STRIKER James Hayter turned villain to hero as Doncaster Rovers finally got off the mark in this season’s Championship campaign.
With Rovers badly in need of a bit of luck, something that has been in short supply this season, to get back into the game after going behind on the stroke of half-time, they were awarded a 55th-minute penalty after Kyle Bennett had been brought down in the box by Cole Skuse
But Hayter, who had scored with his three previous penalties for Rovers since his £200,000 move from Bournemouth in, fired the resulting spot-kick straight at former England keeper David James.
“I’d not actually taken one for a couple of years, but I felt confident,” said Hayter.
Last season’s second top scorer will be the first to admit that it wasn’t the best penalty that he’s ever taken, but he made amends on 68 minutes.
Giles Barnes played a short corner on the right and substitute Milan Lalkovic crossed the ball which Hayter met at the far post. Substitute Martyn Woolford hooked the ball away but the goal was given.
“The linesman was on top of his job,” said Hayter. “Although the ball definitely crossed the line, the decision could have gone the other way on another day.”
“In the end we were quite disappointed not to have won the game. We came on very strong towards the end but we found David James in particularly sharp form and he pulled off a couple of smashing saves - especially the one from Simon Gillett. It was extremely low down and it looked as though the ball had gone past him.”
Hayter’s analysis of the last 20 minutes was spot on and there only looked to be one winner after he had levelled the scores.
Chelsea loanee Lalkovic made an impact with his pace after coming on just after the hour as Rovers started to find more space in the final third.
James has not had the best of starts to a season and only played because Dean Gerken, who had kept him out of the side in the previous three games, was not 100 per cent fit.
But he made it hard for manager Keith Millen to drop him for the next match with a top-class second-half display.
In addition to saving well from Gillett in an exciting finish he did well to turn a curling 20-yarder by Bennett - which seemed destined for the top right-hand corner - past the post.
James had also been kept busier than his Rovers counterpart in the first half without being seriously tested.
Assistant manager Richard O’Kelly, who had watched the Robins 2-1 win at Leicester in their last away game, had warned in the build-up that Rovers might have to be patient given the tactics that they employed on that occasion.
He was proved right and the visitors were never in any danger of being overrun in the first half as Leeds United had been in their midweek Carling Cup second-round tie at the Keepmoat Stadium.
An early goal by Hayter gave Rovers a flying start in that game, but it was the visitors who were quickest out of the blocks on Saturday.
Most of the 423 Bristol supporters who made the long journey up the M5 would probably have put money on striker Nicky Maynard, who had scored all three of the club’s league goals prior to the game, giving his side an early lead with only keeper Gary Woods to beat.
But the £2 million striker, the subject of a fourth bid by Leicester City last week, put his shot wide of the right-hand post after getting clear on a counter attack.
Rovers found it hard to break the Bristol defence down and it wasn’t until centre-back Richard Naylor headed just over with a powerful header from Barnes’ 25th minute corner that they went close to a goal.
John Oster’s effort from Barnes’ 42nd-minute corner was scrambled off the line by defender Lewin Nyatanga
Adomah, who had shot just wide from 25 yards a minute or so earlier, broke the deadlock on the stroke of half-time when producing a clinical finish following a one-two with skipper Marvin Elliott.
The visitors were always a threat with the pace of Maynard, Adomah and Jamal Campbell-Ryce, but the Rovers defence, in which skipper George Friend again caught the eye, generally coped well.
“For the first 60 minutes I thought that we were quite comfortable but in the end we are probably pleased to come away with a draw,” said Millen.
“I saw them play Leeds and for the first 30 minutes and they bopped it around and they were excellent.
“I was pleased that we started the game well and made them hit a lot of long straight balls and then when we did have the ball they were there for the counter-attack.
“But our pass selection, or our final ball, wasn’t quite good enough.
“Nicky (Maynard) had a great chance with only the keeper to beat in the first five minutes but Albert (Adomah) scored a great goal.
“We needed that second goal. There was no notable tempo or atmosphere around the ground; it was very quiet, which for an away team is good.
“We gave a penalty away but when Jamo saves it I thought ‘great, we can kick on’.
“To be fair, Donny got on the front foot and we were holding on there at the end.”
IT was important that we got something from the game.
I thought we looked the better team after getting back on level terms.
We weren’t quite at it in the first half. We were getting balls in good areas but there wasn’t always an end product.