Gutsy visitors respond to Leeds debacle with their first away shut-out since opening day at promotion-chasers
IT is often said that a week is a long time in politics. It certainly is in football.
Just seven days after being fortunate to just concede five goals against sixth-placed Leeds United at Elland Road, Doncaster Rovers drew 0-0 with Nottingham Forest, who had dropped to sixth after back-to-back defeats, at the City Ground.
It was Rovers’ first clean sheet on their travels since the 2-0 win at Deepdale on the opening day of the season against Preston North End, and one which will have proved more than welcome given the fact that they have shipped in more goals away from home than any other Championship side.
Admittedly, Forest are currently spluttering and have now gone six games without a win.
But to become only the third side to nil them this season at the City Ground, given Forest’s home record and the firepower they boasted, both on the field and on the bench, was still a notable achievement, particularly when Rovers had to make yet another defensive change prior to the match when centre-back Wayne Thomas pulled out, and Shelton Martis and Sam Hird also came off in the second half.
There was certainly further evidence that, the Leeds game notwithstanding, Rovers have managed to plug their leaky defence in recent weeks since their injury-hit side conceded nine goals in five days against Ipswich and Swansea.
Rovers found themselves under pressure at times, particularly in the first half, and they also rode their luck on occasions.
But they also had their moments and went close to opening their account late on in an exciting finish during which both sides could have snatched victory.
Right-back Hird cleared an angled shot by Garath McCleary off the line in the 77th minute shortly before coming off with cramp.
McCleary, who had both space and time in the box following a right-wing cross by Lewis McGugan, should have done better than hitting defender George Friend and winning himself an 84th-minute corner.
Substitute Kris Boyd should also have done better in stoppage time.
The Middlesbrough striker had the chance to mark his home debut for the Reds in stoppage time with a goal after being set up by Nathan Tyson, but he completely missed the ball from about 12 yards out.
But Rovers, who have had precious little luck come their way since the turn of the year, deserved their moments of good fortune.
And it wasn’t all one way with both James Hayter and James Coppinger having chances.
Rovers substitute Ryan Mason also had two good efforts after coming off the bench to replace the injured Mark Wilson on 63 minutes.
He shot narrowly wide of the left-hand post from just inside the area after going past a couple of defenders on 69 minutes.
The England Under-19 international also went close from the edge of the box four minutes later.
Said the teenage Spurs loanee: “I probably should have scored. But I was pleased with my performance when I came on. The main thing, though, was that the team got a result.
“We are pleased with a point, but it could have been three. I thought towards the end of the game we had the better chances to win it. They had a lot of pressure in the first half but didn’t really create too much.
“We would have been massively gutted had they scored a late goal and we’d come away with nothing because the lads put in a lot of hard work.
“Today’s performance is definitely going to give us a lot of confidence going into Saturday’s home game against leaders QPR, and hopefully we can get a result against them as well.”
Forest, who were looking for a morale-boosting win ahead of testing away games on successive weekends against promotion rivals Swansea and Leeds United, enjoyed the better of the first-half territorial exchanges.
But they struggled to turn pressure into goals and failed to find the gaps in the Rovers defence that Leeds had done a week earlier - though Rovers were better organised defensively than on that day.
Forest’s best chance of the half fell to striker Robert Earnshaw shortly before the break.
He latched on to a sliced clearance by centre-back Friend in the box only to be denied by keeper Gary Woods, who produced another tidy display. He also saved well from midfielder Radoslaw Majewski’s 20-yarder earlier in the half at the near post.
Rovers’ best efforts had fallen to Wilson, who went close with a 20-yarder, and from a free-kick by Coppinger from a similar range which just cleared the crossbar.
Rovers gave midfielder Simon Gillett his first start since suffering the first of two medial knee ligament injuries back in October, and it was as though he had never been away. “I was pleased with how it went,” he said.
“I just wanted to try and give as much as I could and keep going until I couldn’t give any more.
“It became quite open at the end and we might have nicked it. Ryan came on and had a couple of good chances.
“He did well when he came on and he looked sharp. He’s a good attacking player and he can get at defenders.He’s got a bit of skill and he can drop the shoulder.
“They had a lot of the ball in the first half but they didn’t create too many good scoring opportunities; I thought that we defended well.”
I THINK our performance, especially in the second half, merited a point.
It was one of those games where the home team had most of the possession and a few good chances and we rode our luck at times, particularly in the first half.
We probably looked a better unit in the second half and it was one of those games were we got better - notably defensively - the longer it went on.