DONCASTER Rovers manager Sean O’Driscoll described the visitors as “underdogs” ahead of last night’s contest against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.
His opposite number Danny Wilson was delighted to successfully negotiate the first hurdle of what has been a brief but eventful reign by receiving a warm round of applause from the home crowd before kick-off.
But he will have been less than satisfied by the final scoreline as his team lost their unbeaten record during pre-season despite creating more than enough chances to have taken something from the game.
Simon Gillett scored the only goal of the evening after 73 minutes when he cut inside his marker and dispatched an unstoppable thunderbolt beyond Steve Simonsen to make a mockery of Rovers’ pre-match prediction.
Of course, with the start of the new campaign less than a fortnight away, both Wilson and O’Driscoll prioritised performance over a result.
United included recent acquisitions Lecsinel Jean-Francois and Ryan Flynn in their starting eleven with trialists Alex Kruk of Vfl Osnabruck and former Burnley midfielder Kevin McDonald appearing off the bench.
But Iain Turner, previously of Everton, was a surprise omission from the team sheet having spent the past few days training at Shirecliffe.
Rumours persist that, despite his flirtation with United, the goalkeeper is poised for a move to Preston North End or even return to Goodison Park.
Rovers, who used the occasion to run the rule over a flurry of potential signings including Spanish midfielder Lander, found their rhythm as the first half progressed with James Hayter dragging across goal.
But United also enjoyed plenty of possession and, having withstood some good pressure, responded with a fine move involving Neill Collins and Flynn which saw Daniel Bogdanovic go close.
Jordan Slew tested Rovers’ Gary Woods with a powerful shot after being released by Nick Montgomery and Collins, cutting a far more impressive figure at the back, came within a whisker of heading home from close range.
Woods smothered Harry Maguire’s long range free-kick soon after the re-start and United were made to pay for wasting a series of clear-cut chances when Gillett thundered home from 25 yards out.
Doncaster, who took to the pitch wearing wrongly numbered shirts and unmarked substitutes on their team sheet, survived a scare when McDonald tried his luck but held firm.
UNITED: Simonsen, Jean-Francois, Montgomery (McDonald 46), Doyle (McAllister 77), Bogdanovic (Philliskirk 66), Williamson (Quinn 46), Collins (Kruk 46), Maguire, Slew (Porter 46), Flynn, Lowton. Not used: Long.
ROVERS: Woods, Friend, Sharp, Oster, Gillett, Shiels, Dumbaya, Coppinger, Bouhenna, Hayter, Spurr. Subs used: Sullivan, Hird, Naylor, Carrington, Lander, Radford, Baxendale, Vine, Brown, Bennett.
REFEREE: M Brown.