Stevenage’s winning run on the road came to an end with a narrow 1-0 defeat at league leaders Doncaster Rovers this afternoon.
Despite frustrating their hosts for much of the afternoon with a disciplined display away from home, Boro fell behind with seven minutes remaining when the unfortunate Fraser Franks could only turn a fierce cross into his own net.
Darren Sarll made three changes from the side that lost to Colchester on Saturday with Tyler Walker, Dale Gorman and Michael Tonge coming in for Steve Schumacher, Henry Cowans and the injured Luke Wilkinson. Jack King partnered Fraser Franks at the back with Ben Kennedy occupying the right-wing.
Unbeaten at home this season, Doncaster had added incentive going into this game as it marked the 10th anniversary of moving into the Keepmoat Stadium. Boro, however, were seven unbeaten on the road and had racked up six straight wins.
Harry Middleton headed a fifth minute cross straight at Jamie Jones as the hosts looked for the early advantage, but Boro started well defensively and were looking much more compact.
Chances to get Godden and Walker into the game would prove few and far between in the opening 45 but on 18 minutes Boro won their first corner after good work from the Forest loanee. Doncaster cleared that set piece and broke on the counter, with three players running at the covering Kgosi Ntlhe. Tom Pett, however, got back and took one for the team, receiving a caution for tripping his man and averting the danger.
Stevenage continued to look much more organised and disciplined, opting to pass back to Jamie Jones and start again on numerous occasions, whilst Ben Kennedy was also proving disciplined on the right despite his natural urge to get forward.
The hosts looked energetic on the counter but despite attempting a variety of different crosses, Boro’s backline was equal to everything that came their way. Instead Doncaster were left to resort to shots from distance, with Matty Blair cutting inside and shooting at Jones on 24 minutes and Jordan Houghton seeing a 37th minute shot from 20 yards gathered by Jones above his head.
After a controlled first half out wide, Ben Kennedy finally found himself isolated against his man for the first time on 44 minutes. He crept into the area, looking for that familiar opportunity to shoot, but instead found Gorman, who played the ball back for Tonge to fire over left-footed.
Two minutes of injury time were signalled, during which Boro had claims for a penalty. Godden was found to the right of the box and he cleverly got past his man and went down under pressure, but referee Brown waved away appeals to leave the game goalless at the break.
Doncaster came out all guns blazing at the start of the second half and four minutes in, rattled the woodwork. Boro failed to clear a corner and from the resulting pinball, up popped Harry Middleton to hit the bar from close range.
The second half was a much feistier affair with the referee handing both teams a variety of free-kicks as some tough challenges came in.
Just past the hour, Dale Gorman won possession in the middle and Tonge drove into space before finding Walker. A first time cross was inviting for Godden but was somehow cleared behind from yards out from a Boro corner.
Connor Grant flashed a shot wide and John Marquis did the same on 70 minutes after some really crisp passing around the edge of the Boro box, but still Darren Sarll’s men stood firm.
Charlie Lee came on for the tiring Walker and with 16 minutes remaining saw a long throw headed over his crossbar by a Doncaster defender, again from yards out.
On 82 minutes the sub was millimetres away from intercepting a forward pass by goalkeeper Marko Marosi, only for Doncaster to go up the other end and take the lead in cruel fashion.
The hosts approached down the left and and got into the box, but looked well marshalled. However Tommy Rowe managed to squeeze in a low cross which was diverted painfully and slowly into his own net by Fraser Franks, with Jones unable to keep the ball out.
Jones then made a fine stop from sub Andy Williams’ fierce drive, before Boro applied late pressure as Doncaster retreated.
Another Lee throw caused havoc and Tonge’s resulting corner looked dangerous, before Lee was denied an injury time equaliser. A ball forward from Dale Gorman found Fraser Franks, whose header was met powerfully by Lee only for his own effort to deflect agonisingly behind.
A win for Doncaster sends them top of the table, whilst Boro now need to take the positives from this game and turn their attention to next Saturday’s home match against basement club Newport County. Tickets for this game can be purchased at www.borotickets.co.uk.
Doncaster: Marosi, Mason, Butler, Baudry, Blair, Houghton, Grant, Rowe, Middleton (Williams 67), Coppinger (Keegan 90), Marquis
Subs not used: Jones, Wright, Alcock, Beestin, May
Stevenage: Jones, Henry, King, Franks, Ntlhe, Kennedy (McAnuff 72), Gorman, Tonge, Pett, Walker (Lee 63), Godden (Liburd 80)
Subs not used: Day, Schumacher, Cowans, Johnson
Referee: M Brown
Attendance: 5,604 (169 away)