Match Verdict: Coventry City 2 Doncaster Rovers 2

Doncaster's players celebrate one of two Nathan Tyson goals
Doncaster's players celebrate one of two Nathan Tyson goals
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If four wins from five matches was not enough evidence to suggest Rovers are on the up, Saturday’s performance at table-topping Coventry City should ensure little doubt remains.

Rovers were more than a match for the League One leaders who came into the game on a red hot streak of form and supremely confident.

Nathan Tyson scores his sides second goal past Coventry's keper Reice Charles-Cook

Nathan Tyson scores his sides second goal past Coventry's keper Reice Charles-Cook

That was achieved by playing some excellent football and mixed with great heart and a tremendous work rate. Two goals from Nathan Tyson played their part as well.

Given the nature of the opposition, the horrendous conditions at the Ricoh Arena and a refereeing display bordering on the farcical, it could be argued Rovers reached new heights for the season in terms of performance.

This was a game they would have lost in the not too distant past, and probably by a wide margin at that.

They could so easily have folded after finding themselves behind, undeservedly, on two occasions. The fact their confidence was never knocked shows just how far they have come in such a short space of time under Darren Ferguson.

Doncaster's Conor Grant battles with Coventry's Jim O'Brien

Doncaster's Conor Grant battles with Coventry's Jim O'Brien

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And Rovers could easily have won it as well in the dying minutes, with Tyson the width of the crossbar from securing a hat trick and all three points.

Ultimately, a draw was a fair result. Both sides enjoyed periods of dominance and both required strong defensive units.

For the first time since Ferguson deployed the wing back system, Rovers spent plenty of the game operating with five at the back rather than three.

Defensively, an effective 3-5-2 system relies on disciplined wing backs. Add to that an opposition with four forward players, and it becomes paramount.

All three men who operated as wing backs during the game - Cedric Evina, Felipe Mattioni and Craig Alcock - did incredibly well, dropping into the backline to reduce the space with which Coventry had to operate and restrict them largely to efforts from distance.

Perhaps most key was the performance of Harry Middleton, who has really made the deep lying midfielder role his own since Ferguson’s arrival.

His phenomenal work rate saw him helping to form a back six as well as providing the base from which to launch attacks. Middleton’s mistakes, such as those in the defeat to Rochdale, increasingly look like blips rather than suggesting any inability to play the role.

His maturity in such a demanding position for one with such relative inexperience is remarkable. This was perhaps best illustrated with the most cynical of fouls late in the game to prevent Coventry from breaking, for which Ferguson said he wanted to hug the 20-year-old.

Middleton was booked for the challenge, one of six yellow cards handed out to Rovers players in a game that was far from being dirty. Coventry escaped without a single booking despite carrying out their business in largely the same manner.

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Referee Lee Swabey proved a drain on an otherwise highly entertaining game, with some decisions pernickety and others baffling.

Rovers had a big shout for a penalty late in the first half when Conor Grant undoubtedly was pushed in the back. Swabey took solace perhaps in awarding Rovers a corner.

Coventry started the game as expected, looking to dominate the ball. They kept possession for the first 82 seconds of the game, playing the ball across the back. And the pattern continued only for them to struggle to find the pass to unlock Rovers and be restricted to speculative efforts.

The finest save of the game came from Coventry’s Reice Charles-Cook whose fingertips kept out a piledriver from Middleton midway through the half.

Rovers then suffered a blow with Mattioni forced off with a calf problem, sparking a reshuffle with Luke McCullough on into the back three and Alcock moving out to wing back.

Soon after, Coventry took the lead with McCullough playing a big role. He blocked a drilled strike from Sam Ricketts and, along with the rest of the Rovers defence, was a little too slow to react allowing on form Adam Armstrong to take a touch and shoot unconvincingly past Thorsten Stuckmann.

Coventry would finish the half the stronger and could have been further ahead. A defence-splitting pass from the superb Jim O’Brien released Armstrong but his lobbed attempt went over the bar while John Fleck tested Stuckmann from distance.

READ MORE: Ferguson ‘disappointed’ by draw

The hosts looked to take a stranglehold on the ball early in the second half but Rovers took their chance when it came seven minutes in.

Andy Williams charged into the box and lashed a low strike to the near post where Charles-Cook could only fumble, with Tyson charging in to turn the ball home.

His first goal of the season coming against Chesterfield in midweek handed Tyson a major confidence booster and he used that to full effect, gambling on the bounce of the ball and chasing lost causes.

But the hosts went back in front within seven minutes with a goal from nothing. A corner was only half cleared out to Fleck who drilled a shot which Stuckmann got a hand to but not enough to prevent the ball from going in off the post.

Coventry again looked to take control and could have widened the margin through Ryan Kent and O’Brien.

But just as they were beginning to take charge, Rovers levelled up once more.

A defensive error left the ball free in an unmanned box with Tyson darting in and slamming confidently under Charles-Cook on the angle.

Williams twice had chances to win it for Rovers, scuffing a header wide and making a poor connection on a first time shot.

But no one would come closer to securing a win than Tyson who went to chip Charles-Cook only to see the ball rattle back off the bar.

Ultimately a point would have to do but that could hardly stop Rovers’ new found momentum. Onwards and upwards.

the teams

Coventry City: Charles-Cook 6, Ricketts 6, Martin 7, Turner 7, Stokes 6, Vincelot 7, Fleck 7, O’Brien 8, Murphy 6, Kent 6, Armstrong 7. Subs not used: Burge, Phillips, Haynes, Lameiras, Bigirimana, Tudgay, Fortune.

Doncaster Rovers: Stuckmann 6, Alcock 8, Butler 7, Taylor-Sinclair 7, Mattioni 7 (McCullough 25 6), Coppinger 7, Middleton 9, Grant 7, Evina 8, Williams 7 (Stewart 85), Tyson 8. Subs not used: Marosi, MacKenzie, Whitehouse, Forrester, J McKay.

Referee: Lee Swabey (Devon)

Attendance: 11,885