Doncaster Rovers 2 Middlesbrough 1: Doncaster warm to task with the help of Steele

DONCASTER Rovers shrugged off uncertainty surrounding the future of manager Sean O'Driscoll to snatch a dramatic late victory against Middlesbrough.

Chairman John Ryan is willing to allow O'Driscoll to talk to managerless Sheffield United but remains adamant that he will stay.

"He could go there and be Sheffield United's great manager," said Ryan last night.

"But he would need time and they might get relegated first. They have the stadium, and the fans, but we have the better team.

"And have Sheffield United got money to splash around? They might be worse off than us."

Rovers supporters chanted O'Driscoll's name but it was Brian Stock who stole the show with a late winner.

Stock scored three minutes into stoppage time with a low drive that slipped through the fingers of Boro goalkeeper Jason Steele and rolled inside his right-hand post.

With temperatures dipping below freezing, there had been fears that the game might be postponed due to the absence of undersoil heating at the Keepmoat.

Even Boro manager Tony Mowbray, clutching his hot drink, looked far from convinced during a stroll around the pitch 45 minutes before kick-off.

Referee Carl Boyeson was happy enough to go ahead but felt it necessary to carry out another pitch inspection at the interval.

Fans were given a mighty scare when the stadium announcer subsequently took to the microphone and announced, "regrettably, I have to inform you that...."

A chorus of jeers was just starting to break out in the stands when he was stopped in his tracks.

This game was not being abandoned – however, a Sheffield and Hallamshire game due to be played on the pitch today had been called off.

Realising his mistake just in the nick of time, the stadium announcer was full of embarrassment. More importantly, everyone else in the ground breathed a sigh of relief.

Had Sky TV been covering the game, there would no doubt have been even more pressure to keep the game on.

However, the fixture had only been switched to Friday night in an attempt to boost the gate on the last shopping weekend before Christmas.

Rovers had four full-backs ruled out by injuries so started the game with four centre-backs including Brazilian Dennis Souza, making his first start for the club.

The patched-up back line had barely had time to settle before Boro took advantage of slack marking to take a fourth-minute lead.

Goalkeeper Neil Sullivan had to come off his line to close down Marvin Emnes and the Boro winger laid a neat ball across the area to Scott McDonald who poked the ball home.

Boro failed to capitalise on the early breakthrough and allowed Rovers to impose their passing game.

The home side eventually got back on level terms with 22 minutes gone, striker James Hayter heading home a cross from Billy Sharp.

As half-time approached, the frost on the pitch was growing more visible and had become a subject for discussion again between the two managers.

After getting the go-ahead to continue, Rovers made a bright start to the second period.

Captain Stock got into the box and was unlucky not to score while Boro goalkeeper Steele had to save from Hayter.

Substitute Joseph Mills forced another, even better, save out of Steele and fired the rebound over the bar as Rovers built a head of steam in the cold night air.

Boro could have gone ahead close to the conclusion but both Wheater and substitute Kris Boyd fluffed golden opportunities. Steele tipped over a deft chip from Dean Shiels but was then left red-faced when he allowed Stock's effort to evade his grasp and give Rovers supporters an early Christmas present.

Rovers' James Coppinger limped off with a hamstring injury.

Doncaster Rovers: Sullivan; Martis (Webster 85), Hird, Lockwood, Souza (Mills 65); Stock; Coppinger (Shiels 88), Wilson, Oster; Sharp, Hayter. Unused substitutes: Healy, Clark, Woods, Fairhurst.

Middesbrough: Steele; Hoyte, Wheater, Bates, Bennett; O'Neil, Thomson, Arca (Kink 79), Emnes; McDonald (Robson 62); Lita (Boyd 69). Unused substitutes: Tavares, McMahon, Hines, Coyne.

Referee: C Boyeson (East Yorkshire)