Doncaster lose 1-0 in a key promotion battle at Brunton Park to throw the race for second place wide open again. And so now this is where the true test of Rovers’ promotion credentials begins; having bounced back from a heavy defeat to champions elect Swansea, how Donny recover from this latest set-back will ultimately determine how this season ends. Between this defeat and their last Rovers had recorded four straight wins without a goal conceded; a swift return to that form is vital as games come thick and fast in the month ahead.
Carlisle of course are no slouches, and although Doncaster may have dominated much of the game between the two at the Keepmoat last month, this trip North West was always going to be tricky. However, seems to be the norm for Doncaster it was they who produced the game’s first chance as Adam Lockwood headed over, and moments later Brian Stock tested Carlisle keeper Kieran Westwood with a shot from distance.
Stock however was at fault one of the home side’s best chances as Cleveland Taylor robbed the Rovers midfielder by the by-line and cut the ball back across goal; Neil Sullivan was on hand to push it clear but only in to the path of Grant Smith who thankfully for the visitors blazed it over the bar. With Rovers unable to make the most of a succession of corners the home side took advantage and also the lead in the run up to half-time. Taylor received the ball on the right and his low angled cross was flicked home by Danny Graham at the near post to give United the lead at the break.
In the opening quarter of an hour of the second period there were chances for both sides as Paul Green and Jamie Coppinger both pulled efforts wide for Rovers whilst Evan Horwood tested Sullivan at the other end. Carlisle had the opportunity to extend their lead with a string of corners however this goalmouth spell only culminated in Smith firing another effort over.
As the clock wore down naturally Rovers pushed for the equaliser with Stuart Elliott introduced for his Rovers’ debut to bring a new element to the Doncaster attack. Green almost found a way in on goal but Westwood came out well to deny him and right at the death a lose ball in the Carlisle area fell to a Rovers player, but unfortunately it was skipper Adam Lockwood, and he pulled his volley just wide of the post.
Carlisle are a strong side fully deserving of their current league position and so Rovers cannot be too downhearted by this result. A 1-0 defeat here is more than most get, and so it is up to Rovers to recover when their road trip resumes at Tranmere next Saturday. By that afternoon Rovers will kick-off in third place having today been overtaken by Nottingham Forest’s better goal difference.
Carlisle United line-up (4-4-2); Kieran Westwood; David Raven, Peter Murphy, Danny Livesey, Evan Horwood; Cleveland Taylor, Marc Bridge-Wilkinson, Grant Smith (Scott Dobie), Simon Hackney; Joe Garner (Paul Arnison), Danny Graham (Jeff Smith)
subs not used: Danny Carlton, Chris Howarth
booked: Simon Hackney
Doncaster Rovers line-up (4-3-1-2); Neil Sullivan; James O’Connor (Matt Mills), Stephen Roberts, Adam Lockwood, Gareth Roberts; Richie Wellens, Brian Stock, Paul Green; James Coppinger; Jason Price (Paul Heffernan), Mark McCammon(Stuart Elliott)
subs not used: Mark Wilson, Sean McDaid