Big Match Verdict: Doncaster Rovers send Bradford City spinning out in ‘old fashioned cup tie’

Ben Whitehead and Doncaster Rovers team-mates celebrate the visitors' late winning goal at 'Bradford City (Picture: Bruce Rollinson).
Ben Whitehead and Doncaster Rovers team-mates celebrate the visitors' late winning goal at 'Bradford City (Picture: Bruce Rollinson).
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IN THE end, the new rule that allows managers to make a fourth substitute in extra-time never came into play.

Nor did the ABBA-style penalty shoot-out format that made its debut in the Community Shield on Sunday at Wembley.

Bradford City's Dominic Poleon leaps over an attempted tackle from Doncaster Rovers' prostrate Joe Wright (Picture: Bruce Rollinson).

Bradford City's Dominic Poleon leaps over an attempted tackle from Doncaster Rovers' prostrate Joe Wright (Picture: Bruce Rollinson).

Instead, Valley Parade had to make do with a good, old-fashioned cup tie as controversy and incident abounded before Doncaster Rovers prevailed via Ben Whiteman’s strike two minutes from time.

This came just four minutes after ten-man Bradford City had equalised for the second time on the night to, it seemed, send the first-round encounter into extra-time.

Alex Jones had provided a clinical finish to send the home fans in the 3,175 crowd into raptures, their joy compounded by the Bantams having to play the final half hour a man light following the dismissal of Romain Vincelot.

Referee Darren Drysdale, already an infamous figure round these parts after once sending off striker Dean Windass in the Valley Parade car park after a game, felt the City captain had recklessly clattered into the back of Alfie May on the touchline.

Ben Whitehead celebrates scoring Rovers match winning goal with Danny Andrew and Alfie May.'Bradford City v Doncaster Rovers.  EFL Cup 1st Round.  Northern Commercials Stadium, Valley Parade.'8 August 2017.  Picture Bruce Rollinson

Ben Whitehead celebrates scoring Rovers match winning goal with Danny Andrew and Alfie May.'Bradford City v Doncaster Rovers. EFL Cup 1st Round. Northern Commercials Stadium, Valley Parade.'8 August 2017. Picture Bruce Rollinson

Vincelot, for his part, looked non-plussed at the decision, even if the Rovers fans housed in the Midland Road stand just a few yards away had immediately howled their dismay at the challenge.

After that, City were always going to be up against it and, sure enough, Darren Ferguson’s men made their numerical supremacy pay thanks to strikes from Rodney Kongolo and Whiteman either side of Jones’s leveller.

It means Rovers take their place in tonight’s second round draw, as City reflect on a first-round exit for the second consecutive season.

There were pluses for Stuart McCall’s men, however, with Dominic Poleon again impressing.

Rodney Kongolo strikes Rovers second goal past Colin Doyle.'Bradford City v Doncaster Rovers.  EFL Cup 1st Round.  Northern Commercials Stadium, Valley Parade.'8 August 2017.  Picture Bruce Rollinson

Rodney Kongolo strikes Rovers second goal past Colin Doyle.'Bradford City v Doncaster Rovers. EFL Cup 1st Round. Northern Commercials Stadium, Valley Parade.'8 August 2017. Picture Bruce Rollinson

His strike to cancel out May’s early opener was superb and with Omari Patrick looking a big threat there is more dynamism about the Bradford attack than was the case last term.

As for Rovers, they can dream of landing either a plum tie against Premier League opposition in the second round or plotting a decent run in a competition that has been kind to the county’s clubs in recent years.

In the past five seasons, Yorkshire has had seven quarter-finalists with Bradford the most impressive performers by making it all the way to Wembley in 2013.

A repeat of that feat might be asking a lot of a county that has just one top-flight club this season, but this all-White Rose affair certainly whetted the appetite for what may lay ahead in the newly-named Carabao Cup.

Doncaster set the tone in the early stages, as their energetic closing down off the hosts led to mistakes being made by those in claret and amber.

One such error – a loose pass – in the eighth minute led to the opening goal, as Niall Mason was gifted possession and then afforded the freedom of the City left flank to dart forward.

His pass into the penalty area sparked a mini-game of pinball as the ball ricocheted around the area before Tony McMahon’s tackle on John Marquis sent the ball arrowing towards goal.

Colin Doyle got down smartly to pull off a one-handed save, but May pounced on the rebound to put the visitors ahead from six yards out.

Marquis had gone close with a flicked header from a corner before the deadlock was broken and last season’s top scorer was again unfortunate to be denied a shooting chance, when well placed, by a last-ditch tackle from Vincelot.

The Rovers striker had another effort saved in the opening quarter, moments before Doyle again came to City’s rescue to turn May’s shot behind.

Bradford finally started to stir as the half-hour mark approached, Jake Reeves’s thunderous drive having to be turned away by Ian Lawlor.

The equaliser came ten minutes before the break and owed everything to the skills of Dominic Poleon.

Collecting a pass from Omari Patrick with his back to goal, the former Leeds United Academy player turned Andy Butler with ease before firing in a ferocious right-footed shot from a tight angle that Lawlor had little chance of keeping out.

Vincelot’s red card from Drysdale, whose red card for Windass came 45 minutes or so after City’s 3-3 draw with Brentford in 2006, handed the visitors the initiative.

Kongolo duly took advantage 11 minutes later by firing in the rebound after Doyle had saved his earlier shot only for City to hit back through Jones, whose cool finish followed Paul Taylor’s shot being blocked.

Extra-time – and, possibly, the new style penalty shoot-out that was showcased at Wembley as Arsenal won the Community Shield – beckoned only for Whiteman to find the corner of the net after Bradford had been unable to clear a corner.

Bradford City: Doyle; McMahon, Knight-Percival, Vincelot, Field (Taylor 76); Gilliead (Kilgallon 64), Pybus, Dieng, Reeves; Patrick (Jones 78), Poleon. Unused substitutes: Sattelmaier, Law, Devine, Hudson.

Doncaster Rovers: Lawlor; Butler, Wright, Andrew; Mason, Kongolo (Alcock 79), Rowe, Whiteman, Garratt (Beestin 67); Marquis, May. Unused substitutes: Marosi, Longbottom, Fielding, Fletcher, Prior.

Referee: D Drysdale (Lincolnshire).