O’Kelly praises battlers but Rovers are beaten at death

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DONCASTER Rovers striker Billy Sharp missed out on the birthday presents he most wanted - a goal and a win against Millwall at The Den.

Sharp, who was celebrating his 25th birthday, rarely looked like adding to his 13-goal tally in a wind-affected game which the Lions won 1-0 courtesy of a late goal.

Before then, Rovers had looked likely to hold out for a draw and extend their unbeaten record at the ground.

“I thought the back-four worked hard as, as did the midfield four in front, and they kept a good shape,” said Rovers No 2 Richard O’Kelly.

“Steve Brooker and Bill Sharp were an occasional threat, which is what you need to do when you come to a place like this.

It was Brooker’s first start in a league game during his injury-jinxed time at the club,

“I suppose in some ways he did better than expected,” said O’Kelly.

“When you’ve been out for a long time you want to come back on a nice pitch on a nice day and when the conditions are really nice so everything was against him.

“But he certainly showed some battling touches and showed some good quality at times on the ball and showed something that we’ve been missing.”

Skipper Brian Stock played 75 minutes after returning to the side in Tuesday’s win over Burnley having only trained a couple of times after a month’s lay-off with a calf injury.

“I think he was okay to start with,” said O’Kelly. “I think what it was, he’d been out for quite a while and from our point of view to put him out for two games (in five days) straight away wasn’t ideal and the conditions didn’t help.

“But he gives you what Brian Stock gives you and he gave a good account of himself.”

Although perhaps not quite as impressive as on his starting debut in midweek, midfielder Paul Keegan produced a solid display.

Said O’Kelly: “He didn’t look out of place. He showed a bit of quality on the ball at times and made good decisions and worked well with John Oster and Brian Stock.

O’Kelly said Rovers still felt the game was there to be won at half-time.

“We spoke about going out there and being resilient because the way we play we are always going to get a chance and we did have two good chances,” he said. “But fair credit to Millwall, they kept the ball out of the net.

“It wasn’t a classic game. If you’d paid to watch it you’d have gone away disappointed. But as far as the battling qualities of the players are concerned, you’d take that all day long,”