Verdict – Doncaster Rovers dig themselves out of tight spot to find their way again

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IT was a week in which the value of perseverance and digging in proved not to be the sole domain of Theresa May.

As with the embattled Prime Minister, Doncaster Rovers found themselves in a bit of a tight spot after a worrying run of six matches without victory, with resilience, determination, patience and composure under fire required in Saturday’s encounter with the similarly down-at-heel – and managerless – Wimbledon.

Under questioning from the media amid the latest Brexit brouhaha, the stoic May compared her attitude to that of steadfast Yorkshire and England opener Geoffrey Boycott, who in her words “stuck to it and got the runs in the end” amid adversity.

Those words would have certainly chimed with Rovers, moreso at the end of a testing Saturday afternoon which saw a captain’s knock from the returning Tommy Rowe prove fateful.

Out for two-and-a-half months with a hamstring tear, substitute Rowe’s rasping 86th-minute drive – with Rovers profiting after the dozy Dons switched off for the second time after a quickly-taken free-kick – underlined his importance to the Doncaster cause.

The psychological merit of Rowe’s priceless strike – 12 minutes after entering the fray – should not be underestimated for a Rovers side who were in danger of losing their way after a promising opening third of the season.

Winner: Doncaster Rovers players celebrate Tommy Rowe's strike.

Winner: Doncaster Rovers players celebrate Tommy Rowe's strike.

Manager Grant McCann was clearly a tad anxious too. His decision to swap his traditional club tracksuit top for a smart overcoat was partly down to superstition in a bid to yield a change in fortune. Suffice to say after Saturday’s win, it will be staying on.

Looking visibly relieved, McCann said: “Hopefully, it is a turning point in our season. We spoke about it during the week in taking advantage of these four league games out of six at home.

“It is never easy playing a team without a manager. I know Simon (Bassey – Wimbledon caretaker) has gone in there and there will probably be a new manager looking at them and they are trying to impress him. We saw that on Wednesday at Notts County.

“People can get a bounce; it is sad really and not right. I thought they had a bit of a bounce and were strong. But we stuck at our task and got the job done...”

Hopefully, it is a turning point in our season. We spoke about it during the week in taking advantage of these four league games out of six at home.

Doncaster Rovers’ manager, Grant McCann

Brief worries that the job may not be able to get done surfaced at the break when a drone was spotted flying above the stadium, ensuring a ten-minute delay at the start of the second half.

Thankfully, Rovers stayed on message and after a sublime first-half leveller from Ali Crawford to cancel out Mitchell Pinnock’s neat 26th-minute opener, the hosts were flying high at the end.

“I got my little boy to fly it over of the stadium!” McCann quipped.

“I am only joking..I have no idea (where it came from); the referee said the rules are they could not kick off while there is a drone flying over the stadium. But it moved quite quickly. To be fair, it is something I have used at Peterborough for training sessions.

Ali Crawford celebrates his goal. Picture Scott Merrylees

Ali Crawford celebrates his goal. Picture Scott Merrylees

“But I can guarantee it is nothing to do with me..”

Nothing was certainly doing in a soporific opening 25 minutes which underlined just why these two sides were toiling.

It was Wimbledon, whose old-school physicality was right out of the successful Dons’ vintage of yore, who were the more imposing and they eventually manufactured a telling moment.

Rovers were carved open by astute play from Liam Trotter, Kwesi Appiah and Anthony Wordsworth, with Pinnock evading the challenge of Niall Mason before producing a tidy low finish.

It had the makings of a fraught afternoon for Rovers, with Tom Soares and Wordsworth almost adding a second for the Dons, only for parity to be restored in wonderful fashion.

Quick-thinking Ben Whiteman found Crawford, who strode forward and curled in a gem past motionless keeper Joe McDonnell – a picture-book first-ever home goal from the silky Scot.

The last major development of the half saw Ian Lawlor tip over Scott Wagstaff’s rising shot, but on the resumption, the activity was largely in the Dons’ half.

From the early sparrings, Wimbledon – 200 days on from clinching their League One status with a draw at Doncaster – set their stall out to take home another point. It looked like transpiring, but Rovers carried on regardless and their rewards came late.

The intent arrived from those in home jerseys. Plenty did not come off, but they eventually found a way – culminating in Rowe’s crisp finish.

No histrionics from the captain, but a palpable sense of relief.

On how he would ‘celebrate’, consummate professional Rowe, who struck his first goal since the opening day of the season, dryly observed: “I will be back home with the kids winding me up..

“I got a little bit stick from the first game for celebrating too much as I am known for not celebrating. I was more tired than anything. But it is nice to get around the boys and feel that connection.

“The biggest thing for me in football is momentum. When you are on a high and on a run, it is good and stays with you.

“But equally when you are on a low, you can lose momentum and fall short and cannot put your finger on it.

“We needed something to kick-start us back into a winning routine and hopefully this is it.”

Like Prime Minister May, Rovers are far from out of the woods. A sticky home Cup replay with Chorley awaits tomorrow with a derby with in-form Barnsley also on the weekend agenda.

But for now at least, there is a welcome touch of respite.