DONCASTER Rovers slumped to a disappointing defeat against former Championship rivals Preston North End in last night’s League One clash at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Rovers were but a pale shadow of the side which won 2-0 at Leyton Orient on Saturday and can have no complaints about the result.
Rovers were boosted by the return of right-back Paul Quinn to their starting line-up. But they lacked midfielder James Harper (virus), replaced by Martin Woods.
With Iain Hume unable to play against his parent club under the terms of his loan deal, Billy Paynter started alongside former Preston favourite Chris Brown in attack
Once again manager Dean Saunders could only field six substitutes.
The visitors were without suspended right-back Keith Keane, Jack King taking over in the back four.
Preston were quickly out of the blocks and had a couple of early attempts on goal.
King went close to giving the Lancashire club the lead on 10 minutes with a 30 yarder which hit the crossbar with keeper Woods beaten.
David Cotterill tried his luck with a long-range effort wide out on the right two minutes later but Preston’s German keeper Thorsten Stuckmann made a comfortable collection.
Stuckmann got down to smother the ball from centre-back Jamie McCombe’s downward header from a 19th minute corner.
Kyle Bennett brought the disappointing crowd to life on 23 minutes when bringing the ball out of his own half at pace and then picking out Cotterill with a perfectly weighted through ball only for the former Swansea man to give away a free-kick in the box as he tried to get the better of King.
Woods could only tip away an angled cross by David Buchanan for a throw in when the visitors returned to the attack.
King headed Preston into the lead from a 34th minute corner.
Preston had looked to push forward at every opportunity and had created the better of the chances.
Rovers had struggled to find their rhythm and their hadn’t been much cohesion in their play.
Brown, who had had little opportunity to add to his four-goal tally, got a header on target but the Preston keeper, the club’s 2011-12 player of the season, made a routine save.
Cotterill, who scored Rovers second goal in Saturday’s 2-0 win at Leyton Orient, fired high from the edge of the box.
Buchanan cut out Bennett’s cross into the box, meant for Jones at the far post, at the expense of a corner.
Rovers drew level in stoppage time when a free-kick from about 35 yards out by Cotterill took the slightest of deflections off the head of Buchanan.
Preston started the second half with Shane Cansdell-Sherriff on for defender Paul Huntington, who had suffered a heavy knock just before the interval.
Preston striker Stuart Beavon tried his luck from the edge of the area after Preston had turned defence into attack but it lacked any real power.
Skipper Rob Jones headed over when well placed from Tommy Spurr’s cross into the box on 54 minutes
Preston boss Graham Westley brought on exciting teenage winger Jeffrey Monakana, who had scored a goal and help set one up in Saturday’s 3-2 over Yeovil.
Full-back Scott Laird, whose deflected 20 yarder had won Preston the corner, scored with a superb near post header from the resulting cross on 61 minutes.
Paynter had a shot from about 12 yards out blocked for a corner. Brown had a shot from just outside the six-yard box blocked shortly after.
Rovers continued to push forward and Bennett saw his angled shot come back off a defender.
Beavon made a better connection than earlier with a 20 yarder on the turn which sailed over the crossbar.
He made no mistake on 72 minutes, however, beating Woods from the edge of the box to make it 3-1.
Brown won Rovers a corner with a close range header.
Paynter went close to pulling a goal back on 80 minutes, hitting the crossbar with an angled shot from just inside the area following a good move by Rovers.
It was to prove their last chance of salvaging a result.
Rovers: M Woods 6 Quinn 6 Jones 7 McCombe 6 Spurr 6 Cotterill 7 M Woods 6 Syers 6 Bennett 7 Brown 6 Paynter 6 Substitutes Sullivan, Keegan, Husband, Martis, Blake, Middleton.
Preston North End: Stuckmann 6 King 7 Huntington *6 Wright 7 Laird 7 Amoo 6 ** Byrom 6 Mousinho 7 Buchanan 7 *** Beardsley 6 Beavon 7 Substitutes Simonsen, Cansdell-Sherriff 6 * Wroe Monakana **58 Proctor ***75 Welsh Hayhurst.