Bradford City 1 Doncaster Rovers 2: Returning Johnstone’s heroics set the stage for Main to strike

Reece Wabara scores Rovers equaliser past Jordan Pickford. (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)
Reece Wabara scores Rovers equaliser past Jordan Pickford. (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)
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curtis main was tagged as one for the future by former Middlesbrough chief Tony Mowbray.

But with opportunities likely to be limited at the Riverside, the South Shields striker was happy to make a summer switch to Doncaster Rovers and was seen by manager Paul Dickov as someone who could fire them straight back into the Championship.

After scoring on his debut at Yeovil, however, the 22-year-old was struck by a serious knee injury and is only now easing himself back into action.

At Valley Parade on Saturday he smashed home the 69th-minute winner with a shot off the outside of his right boot from just inside the area which flew past Jordan Pickford.

It crowned a comeback from Rovers which would surely not have been possible without the heroics of goalkeeper Sam Johnstone, on his second debut for the club.

Make no mistake, this 21-year-old Manchester United product is the real deal but would not have been starting his second loan spell with Doncaster had not 
Aston Villa recalled Jed Steer in midweek.

Top-class first-half saves from James Hanson, Filipe Morais and Billy Knott denied City players, but his best was reserved for just before the break when Rovers central defender Luke McCullough met Mark Yeates’s whipped in cross with his head and the ball seemed destined for the top corner until Johnstone flew to his right to paw it away for a corner.

Rovers should have been deflated straight after when the impressive Yeates wriggled between Richie Wellens and Paul Keegan to feed Jon Stead, who showed great control, switching the ball from right to left before firing home from inside the area.

Rovers regrouped and there was a touch of irony about Reece Wabara’s 59th-minute goal, his first for the club.

Rovers had seen Cedric Evina stretchered off after a full-stretch encounter with Morais in the first half and Wabara had been switched to his left-back slot as Liam Wakefield came onto the right.

The pair combined, with Wabara sliding the ball home at the far post from Wakefield’s measured cross.

It came just after Bradford had lost on-loan Huddersfield striker Stead to a dead leg, Billy Clarke coming on to partner Hanson.

City could hardly believe it but they were flattened when Wellens set up Main for what proved the match-winner – Johnstone then further denying City, being particular dominant in punching away free-kicks and corners.

“We came out second half and rolled up our sleeves and showed the fans what we can do,” said Main. “It was nice to get back on the scoresheet and it was pretty much my only chance. I had not had too much to go on but Richie drove forward and I knew he could see the pass and that bit of quality saw the ball come into me.

“I brought it down under control and, with the centre-half a half a yard away, I thought ‘yes, just let it go’ and it went in the keeper’s near post and it maybe caught him by surprise.”

Main was withdrawn before the end and admits he is nowhere near full fitness. “Initially I had a torn miniscus so I had an operation on that and I was expected to be out two months but I had a couple of setbacks in training which was even more frustrating.

“Now I’m back, it’s a case of building my fitness and getting sharp. It’s easier to start gelling with your partner (Nathan Tyson) when you are playing rather than in training. I want the games to keep coming as I’m so happy to be back.

“I’m definitely not 100 per cent as I missed 10 weeks and have only been back in training a couple of weeks.

“I’m heading back there and, hopefully, in another two weeks I will be back firing 100 per cent. Last week’s clean sheet against MK Dons put us in the mood to come here and come away with three points. Once we got level, the confidence just came flowing back and there was a spell where it always looked like we were going to get that second goal.”

Of Johnstone, who made 14 appearances for Rovers last season, Main added: “His first-half performance inspired the rest of the team although we had not played badly.

“How he clawed Luke McCullough’s header away from that top corner I have no idea and there were two or three absolutely unbelievable saves so he really kept us in it. When you are under the cosh, if you have a keeper who can come out and punch it 20, 30, 40 yards it takes the pressure off the whole team.

“We did it the hard way and at half-time we all had a good look at ourselves and said that can’t happen again. We need to start every game as we played in that second half from now on. I am sure we will be heading up the table if we can do that.”

Bradford City: Pickford, Darby, Davies, Sheehan, Meredith; Knott (McBurnie 90); Halliday (Dolan 79), Yeates, Morais; Stead (Clarke 58), Hanson. Unused substitutes: Williams, Kennedy, Routis, Mottley-Henry.

Doncaster Rovers: Johnstone, Wabara, McCullogh, Butler, Evina (Wakefield 41); Coppinger, Wellens, Keegan, Bennett (Forrester 57); Main (Robinson 82), Tyson. Unused substitutes: Marosi, Furman, McCombe, Val Fernandez.

Referee: K Wright (Merseyside).