game losing run and also an alarming penchant for conceding goals for fun.

Following the flimsy Boxing Day defeat to Ipswich, Paul Dickov called for his side to stick together during times of adversity.

And they did exactly that against the manager-less Lions, carrying out their boss’s safety first game-plan to the letter to keep a first clean sheet in eight games.

Dickov was conservative, yet also brave, in his team selection by reverting to the 4-2-3-1 formation that started the season, handing a full debut to teenage striker Alex Peterson in the process.

And the local lad’s wholehearted, yet rough around the edges, display rather typified his team’s performance.

Doncaster, like the out of form Lions too, visibly lacked belief on the ball and struggled to put their opponents under any concerted pressure.

But they stuck to the task in hand to at least grind out what could yet be a vital point, a turning point after a somewhat disastrous December.

Rovers started in nervy fashion, although Luke McCullough instantly looked happier alongside Paul Quinn at centre back, with Liam Wakefield switching to right back.

However, that defensive trio were somewhat relieved to see Scott McDonald smash a very early effort into the side netting after Scott Malone burst into the box; the only meaningful attempt of a scrappy opening 20 minutes.

The game finally started to open up as Dean Furman saw his volley blocked by Nicky Bailey, following good work from Mark Duffy.

But just as Rovers threatened to up the ante, Millwall seized the initiative again and came closest to breaking the deadlock when Martyn Woolford’s header from a right wing corner had to be cleared off the line by David Cotterill.

Woolford then again went close when he seized upon McCullough’s poor header but volleyed just wide from the edge of the area, before Bailey tested Turnbull’s handling from distance as Millwall continued to try their luck from distance.

It was Doncaster, however, who could and perhaps should have taken a lead into the break when Wellens did well to feed Duffy and his inviting cross from the left was headed over by the marauding Wakefield. Furman then saw a decent effort from distance saved as Rovers ended the half in the ascendency.

Very much like the first half it was the visitors who were faster out of the blocks at the re-start.

Richard Chaplow’s teasing cross was headed wide by Malone at the back stick, before Chaplow fired over following a quick Lions counter.

With Doncaster continuing to huff and puff, Dickov twisted by bringing on Theo Robinson and Federico Macheda for Peterson and Martin Woods.

Despite the changes, the home side continued to lack conviction with the ball - and only came alive in the closing stages.

Duffy carved out an opening for himself but dragged his shot wide, before he over-hit a pass to Wellens as Rovers threatened on the counter.

Macheda then came within inches of making his mark when he curled an effort off the foot of the post, and Duffy saw his late free kick tipped over the bar by Forde as Doncaster finished the game on top.

A goalless draw between two of the Championship’s leakiest defences was perhaps destiny, typical of a year and season that is proving to be anything but predictable.

What does 2014 have in store for Doncaster Rovers? It’s anyone’s guess. But, like Ronan says, there are bound to plenty more ups and downs.