DONCASTER Rovers first round FA Cup game against Conference North side Bradford Park Avenue was described by manager Dean Saunders as a potential banana skin.
Any Doncaster fans wondering why Saunders, an FA Cup winner with Liverpool, was worried by a non-League side when Rovers were flying high in League One after three wins in eight days, will have got their answer during the game.
The West Yorkshire side, who only won promotion to Conference North last season, have a long way to go to get back into the Football League.
But on the evidence of this, and other performances this season, they are on the right track and given the quality football they play, they would be a welcome addition to League Two where they ever get there.
Unlike a lot of League One sides to have visited the Keepmoat Stadium this season, Bradford didn’t come with the intention of trying to frustrate Rovers by getting ten men behind the ball - they came to play their normal attacking game.
There had been little to chose between the two sides, with half-chances at either end, before midfielder Martin Woods broke the deadlock on 27 minutes after beating keeper Tim Deasy from the edge of the area following good work by Paul Keegan Iain Hume.
Playing more of an attacking midfield role (his preferred position) than on a number of occasions this season, Woods went close to making it 2-0 with a 30 yarder.
Rovers’ fans didn’t have to wait too long for a second goal, however.
Striker Billy Paynter supplied the pass from which Canadian international Iain Hume poked the ball home from in front of goal on 36 minutes.
The goal capped another industrious performance by the Preston North End loanee who could be set to join Rovers on a permanent deal, with Saunders revealing after the game that he was in talks with Hume’s agent.
Anyone thinking it was ‘job done’ at the interval and that Rovers would go on to stamp their class on the game in the second half would have been disappointed.
Not only did the part-timers last the pace well, they gave Rovers a few frights along the way.
They gave early notice that they hadn’t thrown in the towel just after the break with Rovers keeper Gary Woods needing to be at his best to push a goal bound 25 yarder by midfielder Richard Marshall away for a 48th minute corner.
Martin Woods, who could have had a hat-trick on another day, forced a good save from Deasy at the other end four minutes later.
What could easily have been a 3-0 lead for Rovers suddenly looked a lot less secure as the visitors pulled a goal back on 56 minutes with a stunning 25 yarder by Marshall. It was a goal which would have graced any ground in the country.
The goal served to lift the West Yorkshire side and for a few minutes it looked as though they might grab another and draw level, though Rovers had several good chances at the other end.
“I was a little bit disappointed that we couldn’t kick on (at 2-1) but I couldn’t fault the team for effort,” said Bradford boss John Deacey. “I couldn’t fault them for the way they approached the game after they got their second goal.
“I though we took the game to them and again it was a set-piece which undid us.
“I thought it was a good performance and I thought we played the game the right way. We played it on the floor and we didn’t go aerial or camp in front of goal. I thought we played some good football and was very proud of them.”
There was no way back for Bradford after striker Chris Brown scored for the second time in as many games after coming off the bench in the second half, to restore Rovers two-goal advantage with a fine header from Keegan’s corner.
A couple of good lay-offs by Brown helped set up chances for both veteran striker Robbie Blake, who shot just wide from the edge of the area, and Keegan, who shot wide of the other post with a weak effort from a similar position in the closing minutes.
“I don’t think that we were as sharp on the ball as we usually are,” said Keegan. “But they came and give it a good go and you’ve got to give them credit for that.
“We led 2-0 at half-time but they got back in the game which I didn’t that they would do. They were moving the ball well but I thought that we looked solid.
“It was a great strike for their goal and it gave them more confidence.”