DONCASTER won the battle of the Rovers in last night’s Carling Cup first round tie against Tranmere at the Keepmoat Stadium.
After hearing the news that Billy Sharp will be out for ‘weeks not months’ Rovers fielded their strongest possible side. And they dominated from the start to ensure there was no chance of a repeat of the defeat by lowly Accrington at the same stage last season. But some of the gloss was taken off only Rovers second first round win in four years by an injury to on-loan midfielder Ryan Mason, who became the third Doncaster player to be stretchered off in just two games with an ankle ligament injury following a 78th minute foul by Tranmere skipper John Walsh.
Rovers showed three changes to their starting line-up for their first game at the stadium this season with James Hayter, Sharp and Mustapha Dumbuya being replaced by Kyle Bennett, Chris Brown and Sam Hird respectively.
Injury-hit Rovers were forced to include youth teamers Jordan Ball and Eddie Wilding on the bench. Rovers were awarded a fourth-minute penalty after James Coppinger had been brought down in the box.
Brown, who was making his starting debut for Rovers in a competitive match, gave keeper Owain Fon-Williams no chance from the resulting spot kick. Boosted by their early goal, Rovers continued to knock the ball about well with Coppinger getting an angled shot on target after cutting in from the right.
But there could have been an equaliser for the Prenton Park side on nine minutes had either of his two team-mates in the box been able to get on the end of a low cross by former Barnsley man Martin Devaney, who played a trial game for Rovers during pre-season.
The Tranmere keeper did well to deny Brown a second goal on 26 minutes from close range after the former Preston man got on the end of a clever through-ball by John Oster.
Rovers’ fans didn’t have to wait much longer for a second goal. Mason, who had been a doubt, beating Fon-Williams with a low angled shot on the half-hour. It was Mason’s first goal for the club. Fon-Williams did well to deny Mason a second goal three minutes later.
The Spurs’ youngster also tested him again with a well-struck shot from the edge of the area after cutting through at pace.
A 25 yard shot by Welsh, which looked to be going well wide of the far post, took a deflection off a team-mate close to goal but the ball went straight at keeper Gary Woods, who made a clean catch. Simon Gillett had a goalbound shot blocked for a corner at the other end.
Fon-Williams saved well from Bennett, who tried to lob him from close range two minutes after the restart. The hard-working Gillett just cleared the bar on 51 minutes following some good build-up.
Bennett capped a lively starting debut with well-taken goal on the hour which effectively killed off the game.
Rovers: Woods 7 Hird 7 Friend 7 Naylor *6 Spurr 7 Coppinger 7 Oster 7 Gillett 7 Mason ***8 Bennett 7 Brown ** 7 Subs: Sullivan Keegan *60 Baxendale *** 78 Barnes ** 63 Ball Radford Wilding
Tranmere: Fon-Williams 8 Kay 6 Bakayogo 7 Goodison 6 McChystal *** 6 Tiryaki *6 McGurk 6 Devaney 6 ** Weir 6 Robinson 6 Subs: Coughlin Daven *** 66 Labadie Atkins **62 Buchanan Taylor Showunmi *46
Goals: (Rovers) Brown (pen 4), Mason (30), Bennett (60).
Bookings: Tranmere: Welsh 78 min, McGurk 90 min
Referee: G Sutton