Doncaster Rovers 0 Sunderland 1

Doncaster Rovers v Sunderland
Doncaster Rovers v Sunderland

Grant McCann suggested the clash with Sunderland would offer some hint of where Doncaster Rovers are at a quarter of the way through the season.

Even in defeat, he got an answer he should be very happy with.

In a thoroughly entertaining clash in front of a packed Keepmoat crowd, Rovers went toe to toe with one of the division's very best and matched them punch for punch.

They crafted with real quality, fought with real heart and genuinely impressed against an outfit with an astronomical budget for the level.

It was a breathless performance from two teams packed with attacking intent. The was needle - real needle with a plethora of strong, late challenges and plenty of cards to follow.

And the work rate from both sides was exceptional.

The perfect advert for League One football.

Rovers, again, created the better chances and deserved to get something from the game.

But, their defeat will ultimately be remembered for two misses from two glorious chances just before half time.

Sunderland did not test Marko Marosi quite the way Rovers did Jon McLaughlin.

However, with a dose of fortune to help out, they showed enough of a clinical touch through the boot of Chris Maguire to ultimately decide a thrilling fixture.

The visitors started the stronger but soon Rovers were on the front foot with Mallik Wilks drilling into the sidenetting and man mountain Andy Butler forcing a save from McLaughlin with a flicked header.

The game quickly became an end to end affair and Rovers almost pounced on the counterattack with Ben Whiteman denied by McLaughlin.

Maguire missed a golden chance to give Sunderland the lead when he turned a free header from a Jerome Sinclair cross well wide.

John Marquis scuffed a shot at the Sunderland keeper on the end of another good Rovers attacking move.

Rovers could hardly have wished for two better chances on the stroke of half time.

Wilks - who had stoked the ire of the away support with an off-the-ball incident with Maguire - was sent racing through with a fortunate bounce. He dallied over his shot which meant, while he sneaked his shot past McLaughlin, the sting was removed from it sufficiently for a defender to race back and clear.

And, mere seconds later, Matty Blair latched onto a bouncing ball and raced through a gap in the Sunderland back line but saw McLaughlin pounce on his attempt to place his shot into the bottom corner.

You had the feeling Sunderland would not have such profligacy in front of goal.

And it took them just two minutes of the second half to prove that right..

A fortunate bounce allowed Gooch to cut inside and he curled a fine effort off the upright. The ball bounced out to Adam Matthews who drilled back across goal where Maguire had charged in to turn home from close range.

Rovers pushed and pushed hard for the equaliser but the task got ever more tough against a professional Sunderland outfit that defended superbly from front to back.

Chances for the hosts in the second half were rarely clear cut.

Wilks brought a long ball down superbly and lashed a shot narrowly over while Marquis fired straight at McLaughlin after turning onto a through ball from Coppinger.

Sunderland looked to have doubled their advantage when substitute Luke O'Nien turned in but he was ruled offside.

Rovers' energy levels dipped as the minutes ticked and the visitors saw out the game with relative comfort.

But Rovers far from discredited themselves.

Rovers: Marosi; Mason, Wright, Butler, Andrew; Blair (J Anderson 73), Whiteman, Kane; Wilks (Taylor 89), Marquis, Coppinger (May 78). Subs: Lawlor, T Anderson, Amos, Crawford.

Sunderland: McLaughlin, Matthews, Flanagan, Baldwin, James, Cattermole (O'Nien 64), McGeouch, Gooch (McGeady 84), Honeyman, Maguire, Sinclair. Subs: Ruiter, Ozturk, Love, Mumba, Mbunga-Kimpioka.

Referee: Jeremy Simpson (Lancashire)

Attendance: 11,881 (3,973)