A GOAL inside the first 45 seconds from Devante Cole ensured Bradford City picked up their second League One away win on the spin - as they became the first side to triumph at the Keepmoat since picking up three points on Good Friday.
With new Rovers manager Darren Ferguson watching on in the East Stand, Cole struck in the opening minute with a poacher’s finish as City, who lost out to Barnsley in midweek, were afforded a more welcome derby development.
Cole’s fifth goal of the campaign maintained City’s excellent record in Doncaster, where they have not been beaten in the league since April 1980.
City, who produced a sound performance across the park, were good value for victory on a day when Rovers struggled for attacking potency - with there no being managerial ‘bounce’ for the hosts.
Rovers made four changes to their starting line-up, with Ferguson, unveiled on Friday, taking a watching brief along with no.2 Gavin Strachan, with Rob Jones and his interim staff having picked the side for the game, having taken training all week.
After the game, stand-in coach Rob Jones said: “We can’t keep giving people goals.
“We had 89 minutes to get back in to it and had lots of possession, and possession in their half, but the final ball wasn’t good enough – to have two shots on target at home isn’t good enough.
“It’s always a shock when you start so slowly. It’s a group that grows in games at this moment in time. We’ve shown that in the last three home games, we’ve started slowly and then got going.”
Contrastingly Phil Parkinson said: “There was always going to be a positive feeling around the ground from a Doncaster point of view with their new manager in the stands.
“Even though he wasn’t on the bench today, I’m sure the players will have been aware of his presence.
“As a result, we knew we had to start well and we did just that by getting the early goal. We could have had a couple more just after when we found ourselves in some great positions but it didn’t quite come off.”
Oscar Gobern was handed a surprise return to the starting line-up, with Richard Chaplow, derby hero in the win over Barnsley a fortnight ago, also back in the team after missing the JPT exit at York City.
Loanee James Horsfield was replaced at right-back by Luke McCullough, back from international duty with Northern Ireland with the loanee not involved in the match-day squad.
Gary Mackenzie, who scored his first goal for Bradford last season during his loan spell at the club last season in a 3-0 Easter win at the Keepmoat, returned after a three-match ban to take his place in the heart of the Rovers rearguard along with Andy Butler.
Meanwhile, last season’s top-scorer Nathan Tyson made a welcome return to the bench following injury for Rovers.
Bradford, the last team to win in the league at Doncaster back in April, named the same starting Xi who took the field in last weekend’s 3-1 win at Rochdale.
Nathan Burke, Kyel Reid, Devante Cole, Steven Davies, James Meredith and Lee Evans lined line up after not starting in the midweek JPT loss to Barnsley.
City headed into the game, having not lost in the league at Doncaster since April 1981 and were afforded the perfect start.
With many fans barely in their seats, the visitors - backed by a large travelling contingent from West Yorkshire - went in front with a striker’s goal from Cole.
The frontman nipped in as Rovers’ statuesque defence watched after Rory McArdle flicked on Evans’ long throw.
It was the worst possible start for Rovers and although they perked up after a difficult start, City possessed a real threat from set-pieces, aided by some fitful home defending.
Bradford also looked menacing on the break with the pace and movement troubling the home defence, with matters not exactly helped with Andy Butler suffered an early injury and limped off, with Aaron Taylor-Sinclair taking his place.
McCullough switched to centre-back, with Cedric Evina moving across from left back to right back.
City made the early running and after their quick-fire breakthrough, they pressed again with Burke almost latching onto Gary Liddle’s flick on following an inswinging corner from Evans.
A last-ditch tackle from Mackenzie then denied Davies, with Bradford looking far more slicker than the tentative hosts.
Gradually, Rovers woke up and from their first dangerous moment in 23 minutes, almost levelled.
Controversy reigned when Keshi Anderson bundled home close to the goal following a goalmouth after City failed to clear their lines following Chaplow’s corner - but the goal was ruled out for a handball, despite the protests of the Rovers’ loanee to the linesman.
The outstretched leg of Anderson then just failed to get a telling connection at the back post following Chaplow’s cross before play switched to the other end with Rovers looking shaky at the back.
Liddle was left with time and space in the box after McArdle flicked on Tony McMahon’s free-kick.
City went close to doubling their tally before the break following two efforts from the lively Reid.
First, he cut inside before unleashing a powerful angled shot which was beaten away by the flying Stuckmann and soon after, the loan winger dragged a low shot wide.
A half-shout for a penalty fell on deaf ears after Anderson tumbled under pressure before the half ended with City spurning another chance to double their advantage.
Evans was sent clear, but with only Stuckmann to beat, the big Rovers keeper got his angles right and held his low shot.
Rovers had plenty to address at the interval, with City in the box seat, with the only frustrating thing for Phil Parkinson being that his side had only netted once.
Rovers showed more urgency at the start of the second period with an alert block by Burke denying Chaplow after he was found in the box by Taylor-Sinclair.
Rovers saw plenty of the ball, but lacked quality and delivering the right option with City, to their credit, defending solidly.
The visitors went close on 64 minutes after being awarded a free-kick in a dangerous position after MacKenzie’s tug on Cole, whose pace had bothered Rovers all afternoon.
McMahon showed excellent technique, but his curler drifted just wide.
Tyson was soon thrown into the fray for his first appearance since August 13, in the hope of providing a cutting edge to Rovers which was patently missing with little end product, in the final analysis.
A rare threatening moment did arrive 18 minutes from time when Coppinger’s cross found Andy Williams, whose acrobatic shot was beaten away by his namesake in the City goal.
As the game entered the final ten minutes, Coppinger, indicating he was feeling an injury, made way for Harry Middleton and soon after, Rovers carved out a decent chance with Anderson finding Tyson, whose low shot agonisingly flew just wide.
A late header from Mackenzie sailed off target towards the end following Middleton’s curling corner before Gobern lashed a shot wide, with the spoils going to Bradford.
Doncaster: Stuckmann, McCullough, Butler (Taylor-Sinclair 18), MacKenzie, Evina; Wellens, Chaplow (Tyson 65), Gobern, Coppinger (Middleton 80); Anderson, A Williams. Substitutes unused: Marosi, Stewart, N’Guessan, Forrester.
Bradford: B Williams; Darby, McArdle, Burke, Meredith; McMahon, Liddle, Evans, Reid (Marshall 75); Davies (Hanson 64), Cole. Substitutes unused: Jones, N Clarke, Knott, Leigh, Mottley-Henry.
Referee: D Whitestone (Northants).
Attendance: 8,410 (2,584 Bradford fans).