Doncaster Rovers 1 Swindon Town 0: McCombe ensures Doncaster get warm feeling

Jamie McCombe scoring the only goal of the matchJamie McCombe scoring the only goal of the match
Jamie McCombe scoring the only goal of the match
EASTER this year may have been the coldest for a generation, but Doncaster Rovers fans are exuding a warm glow right now.

A deserved victory over promotion rivals Swindon Town has seen to that, not least because Jamie McCombe’s first goal in a Doncaster shirt means Brian Flynn’s side remain two points clear at the top of League One.

Results elsewhere yesterday also went for the South Yorkshire club, adding to the feelgood factor at the Keepmoat.

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For Flynn, slip-ups by Brentford and Sheffield United were an unexpected bonus with the Rovers chief’s true pleasure being derived from the manner of his team’s second-half performance in front of the live Sky cameras

He said: “Beating a rival is always important because it means we have knocked Swindon back.

“What makes it pleasing, though, is we put in one of our best performances of the season – especially as this is one of the most important times. It was a controlled performance by all departments of the team, apart perhaps from (goalkeeper) Gary Woods who didn’t have a lot to do.

“We played well. The timing is perfect, because the win means we bounced back after a defeat (Friday’s 1-0 loss at Coventry).

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“That has been a feature of my time here. We are resilient and that is down to having good characters in the dressing room.

“They are all focused on what they want and that is getting Doncaster back in the Championship.

“I don’t look at the league table. I don’t care, if I am honest. I am not being disrespectful (to the other clubs) when I say that.

“I probably won’t look at the table (until today), but what I do know is we are top of the league. The rest have to keep chasing.”

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On a pudding of a pitch that had begun cutting up even before kick-off, good football always seemed likely to be at a premium.

This, indeed, proved to be the case during a first half that saw both sides struggle to come to terms with the uneven surface.

The upshot was a dour spectacle for 45 minutes as a rash of wayward passes, misplaced clearances and players unable to put their foot on the ball for fear of it bouncing over the top.

In fact, so lacking in incident was the game by the interval that the main talking point among the 8,106 crowd attempting to defrost over a cup of tea was whether a dubious penalty appeal by Rovers just before the half-hour mark had rightly been turned down.

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The catalyst for some much needed debate was a neat ball over the top that found Dean Furman handily placed just outside the Town six-yard box. As the loanee from Oldham Athletic brought the ball down via a neat piece of control, he collided with Aiden Flint.

Doncaster immediately appealed for a penalty, but referee Paul Tierney was having none of it and rightly waved play on, the collision being more an accidental coming together of two committed players.

Under normal circumstances, such an innocuous incident would have barely warranted mention in any half-time post-mortem.

However, with the only other incident of note being a goal-line clearance by Alan McCormack to prevent Flint turning David Cotterill’s cross into his own net, it was perhaps inevitable that the half-time chatter should be so dominated by Doncaster’s failed penalty appeal.

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Thankfully for those who had braved the freezing temperatures to back Doncaster’s promotion push in person, the second half was a huge improvement as Flynn’s men made a mockery of their early struggles to click into top gear.

First, a neat passing move led to the ball being worked to Kyle Bennett whose shot brought a flying save from Wes Foderingham.

Rob Jones then almost bundled in a corner before only a desperate last-ditch tackle by Massimo Luongo denied John Lundstram a clear shot on goal after more good work out wide by Cotterill. McCombe was the next to be left frustrated, this time by Foderingham with a one-handed save after excellent delivery from Cotterill out wide had again exposed the visitors’ defence.

Town’s next let-off came via the officials, who deemed Flint climbing all over Chris Brown to head the ball to safety as legal and waved play on – to the understandable fury of the Rovers players.

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As the siege of the Robins’ goal continued, Foderingham then turned a deflected free-kick from Cotterill away before the moment the home side’s second-half display deserved arrived 10 minutes from time.

Cotterill, the game’s outstanding performer, was predictably involved again with another inch-perfect delivery from a corner that begged McCombe to find the back of the net, something the big defender did with glee from close range to spark joyous scenes on three sides of the Keepmoat.

Doncaster Rovers: Woods; Griffin, Jones, McCombe, Spurr; Bennett (Hume 66), Lundstram, Furman, Cotterill; Coppinger; Brown (Paynter 89). Unused substitutes: Sullivan, Husband, Harper, Wakefield, Sinclair.

Swindon Town: Foderingham, Byrne, Ward, Flint, McCormack; Luongo, Navarro (Roberts 83), Ferry, Parrett (De Vita 82); Collins, Rooney. Unused substitutes: Bedwell, Devera, Francis, Thompson, Rooney.

Referee: P Tierney (Lancashire).

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