Winning promotions usually comes down to winning closely-fought matches where grit and determination trumps flair. This was a case in point. There wasn’t a lot between Rovers and struggling County, but it was Rovers who found enough to take three vital points.
Rovers showed one change from the side that beat Grimsby nine days earlier; Craig Alcock replacing Harry Middleton. In a first half where quality was at a premium Rovers were close to leading when Andy Williams latched onto Liam Mandeville’s pinpoint ball. Williams’ touch beat two defenders, but goalkeeper Scott Loach smothered his shot. In stoppage time there was a scare when Jon Stead’s centre was blocked by Alcock with former Rover Jonathan Forte hovering. 0-0 reflected a scrappy first half.
Darren Ferguson made changes at the break, sending on Joe Wright for Mathieu Baudry and switching to a fluid 3-4-3. It gave Rovers width and on the hour helped produce the decisive goal. Mandeville fed Tommy Rowe whose excellent cross was headed powerfully past Loach by Williams. It could have been 2-0 moments later – Mandeville’s cross nodded against the woodwork by Matty Blair.
County sent on Vadaine Oliver, less a footballer, more a human wrecking ball. His rustic play hurt both Wright and the outstanding Andy Butler but didn’t knock them off their stride. Williams and Mandeville both went close to settling the game in the dying stages but in the end it required grit to see Rovers home: the sort that wins prizes in football.
by John Coyle