DONCASTER Rovers could pay a high price for the point they picked up in Saturday’s 1-1 Championship draw with promotion-chasing Brighton at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Skipper Brian Stock limped off after less than 10 minutes with a suspected torn groin which could see him miss a number of the club’s remaining games starting with tomorrow’s crucial relegation clash against Nottingham Forest at the City Ground.
“It’s a blow but we’ve got to plough on,” said Rovers’ boss Dean Saunders. “He’s a good player and one of our main players and he’s the captain.
“I had John Oster on the bench and I thought about bringing him on at the end to try and make the final pass, but I thought that Giles Barnes might get us a goal so I didn’t want to take him off and Gilly was doing well.
“ I just thought we were having that much of the ball that we could get down the side of them and get some crosses in and I put Fabien (Robert) and Kyle Bennett in the hope that they could go past somebody with their pace because if we are missing anything it is a bit of pace in the team.”
The game marked the return of James Coppinger following the cracked cheek-bone he suffered in the defeat at Bristol City in January.
“He was a bit rusty but he did well,” said Saunders. “It wasn’t the plan to bring him off when we did but I looked at him and felt that he was looking a bit jaded.”
Rovers fell behind in the first half when Brighton’s big summer signing Craig Mackail-Smith paid off another slice of his £2.6m fee with his ninth league goal of the season after capitalising on a wayward shot.
Rovers drew level in the 80th minute with an El Hadji Diouf penalty.
“I don’t know if it was a penalty, though it looked it from where I was stood,” said Saunders. “I don’t know what went through the lad’s mind; he just stuck his hand up in the box.
“Their manager wouldn’t have been very pleased, but we put that many balls into the box I think the pressure told in the end.”
Diouf has now scored five goals in 13 starts for Rovers.
“He adds a bit of class and you can see that he’s been used to playing with top, top players,” said Saunders,
Diouf’s equaliser put paid to Brighton’s hopes of climbing back into the top-six.
“We lost two points today; we needed to win the game,” said Brighton boss Gus Poyet.
“We had six or seven breaks which, under normal conditions, we should take advantage off but we didn’t. I don’t think we played well.
“We tried something similar to the game at Hull because of the pitch. It was difficult to pass the ball on the floor; it was bumping up and difficult to control which made it ugly.
“The doesn’t help Doncaster anyway. They’ve got some good players all over the park and they couldn’t pass the ball either.”
Although not as critical as Poyet, Saunders admitted: “It’s not good, It’s firm and lively.”