DONCASTER Rovers’ hopes of a first league double over Boro were dashed in their final game of the season.
Boro’s win avenged December’s 2-1 defeat at the Keepmoat and maintained their 100% home league record over their rivals. It was Boro’s fourth successive win and manager Tony Mowbray has turned around the fortunes of a club in freefall when he took over in early season.
If Mowbray, who steered West Brom to the top flight, is able to hang on to his squad he may gain promotion next season. But defeat for Rovers stretched their run of games without a win to 12, and the final whistle was greeted with relief, for the second half of the season has been a nightmare. Injuries have been largely to blame for Rovers turning from promotion contenders into relegation battlers since the two sides met in mid-December.
But there are other reasons for the club’s worst end to a season since the 1997-98 Division 3 campaign, and they will need to be addressed by management. Fourth bottom is Rovers worst finish since returning to the second tier three seasons ago and though disappointed to finish so low, manager Sean O’Driscoll would probably take finishing there next May as the 2011-12 Championship campaign looks like being the toughest yet.
Yet, if Rovers can keep key players fit, and O’Driscoll can unearth another couple of gems such as George Friend and Mustapha Dumbuya, and again use the loan market to good effect, you wouldn’t bet against them finishing higher. On Saturday, the home side broke the deadlock on 44 minutes when Barry Robson found the bottom of the net direct from a controversial 20 yard free-kick awarded for a foul on Leroy Lita. John Oster went close to equalising with a fierce shot which Boro keeper Jason Steele was relieved to see roll safe. Rovers were facing an uphill battle on 66 minutes when Lita got the better of stand-in skipper Wayne Thomas in the box and put his angled shot to Sullivan’s left for 2-0. But for a tackle by centre-back Rhys Williams, Simon Gillett would probably have pulled a goal back three minutes later, but that was as close as disappointing Rovers got to a goal after Lita’s strike.
The home side added a third when substitute Adam Reach beat Sullivan in a one-on-one in stoppage time. “It was nice to come back here but it was a disappointing result,” said former Boro favourite Mark Wilson. “They were the better side. It could have gone either way at 1-0 but we were always struggling after they scored again.”