YOUNG keeper Gary Woods showed just why Doncaster Rovers had awarded him a new two-year contract late last week in Saturday’s game against in-form Bristol City at Ashton Gate.
No-one did more to keep Rovers in the game than Woods in a display which lost nothing in comparison with City’s former England keeper David James.
“I was pleased with my performance and I was kept busy,” said Woods. “But I didn’t expect to come here and have a quiet afternoon with the quality of their two wide men and striker Nicky Maynard.
“I thought that we defended well for most of the game but it was a great finish by Maynard for the goal.
“It was one of those games where we created some good chances and David James has made some good saves.
“I always felt that one goal either way would decide the goal. If we’d have put one of our chances away we’d probably have won the game.”
Not even James at his best would have been able to do much about £2 million striker Maynard’s 76th-minute goal which secured the Robins their sixth win in seven games.
It was Maynard’s fifth goal in just seven starts and his return to the side after a long injury lay-off has coincided with City’s best run of the season.
Their 18-point haul out of a possible 21 has seen them pull well clear of the relegation zone, though it has probably come just a little too late to give them a chance of making the play-offs.
But if manager Keith Millen can keep the bulk of the side together, and fare better with injuries than in his debut season in the hot-seat at Ashton Gate, then City could be one of the sides to look out for in 2011-12.
Rovers’ second successive defeat, coupled with other results going against them, saw them drop to 20th - their lowest position of the season.
But as was the case against leaders Queens Park Rangers in their previous game, before the international break a fortnight ago, Rovers didn’t look like a side which has now won just once in 12 outings.
Despite coming away empty-handed in terms of points, there were many positives to take out of another battling display against the current form team in the Championship - not least skipper Brian Stock’s performance before going off with a recurrence of an ankle injury early in the second half.
Stock seemed to relish playing on what must be one of the best surfaces in the division and sprayed the ball about impressively on occasions.
What Rovers didn’t do - and that’s where they missed the finishing prowess of the injured Billy Sharp - was to convert chances into goals.
Had they done so then they could have been celebrating back-to-back victories over City on a ground where they have now only won once in their last ten visits.
Rovers best efforts in the first half fell to Franck Moussa and Simon Gillett.
James saved Moussa’s shot with his legs and parried Gillett’s later effort.
Moussa also had the visitors’ two best chances in the second half.
He shot wide of the far post with an angled effort from just inside the box with only James, who came off his line to narrow the angle. to beat.
The Belgian did better with a chance on the hour, making James work on that occasion.
As befitting a side in a rich vein of form, City played with a lot of confidence with wide men Jamal Campbell-Ryce and Albert Adonah always a threat with their pace and footwork, as was Maynard.
However, the Doncaster back four dug deep and were resolute,
Mustapha Dumbuya justified his return to the side at right-back, though Sam Hird was possibly a little unlucky to be relegated to the bench after playing well against QPR.
Joe Mills also caught the eye at times at left-back - none more so than when producing a superb tackle to rob Maynard, who was free on goal, on the edge of the box in the second half. Mills had to get it just right, and he did.
But the stand-out performer in the back-four was centre-back Shelton Martis. Time and again the former West Bromwich Albion defender got in vital blocks and he put his body on the line on more than one occasion.
But no-one could do much to prevent City’s winning goal once the ball reached Maynard in the box.
Rovers continued to work hard after going behind, but City finished the game well on top and always looked more likely to add to their tally - and would have done but for Woods - than concede a late equaliser.
“I thought that we were very unlucky not to a result,” said Moussa.
“We had a few chances to maybe get a goal in the first half and we also had the better of the chances in the second half before they scored.
“If I had scored with the chance I had early the second half it would probably have been a different scenario. I was disappointed with my finishing today.
“We created some good chances so we can take some positives out of that. But it is difficult to lose a game to a late goal after going so close to scoring at 0-0.
“But we can’t afford to dwell on it. We’ve got to prepare for the home game against Cardiff on Saturday and that will be another tough game.”