Doncaster Rovers are quietly making their move in another League One promotion push.
They used their heads to secure a 2-0 win at home to Shrewsbury Town last night which moves them to within two points of the play-off places with games in hand on most of the sides above in a table messed up by the demise of Bury and international call-offs.
This fixture had been one in November, and even though it came around again while Rovers are still trying to reinforce their squad, last night’s was their third win in four matches.
Both teams were in a giving mood on occasions – League One players cannot be expected to be flawless – but only Niall Ennis, on loan from the Premier League, was able to take advantage of the charity offered by his former club. When Tom Anderson added a second headed goal, it was no less than Doncaster deserved.
Their passing was pleasing up to a point, if not as penetrative as they would like, and they carried a constant threat down the left-hand side in the second half.
Whether they can get there with their current flaws is questionable but a couple of shrewd January signings could take last season’s play-off semi-finalists into overtime again this coming May.
The game was still settling down when Doncaster went in front, gratefully snapping up a gift from defender Ethan Ebanks-Landell.
The middle man in Shrewsbury’s back three failed to deal with a left-wing cross after four minutes, his header just teeing up Ennis to nod in unopposed from yards out.
It was only the second goal of his loan spell from Wolverhampton Wanderers. In 2017 he was lent to the Shrews.
Rovers returned the favour midway through the first half, but the visitors were unable to make anything of their gift.
Seny Dieng, his loan from Queens Park Rangers extended earlier in the week, made a hash of a Ryan Giles corner, dropping it onto the back of Anderson. But when Josh Laurent shot, Reece James cleared.
Corners were the only real threat Shrewsbury posed in the opening 45 minutes, and they had missed another good chance from one in the opening ten minutes when Joe Wright’s slide tackle on Daniel Udoh allowed their centre backs to get forward.
Aaron Pierre put his header wide.
The visitors’ lack of ruthlessness allowed Rovers to use their one-goal cushion to play some pleasing passing football, but when they got within sight of Max O’Leary’s goal, too often the killer ball eluded them.
With 7,054 in the Keepmoat stands and only 265 in the away end, the rearranged game was played in a subdued atmosphere, and did little to turn up the temperature.
Kieran Sadlier tried his luck a couple of times from distance without getting hold of his shots, but mostly it was nearly moments.
O’Leary was quick off his line when Doncaster threatened to get in behind his defence, beating Ennis to Anderson’s flick from a James pass.
When Shrewsbury missed another header with half-time approaching, it was at their own end.
James Coppinger chipped the ball in and Ro-Shaun Williams got above Ennis, but put his header narrowly the safe side of the goal.
Williams started the second half by selling Ebanks-Landell short and although Ennis latched onto the mistake, O’Leary was again quick out of the blocks and touched the shot onto the roof of his net.
Jon Taylor was just unable to get on the end of a clever reverse pass inside by Coppinger, and when his 56th-minute cross bounced off a defender, only O’Leary reacted.
When referee Ben Toner waved play on for a foul on the dangerous Sadlier, Ben Sheaf’s shot failed to take advantage.
The best move of the match met with the best piece of defending as James, Ennis and Sadlier combined to pick out Coppinger also met with the best defending, Pierre throwing himself in the way of the veteran’s pass.
A second goal was coming, though, and when no home player attacked Sadlier’s chipped cross in the 75th minute, the Shrews put it behind for a corner. Leaping highest at the near post, Anderson, who had earlier broken his nose, headed in.
It was job done, as Doncaster comfortably saw off a team who started the day above them in the table.
Things are moving in the right direction for Darren Moore’s men.
Doncaster Rovers: Dieng; Halliday, Wright, Anderson, James; Whiteman, Sheaf; Taylor (Bingham 90+4), Coppinger (Gomes 81), Sadlier; Ennis (Watters 86). Unused substitutes: Lawlor, Amos, Blaney, Greaves.
Shrewsbury Town: O’Leary; Williams, Ebanks-Landell, Pierre; Love (Cummings 72), Goss (Whalley 46), Norburn, Golbourne (Edwards 63); Laurent, Udoh, Giles. Unused substitutes: Murphy, Beckles, Lang, Walker.
Referee: B Toner (Lancashire).