In recent weeks Rovers fans have begun to ask, can we actually stay up? This isn’t negativity, so much as realism. Tough games in the run in and continued injury problems have brought a nervousness to the Rovers’ support that has led to folk looking at the remaining fixtures and pinpointing where the points are going to come from. Coming into this game the general consensus would be that a trip to the City Ground would contribute 0 to Doncaster’s final tally.
Thankfully that was not to be the case, as the return of some key men, the confidence gained from recent results – Leeds aside – and a new found steely resolve all contributed to a point gained and most surprisingly given post Christmas results; a clean sheet. Simon Gillet returned to the centre of midfield, Mustapha Dumbuya and Jason Euell back on the bench, and the pre-match buzz, while no less cautious, certainly became a little more optimistic.
Despite the loan addition of Ben Alnwick, Gary Woods remains Sean O’Driscoll’s preferred choice and it was he who was the first of the ‘keepers in action; turning a Forest free-kick behind for a corner. Initially on the back foot Rovers began to exert themselves into the Forest half with three separate attacks culminating in shots flying off target from Mark Wilson twice and Franck Moussa as well.
The home side were having more of the ball, but struggling to force genuine chances; Marcus Tudgay’s strike wide of Woods goal a rarity in the first thirty minutes. Rovers too threatened again just after as Jamie Coppinger put a free-kick just over the bar. In the ten minutes to the break though Forest had chances to edge ahead before half-time. Luke Chambers tried his luck from distance, only to be kept out by Woods, before Tudgay fired wide for the second time. The best chance of the half though came to Rob Earnshaaw, the forward picking up the ball as Rovers failed to convincingly clear, to get one on one only for Woods to save well at his feet.
Rovers had the first opportunity of the second period as Moussa worked his way into the box from the right before pulling it back to James Hayter, but the forward could only fire wide. Rovers were forced into an earlier than hoped change ten minutes after the break as Shelton Martis gave way for Matt Kilgallon, but the back-line remained firm despite the alteration as Chambers had another try, but his strike deflected wide.
Rovers second substitution midway through the half would have more as an impact as O’Driscoll introduced Ryan Mason for Wilson, and the Rovers line-up became more attacking. Soon after coming on Mason was in the thick of the action, linking with Hayter and Coppinger as he ran at the Forest back-line, but skewed his shot wide as he worked into the area. Within a couple of minutes Mason would have another opportunity, but the end result was unfortunately the same.
A knock for Sam Hird thirteen minutes from time saw an earlier return than perhaps planned for Mustapha Dumbuya. The full-back would have a testing return as Forest pushed for the winner in a pulsating final ten minutes that brought much excitement, but little in the way of clear chances. Twice Forest got to the byline to pull the ball back only for a hapless performance from the recipient; Gareth McCleary getting Lewis McGugan’s pass caught up in his feet, whilst Kris Boyd faired even worse with Tyson’s injury-time lay-off as he missed the ball completely.
Nottingham Forest line-up (4-4-2); Lee Camp; Chris Gunter, Luke Chambers, Wes Morgan, Paul Konchesky; Gareth McCleary, Paul McKenne, Radoslaw Majewski (Kris Boyd), Chris Cohen; Marcus Tudgay (Lewis McGugan), Robert Earnshaw (Nathan Tyson)
subs not used: Paul Anderson, Julian Bennett, Karl Darlow, Dele Adebola
booked: Wes Morgan
Doncaster Rovers line-up (4-3-2-1); Gary Woods; Sam Hird (Mustapha Dumbuya), Shelton Martis (Matt Kilgallon), George Friend, Joseph Mills; Brian Stock, Simon Gillet, Mark Wilson (Ryan Mason); Jamie Coppinger, Franck Moussa; James Hayter
subs not used: Jordan Bradshaw, Dennis Souza, Dean Shiels, Jason Euell
booked: James Hayter