Match report: Doncaster Rovers 2 Sunderland 0

Rovers' Cedric Evina puts the ball past Costel Pantilimon for the opening goal. Pic: Steve Uttley.
Rovers' Cedric Evina puts the ball past Costel Pantilimon for the opening goal. Pic: Steve Uttley.
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Paul Dickov’s desire to consign poor home form to seasons past is clearly shared by his players.

Rovers impressively swept aside Premier League Sunderland with goals from Cedric Evina and Harry Forrester.

But the manner of a composed and committed performance against a team packed with top flight talent will raise optimism for the season to come more than the scoreline does.

It was a night when Rovers’ squad was made to look rather slim. Nathan Tyson, Curtis Main and Andy Williams were all on the sidelines leaving Harry Forrester to play out of position as a lone striker while Gary MacKenzie’s absence gave the appearance of small resources at the back.

A lack of depth hurt Rovers last season and all of sudden fears of similar weakness cropped up at the sight of the team sheet.

Yet, the performance of the team in the absence of teammates eased any worries significantly.

Harry Forrester fires home Rovers' second goal

Harry Forrester fires home Rovers' second goal

Rovers made an impressive start to the game, seeing plenty of the ball in the opposition half and finding gaps in wide areas.

There was a real determination on show from the whole side, particularly with the manner in which they closed down the star-laden opposition.

The energy ensured they had the better of the first half, one where the ever-increasing maturity of Harry Middleton was clear to see in the heart of midfield.

The 20-year-old shows a great desire to get on the ball but impressive composure when he does, further validating Paul Dickov’s belief he has enough cover in central midfield.

Rovers Harry Forrester battles with Sunderland's Sebastian Coates

Rovers Harry Forrester battles with Sunderland's Sebastian Coates

Rovers to a man were impressive in possession, taking time to pick the right pass and find the runs that were being made in the wide areas. For a side lacking their main attacking names, Rovers certainly did not look toothless.

They were almost gifted the lead after eight minutes with a moment of calamity.

Patrick van Aanholt fluffed his lines attempting to clear a Forrester cross under pressure from Harry Middleton, scuffing the ball back off the post.

But they did go in front on the quarter hour mark after a fine team move.

Sunderkand's Jermain Jens gets away from Rovers  Aaron Taylor Sinclair

Sunderkand's Jermain Jens gets away from Rovers Aaron Taylor Sinclair

Middleton fed James Coppinger out wide before Forrester took possession and dinked a cross with Evina ghosting in at the back post to smash a volley past Constel Pantilimon.

Another superb move from Rovers deserved a goal on 27 minutes. Coppinger turned his marker and darted forward before a neat one-two with Forrester took him into the area, only to be crowded out before getting his shot away.

It took Sunderland until after the half hour mark to really threaten Rovers when Adam Johnson was played in clear but blocked out by Andy Butler.

Jermain Lens drilled just wide via a deflection before Thorsten Stuckmann brilliantly kept out Jermain Defoe after initially failing to keep hold of Steven Fletcher’s shot.

Sunderland made four changes at the break and initially emerged the brighter outfit, with Rovers guilty of switching off on occasion.

Stuckmann kept out substitute Danny Graham while Sebastian Larsson grazed the upright with a free kick from 25 yards.

Rovers Cedric Evina celebrates with Harry Middleton after the first goal

Rovers Cedric Evina celebrates with Harry Middleton after the first goal

But Rovers rallied and doubled their advantage just after the hour mark.

Evina was released down the left by Middleton and sent a low ball into the box which Jack Rodwell failed to clear, allowing Forrester to pounce and drill a volley past the helpless Pantilimon.

Stuckmann was given a decent test by Sunderland but passed with flying colours as the game wore on.

In quick succession he palmed away piledrivers from Johnson and Lens.

The game somewhat petered out as both sides rang the changes but it could not take away from an performance from a Rovers side who continued to impress.

Rovers: Stuckmann (Marosi 82), McCullough, Butler, Jones, Taylor-Sinclair, Coppinger (Mandeville 82), Wellens (Lindley 86), Keegan (Whitehouse 68), Middleton (Carberry 86), Evina (P McKay 83), Forrester (Pugh 82).

Sunderland: Pantilimon, Jones (Matthews 63), Coates (Beadling 63), O’Shea (Giaccherini 46), Van Aanholt, Lens (Buckley 82), Cattermole (Larsson 46), Rodwell (Bridcutt 71), Johnson (Watmore 82), Defoe (Graham 46), Fletcher (Kaboul 46)

Subs not used: Mannone, Pickford

Referee: James Adcock

Attendance: 5,776