Doncaster Rovers 0 Port Vale 0: Vale win 4-3 on penalties but Rovers go through
There was little to get excited about as Doncaster Rovers booked their place in the last 32 of the Checkatrade Trophy with a goalless draw against League One Port Vale.
A crowd just shy of 1,500 at the Keepmoat Stadium watched a stalemate that lacked intensity and incident - but was enough to guarantee Rovers a home draw in the next round as winners of Group E.
Rovers lost a penalty shoot-out 4-3 but it proved to be completely irrelevant as Vale went out at the expense of Mansfield Town.
The main positive for manager Darren Ferguson, after seeing his side ship eight goals in the last three games, was a sixth clean sheet of the season.
Defenders Craig Alcock and Frazer Richardson also continued their comebacks by each playing 45 minutes.
Ferguson made six changes to the side that lost at Oldham in the FA Cup.
He opted for a 3-4-3 formation with Niall Mason given a chance in central midfield alongside captain-for-the-night Paul Keegan, and Cedric Evina and Riccardo Calder employed as wing backs.
Seventeen-year-old forward Will Longbottom, who scored his first senior goal in the previous group game against Derby County, was also given his first start up front alongside Liam Mandeville and Alfie Beestin.
Vale made the early running as lone striker Dan Turner volleyed over from a second minute corner and then saw a decent downward header from Quentin Pereira’s free-kick saved low down by under pressure back-up goalkeeper Ross Etheridge.
Rovers gradually grew into the game and after seeing more of the ball - and Mandeville booked for diving after going down dramatically in the box - Evina brought an excellent save out of Miguel Santos with a sweet strike from the angle of the area.
Calder tested the visiting goalkeeper’s handling with an effort from 20 yards but goalscoring opportunitie then completely dried up for the remainder of a timid half.
Rovers had passed it nicely at times but without penetration and, with Calder and Evina starting from deep to make up a back five, the onus appeared to be on being organised and shutting the back door after the recent defensive frailties.
Ferguson’s men began the second period with purpose but lacked either a final ball or presence in the penalty area.
Substitute Jordan Houghton came close when he latched onto a Calder through ball but his close range effort was blocked by Santos.
Vale were predominantly on the back foot after the re-start but Nathan Smith saw a header from a corner saved by Etheridge who, apart from one spilled cross, had a quiet night.
Longbottom was unlucky to see a powerful hit deflected just over, before Mathieu Baudry headed the resultant corner straight at Santos.
Vale might have snatched victory but Etheridge denied Rigino Cicilia one-on-one, while Santos at full stretch kept out a low drive from Houghton.
Houghton, Mandeville and Keegan then held their nerve from the spot but misses from Evina and Longbottom handed the bonus point to Vale.
Rovers: Etheridge, Evina, Alcock (Richardson 46), Baudry, Garratt, Calder, Keegan, Mason, Beestin (Houghton 65), Longbottom, Mandeville. Subs not used: Marosi, Walker, James, Pugh, Fletcher.
Port Vale: Santos, Macintosh, Streete, Hart, Smith, Grant, Pereira, De Freitas (Tavares 78), Kiko (Mbamba 57), Kelly (Cicilia 69), Turner. Subs not used: Boot, Amoros, Haughton, Brown.
Referee: Geoff Eltringham (County Durham).