DONCASTER Rovers improved their patchy League One home record this season as Shrewsbury Town paid the penalty for an early foul.
Beaten 3-1 by Preston in midweek, Rovers had picked up just four points from their previous four home games this season and badly needed a win to help appease the increasingly frustrated Keepmoat Stadium faithful.
Even allowing for the stifling tactics employed by some of their visitors this season, Rovers’ home form has often been in stark contrast to that of their travels.
Although a better performance than in midweek, Rovers again sold the crowd short and they have yet to produce a complete 90-minute performance in League One on home soil.
But those fans who have started to question the team’s promotion credentials of late, will have been reassured by the quality of their first-half performance.
But Rovers’ failure to build on arguably their best first 45 minutes’ football at the stadium this season will have led to a few frayed nerves as the Shrews came close to snatching a result which would have served as a late birthday present for manager Graham Turner, who turned 65 on Friday.
I’m sure the 400-odd Town fans who travelled up from Shropshire will have felt that the team’s second half display merited some reward, and they would probably have been right.
Admittedly Rovers rode their luck at times and tall striker Marvin Morgan had a couple of good chances to earn his side a result in the second half.
But their back-four, who had never played together before, deserve credit for keeping a clean sheet as did keeper Gary Woods, who made a crucial save in the second half.
Centre-back Shelton Martis, in particular, caught the eye.
The big Dutchman hadn’t played at the Keepmoat previously this season but he wasted no time reminding the Doncaster supporters what a good player he is - when fit.
Tommy Spurr, as he did in several pre-season games, looked comfortable at centre-back, while young James Husband again highlighted his potential covering for Spurr at left-back.
James Harper displayed evidence of the fact he has played at a higher level during his career on his return to midfield following the virus infection which kept him out in midweek.
Kyle Bennett and David Cotterill, both made their presence felt in attack, while Iain Hume was always a threat on the ball
Saunders had elected to pair Hume with Paynter in attack.
It was Paynter who scored what turned out to be the match-winner after only four minutes.
Town skipper Matt Richards could have few complaints about the referee awarding Rovers a penalty after he appeared to trip Cotterill in the box.
Paynter took responsibility for the resulting spot kick, which he converted to claim his first goal of the season on home soil.
“I was pleased with how I hit it,” he said. “I made a good connection and got some decent power and put it in the right place.
“We were disappointed with the result against Preston - though they were a well organised team and they made it hard for us.
“But not many teams who are challenging (for honours) lose two on the bounce so it was important that we bounced back and picked up a win today.”
The early goal served to both lift spirits following the Preston defeat and settle any early nerves and Rovers got the ball down and produced some composed fluent football at times in the first half which was much appreciated by the crowd given the warmth of their applause as the players made their way to the dressing room at half-time.
At the same time they will have felt Rovers deserved to have more to show for their efforts.
It wasn’t all one-way traffic, however, and Shrewsbury striker Terry Gornell had a good chance before going off midway through the first half with a knee injury.
Shrewsbury, as they had to if they were to entertain hopes of salvaging a result, took the game to Rovers more in the second half and both Morgan and Paul Parry headed wide with good chances.
Hume went close after getting on the of one of several excellent balls out of defence by Martis and firing just inches wide of the left-hand post from the edge of the box.
Had he scored it would have spared the home crowd a few anxious moment late on.
“They got the ball down a bit more in the second half and started playing and creating a few more chances,” said Paynter.
“I spoke to the chairman before the game and he said he’d be happy with a scruffy 1-0 win and funnily enough that’s what happened.”
Substituted after 64 minutes, Paynter, admits that Rovers’ fans haven’t seen the best of him yet.
“I didn’t have the best of pre-seasons - I was mostly trying to it myself - and I didn’t play in many games to build up my match fitness - and the last thing I wanted was a stop-start situation which I have had here due to thigh injury,” he said.
“When you go to a new club you want to hit the ground running. But I know that I’ve been looking and feeling a bit sluggish. I think that will change when I get more games under my belt and more confidence from getting goals.
“I’m getting there but I just need more games to be back to where I want to be.”
Paynter claims that is also room for improvement within the team as a whole.
“There’s more to come; we are still a new team and the manager is still trying to put his stamp on how we play,” he said. “Obviously we are disappointed with some of our results, but where we are with a game in hand we are not looking too bad.”