Doncaster 1 - 1 Stevenage
Stevenage remained unbeaten but picked up just a point against Doncaster Rovers in a closely fought game at the Keepmoat Stadium.
The away side took a one-goal lead in at half time courtesy of Oliver Risser, making his first start for the club he rose highest in the box on the quarter of an hour mark and flicked the ball into the bottom corner.
After a second half that saw Boro soak up pressure a late goal from Chris Brown pulled the home side level. After a free kick was headed back into the centre of the box the striker simply drilled a close range effort home. They may well have stolen a winner late on but for some Chris Day heroics and in truth a point apiece was probably the fair share of the spoils.
Gary Smith opted for a five man midfield for the fixture, and there were three personnel changes from the match against Walsall on Tuesday evening. Goal scorer Risser came in whilst James Dunne, who started the midweek victory on the bench, was also recalled to the starting XI. Filipe Morais returned from injury to start on the left midfield as Robin Shroot, Luke Freeman and Greg Tansey all took their places on the substitute’s bench. Marcus Haber began as the lone striker whilst Miguel Comminges started his second game for the club.
Ahead of the game a very complimentary Dean Saunders spoke highly of what Stevenage have achieved in recent years, saying “The way they have started doesn’t surprise me, the spirit at the club has taken them from the Conference right the way through to way they are now.” He continued “Everybody thinks that they launch it forward because they are big and physical, they are big and strong but they play football too.”
Early on it was clear that ‘big and physical’ are keywords that could also be used for this Doncaster side; a defence consisting of four six foot plus players were winning the aerial battle for the opening quarter of an hour. That was until Boro took the lead though, and Risser got his first for the club with his head.
First Akins won a corner; a great bit of skill allowed him some space before he cut inside and drove a shot goal wards. ‘Keeper Gary Woods made a decent low save to concede a corner which the away side took quickly, a short pass allowed a better angle for putting it into the box and Risser skipped in between the defence and deftly flicked it into the far corner.
Boro won it straight back from the off and almost doubled their advantage with what would have been a spectacular strike. Morais brought it forward and drilled an effort from 30 yards which deceived the away supporters as it hit the advertising board after skimming just wide of the post.
After the few minutes of domination the game levelled out and it was a far more even affair, moments before the break Doncaster thought they had an equaliser but the offside flag came to Boro’s rescue. Kyle Bennett shot from range and Day made a beautiful low save but it was turned in by the onrushing striker who was adjudged offside.
Ten minutes after the break Smith’s side came close again and the fingertips of Woods were all that kept the gap at just one goal. Grant had space in the centre of the park and looked up before drilling a strong effort towards the top corner but the ‘keeper dived well and brushed it over the bar.
Doncaster were applying pressure and looked to be working towards an equaliser; a free kick from ten yards outside the box gave them the ideal opportunity but it was struck straight at the wall. Boro broke in numbers and eventually it was Akins who progressed into the area, Woods came powerfully off his line and challenged him, and to his credit it looked as though it was a perfect dispossession of the winger.
As the final ten minutes of the game crept upon us an equaliser did come and it was a disappointing one for the Boro defence to concede. A cheap free kick was given away practically on the corner spot; Cotterill curled it towards the back post where it was met by a red and white shirt and headed back into the middle. Brown drilled it through a crowded six yard box and there was nothing Day could do about it.
After such a long period of time without much goal mouth action the game kicked into life; seconds after conceding an equaliser Boro were up the other end ad in particular it was Gray in possession on the right. He crossed the ball in and it found Akins at the back post who controlled and volleyed towards goal but a sensational block on the line kept it out.
Doncaster broke and battled to the other end of the field, Brown picked the ball out of the air and turned exquisitely before volleying towards goal and forcing the best out of Day to keep the scores level. Minutes later he was called to the rescue again as a point blank header from Jones look destined to steal the points only for the Boro ‘keeper to instinctively save to his right.
There was to be no late hurrah for either side and in the end a draw was confirmed by the referee’s whistle.
Stevenage (4-5-1) Day; Gray, Roberts, Ashton, Comminges; Akins, Risser, Grant, Dunne, Morais (Tansey 75); Haber (Charles 90)
Unused Subs: Arnold, Freeman, Lopez, N’Gala, Shroot
Att 5910 (308 Away)