There were plenty of encouraging signs as Doncaster Rovers held Nottingham Forest to a draw in their first of four home friendlies.
Curtis Main’s close-range strike was cancelled out by a beauty from Chris Burke but much more than the result will have pleased Paul Dickov.
Rovers looked composed on the ball throughout, while several so-called ‘fringe men’ put their hands up with promising displays.
Luke McCullough hardly put a foot wrong at right back before switching to his preferred central role on the hour, while Cedric Evina provided food for thought by filling in on both wings.
Harry Middleton also grasped his opportunity in a makeshift central midfield partnership with James Coppinger by using the ball intelligently and rarely giving away possession.
Rovers fans also got their first glimpse of giant left back Aaron Taylor-Sinclair who showcased his cultured left foot but might have done more to prevent Burke’s excellent equaliser.
If anything Andy Williams was the only Doncaster player to look slightly off the pace, but he has been playing catch up fitness-wise after being eased in more gradually following Swindon’s play-off exploits.
Williams, too, was a late addition to the starting line-up after Richie Wellens aggravated a calf muscle in the warm up and withdrew.
An intended 4-5-1 became 4-4-2 with Coppinger moving inside and Evina playing ahead of Taylor-Sinclair on the left flank.
The lateness of the change did not have an adverse affect, however, as Rovers enjoyed more controlled possession during the opening exchanges and made it count on the scoresheet.
Moments after seeing one effort ruled out for offside, Main was in the right place at the right time to lash home from close range after Gary MacKenzie prodded Harry Forrester’s free kick in his direction.
Slightly red-faced, Forest almost levelled instantly when Paul Taylor curled an effort just wide before almost capitalising on a poor clearance from Taylor-Sinclair, while Thorsten Stuckmann had to get down low to keep out Dexter Blackstock’s effort.
Eventually Forest’s resurgence paid dividends when Burke left Taylor-Sinclair for dead, cut in from the right and curled home an exquisite equaliser.
The chances continued to come and go as an entertaining half drew to a close. Forrester saw a goal bound effort deflected wide, Middleton drove one just over from distance, while Blackstock twice saw headers from corners blocked on the line. Forest began the second period on the front foot and Jamie Paterson forced a point blank save out of Stuckmann, who was then fouled before Burke tapped home the loose ball.
The game became more stunted as the usual flow of substitutions ensued, and the average age of Doncaster’s team continued to dip.
Stuckmann saved well from Taylor and then kept out Paterson’s effort with his legs as the visitors shaded the half – but Rovers were well worth a draw.
Rovers: Stuckmann, McCullough, MacKenzie (Lund 62), Jones (Butler 46), Taylor-Sinclar (Whitehouse 46), Forrester (Carberry 75), Coppinger (P McKay 62), Middleton (Parkin 89), Evina, Williams (Mandeville 62), Main (Lindley 89).
Subs not used: Marosi.
Forest: Evtimov, Riera, Mills (Mancienne 46), Wilson (Grant 85), Pinollos (Fox 75), Burke (Maynard 82), Lansbury (Osborn 46 (McLaughlin 85)), Vaughan, Taylor (Antonio 82), Ward (Patterson 46), Blackstock (Walker 75).
Subs not used: De Vries, Lichaj, Tesche, Hobbs.