DONCASTER Rovers manager Paul Dickov was full of praise for the character shown by his side in holding on for a share of the spoils at Millwall yesterday.
Rovers overcame Abdoulaye Meite’s first-half dismissal to secure what could prove to be a crucial point from a goalless draw with their fellow Championship strugglers.
Meite was given his marching orders following his mistimed challenge on Stefan Maierhofer, but Millwall could not make their numerical advantage count at The Den.
Sam Johnstone was inspired in the visitors’ goal, the Manchester United loanee making superb saves to deny Shaun Williams and Steve Morison in the second half.
“I’m immensely proud of the players, especially the second-half performance,” he said.
“You talk about players putting bodies on the line for the club and for the fans and their team-mates and I had that in abundance in the second half.
“It’s not (a red card). I didn’t think it at the time, I’ve seen it numerous times. (Millwall manager) Ian Holloway for me hit the nail on the head at the time when he said it’s debatable whether or not it was a yellow.
“They both went for the ball. I’ve been told it was six studs in the chest – it was nowhere near his chest.
“In a game of this magnitude it’s the wrong decision. I don’t want to sound as if I’m moaning about referees all the time but some of the major decisions that went against us are not good enough.”
The draw keeps both sides out of the relegation zone and locked on 44 points each, with Birmingham and Blackpool one point further back in the battle to beat the drop.
The Lions are still searching for their first home win since January, but they started the brighter of the two sides when Scott McDonald collected Maierhofer’s flick, but his close-range shot deflected wide off Gabriel Tamas for a corner.
Lee Martin was a constant outlet for the hosts, cutting inside from both wings as the Lions controlled an attritional opening period.
Carlos Edwards surged forward on 30 minutes, but blazed a shot over the crossbar, a let-off for Doncaster after centre-half Meite was caught napping in possession.
Meite atoned for his mistake when lunging in the box to dispossess Martin, but the game changed moments before half-time when the Ivorian was given a straight red for a full-blooded challenge on Maierhofer.
The Lions striker was first to a forward ball but, before he could spread possession, Meite dived in with a high, mistimed tackle, leaving referee Fred Graham no choice but to show a red card.
Millwall attempted to make their one-man advantage count after the break as the home side laid siege to the Doncaster box, Williams’s long-range effort forcing a magnificent arcing save from Johnstone.
The goalkeeper then tipped a thunderous volley by Morison over the bar before watching the former Leeds striker head a deep corner against the frame of the goal. At the other end, Doncaster had a big claim for a penalty dismissed when Lions goalkeeper David Forde fumbled a cross and bundled striker Chris Brown over, and David Cotterill drilled wide from the left wing.
A last-ditch challenge from Rovers’ impressive Paul Quinn prevented Simeon Jackson tapping into an open net 10 minutes from time.
The bombardment continued as Doncaster pulled all 10 men back. Cotterill had a chance from a free-kick 30 yards out, but the winger could only find the empty seats behind the goal.
Tempers flared as the Lions strived in vain for the winner and Martin had a golden chance plucked from under his feet just yards out before Jackson’s elaborate backheel failed to find a blue shirt in the box.
“I’m not disappointed at all, I’m pleased with the performance” said Millwall boss Holloway.
“Funnily enough I thought the referee changed the course of the game. I don’t think it was a sending-off at all. I thought at most, at worst, it was a yellow card.
“Then the expectation of everyone is that you’re up against 10 men. It’s easier for them to sit in, have an excuse to sit in. It was just a matter of time until we scored. I still can’t really believe that we haven’t. But that’s life. We keep going. We were the better team.
“Well done to them (Doncaster) to show that sort of spirit. I thought they got that from the referee. I think they felt aggrieved and I think they held themselves in and even now I can see that save from Morison. Gracious me where did that hand come from? I thought it was in. I was celebrating.”
Millwall: Forde, Edwards ,Dunne Beevers, Malone, Martin, Bailey, Williams, Woolford (Morison 46), McDonald (Easter 67), Maierhofer (Jackson 67). Unused substitutes: Robinson, Fredericks, Abdou, Bywater.
Doncaster Rovers: Johnstone, Tamas, Quinn, Meite, Stevens, Coppinger, Furman, Keegan, Cotterill, Brown, Robinson (McCombe 89). Unused substitutes: Duffy, Sharp, McCullough, Maxted, De Val Fernandez, Middleton.
Referee: Fred Graham (Essex).
Man of the match: Sam Johnstone.