Rovers have suffered their first ever Johnstone’s Paint Trophy defeat and the scalp of the holders belongs to Grimsby after a 5-4 penalty shoot-out win followed a 2-2 draw on the North Sea coast. Sean O’Driscoll chose to make a whole host of changes to the side that faced Oldham on Saturday as Ben Smith, Stephen Roberts, Sam Hird and Paul Heffernan were afforded returns to the starting line-up at Blundell Park. Just over four thousand had braved the rain and bracing sea wind for the game, and according to the stats more than half of those were supporting the Rovers. Alas being holders of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy holders is not the crowd-puller the decorating firm would hope.
The hosts had the first opportunity in this tie as Danny North almost got in on a short back-pass from Stephen Roberts. However they did not have to wait long for a breakthrough, taking the lead just before quarter of an hour as Danny Boshell side footed home Peter Till’s cross for the opening goal.Ten minutes later and Rovers finally came into the match, and in emphatic style as Lewis Guy raced clear to slot the ball into the net for the equaliser.
Boshell had a chance to double the tally for himself and the Mariners moments later, but Smith comfortably saved his effort and instead Rovers took control; Heffernan having a header turned onto the post by home ‘keeper Phil Barnes, with the keeper also beating Guy to the ball moments later. Despite Rovers’ pressure the next goal went to the hosts and in bizarre fashion; Smith cleared a back pass but from his kick the ball was caught by the wind and suspended in the air above the penalty area, as it dropped Matt Mills tried to cushion a header back to his ‘keeper only for the wind to get up again and carry it over him and into the net for 2-1.
In the second half Rovers had the wind and the assendency once again, as Heffernan almost equalised with a fierce strike which hit the post. The equalier though did not come until therer were little over ten minutes remaining. The referee spotted a push by former Rover Nick Fenton on Mark McCammon and from the resulting penalty Heffernan found the net for the equaliser. In the closing minute Rovers pushed but Heffernan hit over from inside the box and Guy had a shot saved as the ninety minutes ran out leaving penalties to decide the tie.
It didn’t start well for Rovers as Paul Green took the first kick only to be denied by Barnes. From then the next eight spot-kicks were all scored, Boshell, North, James Hunt and Nathan Jarman all on target for the home side with Mark Wilson, Heffernan, Richie Wellens and Gordon Greer all finding the net for Rovers. And so Paul Bolland stepped up for the Mariners knowing if he scored he’d take Grimsby through. Bolland shot and Smith saved, however Rovers joy was short lived as the referee ordered a retake, claiming Smith had moved off his line too soon and Bolland scored his second effort to win the tie.
A disappointing exit both in its manner, and also in that it brings to an end an eight match unbeaten run in all competitions for Rovers. However, given the momentum built up in recent matches it is probably safe to say that this defeat will be soon forgotten should Rovers defeat Tranmere at the Keepmoat on Saturday. A month a go this defeat might have been ‘the final straw’, now its thankfully just brushed aside.
Grimsby Town line-up (4-4-2): Phil Barnes; Ryan Bennett, James Hunt, Nick Fenton, Peter Till (Justin Whittle); Gary Jones (Nathan Jarman), Nick Hegarty, Danny Boshell, Pasul Bolland; Danny North, Jamie Clarke (Peter Bore)
subs not used: Andy Taylor, Gary Montgomery
booked: Ryan Bennett
Doncaster Rovers line-up (4-4-2): Ben Smith; Sam Hird (Craig Nelthorpe), Matt Mills, Stephen Roberts (Mark McCammon), Gordon Greer; James Coppinger (Richie Wellens), Paul Green, Mark Wilson, Martin Woods; Lewis Guy, Paul Heffernan
subs not used: James Hayter, Neil Sullivan
booked: Gordon Greer