ONE dressing room was full of finger-pointing and recriminations at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Surprisingly the noise emanated from victorious Doncaster Rovers’ sanctuary after they moved up to fourth in League One.
Captain Andy Butler, in particular, was furious that they had conceded just their second home league goal of the season to a Bradford City side who learned that nothing goes your way when in the drop zone.
City should have had a penalty when trailing 1-0, Joe Wright’s challenge from behind on Eoin Doyle being akin to a try-saving tackle as the Bantams captain was dragged to the ground when about to fire home from David Ball’s cushioned header into his path.
Four minutes later, in the 53rd, John Marquis rubbed salt into the wound, clipping the ball over an onrushing Richard O’Donnell.
The free-flowing move that led to the goal summed up Rovers at their best and, even though they had forced nine of their 10 corners in the first half, it was on the counter after the break when they looked so dangerous.
There is not really that arrogance where we think we are better than what we are. We are on a good bit of form, but we were disappointed to concede. We ground out the win, but we are looking at things we can do a lot better.Doncaster’s Danny Andrew
What got captain Butler so annoyed, however, was how substitute striker George Miller had been allowed to latch onto Jim O’Brien’s through ball from the centre circle. Miller’s first touch was not great, but goalkeeper Marko Marosi failed to gather, allowing the City player to tuck the ball home in the 81st minute.
It set up a nervous finale for Rovers who after Marquis, set up by James Coppinger, had fired home from the edge of the area in the 23rd minute had spurned several gilt-edged chances to secure the points. Bradford, who forced nine corners, were left to rue both centre-backs failing to head home early opportunities and Doyle striking a post when teed up by Sean Scannell, though their first shot on target did not come until the 71st minute.
Butler was one of the Rovers culprits, heading a deep free-kick from the irrepressible Coppinger at O’Donnell and somehow heading wide the rebound from inside the six-yard area.
Rovers manager Grant McCann was happy that his captain and players dwelt on the goal they conceded rather than the victory.
“I walked into the changing room and Butler was hammering a few people,” revealed McCann. “The defenders are really disappointed to concede a goal and that’s what any successful team has to have – leaders in the team who will say things before I say it.
“Picking the bones out of conceding a goal shows how far we have come.”
Of the penalty incident he said: “You get some and others you don’t. It’s a difficult job being a referee and we’ve had some decisions that have probably cost us points. It’s the nature of the beast.”
City manager David Hopkin, who has 13 players under treatment, was more forthright after a third successive loss in charge.
“I can’t believe it. The game was at 1-0 and it was a blatant penalty,” he said. “The game would have gone 1-1, but we then lost our composure for five minutes and we were 2-0 down.
“The fourth officials don’t give you any answers, the linesmen don’t give you any answers and when I asked the referee after the game he said he thought he’d (Doyle) dived. It’s a difficult one to take. It would have been a massive turning point in the game.”
City goalkeeper O’Donnell concurred. “I watched it back and it’s a stonewall penalty for me,” he said before conceding: “We feel we deserved something, but at the minute we’re getting punished for anything. Everyone’s affected confidence-wise. You’re not human if you don’t feel it after losing five games in a row.
“We’re going to be a little bit low. But we’ve got a very small group right now and the lads are working really hard to put things right.”
Rovers, unchanged for a third succesive match but due to lose midfield man Ben Whiteman after a fifth booking, want more than a play-off place.
This is the view of defender Danny Andrew, on a mission to make up for lost time after having last season wrecked by a knee injury. The right-back said: “We have set some very good standards and, if we keep hitting them, anything can happen.
“I felt we should have beat the top two, Portsmouth (0-0) and Peterborough (1-1), so there is nothing to fear in this league.
“When you win three on the bounce you can’t be anything but confident, but there is not really that arrogance where we think we are better than what we are.
“We are on a good bit of form, but we were disappointed to concede. We ground out the win, but we are looking at things we can do a lot better.
“The game is 95 to 100 minutes long and it is difficult to be switched on for that whole time. It does take a lot and that is one of the things we picked on in the dressing room, that little bit of a lapse in concentration.”
Doncaster Rovers: Marosi, Mason, Wright, Butler, Andrew; Blair, Kane, Whiteman; Coppinger (Taylor 82), Marquis, Wilks (May 82). Unused substitutes: Lawlor, T Anderson, Beestin, J Anderson, Amos.
Bradford City: O’Donnell, McGowan, O’Connor, Knight-Percival; Scannell, J O’Brien, L O’Brien (Bruenker 90), Wood; Payne (Miller 66), Doyle, Ball (Gibson 66). Unused substitutes: Sykes-Kenworthy, Seedorf, Isherwood, Goldthorpe.
Referee: M Coy (Durham).