TEN thousand people enjoyed a spectacular fireworks display at the Keepmoat Stadium complex on Bonfire Night.
In comparison, last night’s League One clash between Doncaster Rovers and Crewe was a damp squib for locals in the near 5,500 crowd.
Rovers were but a pale shadow of the side which had won their last four league and cup games and were beaten by a goal in each half.
Rovers showed two changes to their starting line-up on duty in Saturday’s FA Cup first round win over Conference North side Bradford Park Avenue.
Paul Quinn returned at right-back, Andy Griffin dropping down to the bench, and James Harper getting the nod over newcomer Sammy Clingan in the centre of midfield.
With wide men Kyle Bennett and David Cotterill both failing late fitness tests, Rovers again had central midfielders Martin Woods and David Syers operating on the flanks.
Billy Paynter started alongside Iain Hume in attack with Chris Brown again starting on the bench despite scoring in the last two games.
Rovers made a bright start with Harper shooting wide of the far post with an angled shot from just inside the area in the first 90 seconds.
But it was the Railwaymen who took the lead on five minutes with a goal off the near post by striker Lauri Dalla Valle.
Rovers looked for a quick response and Quinn picked out Paynter in the box but the striker’s header lacked any real power and Crewe keeper Alan Martin made an easy save. Left-back James Husband cut out a dangerous-looking cross into the box meant for Mathias Pogba, who Rovers’ boss Dean Saunders signed during his time in charge at Wrexham.
Keeper Gary Woods made a magnificent save from the resulting corner.
Martin had to stretch to keep out a 20 yarder by midfielder Paul Keegan, who scored his first goal of the season in Rovers last league game at Notts County.
Rovers skipper Rob Jones and Crewe midfielder Abdul Osman both needed a lengthy spell of treatment after a clash of heads on 25 minutes.
Jones came off the worse and after being checked by the club doctor in the medical room he was deemed unfit to continue and was replaced by Shelton Martis, who had only resumed full training with the squad on Monday after several weeks on the sidelines with a groin injury.
Woods saved well from a 25 yard shot by Osman at the expense of a 28th minute corner. He had to be on his toes again a minute later to deny Kelvin Mellor.
Martin Woods just cleared the bar with an angled shot on 32 minutes. Crewe continued to look the better side going forward and Byron Moore was the next player to force a save from Woods.
Hume broke through in the last minute of stoppage time only to drill his shot from the edge of the area well wide of the right hand post.
It was easily Rovers best chance of the half in which they had been second best for long periods.
Both sides made changes at the start of the second half, Robbie Blake replacing Syers for Rovers with Michael West taking over from Moore for Crewe. Rovers were glad to see a ball bobbling around the six-yard box on 50 minutes cleared for a corner.
Pogba tried his luck with a shot from just outside the box but it lacked any real power and keeper Woods made an easy collection.
West shot just wide of the far post with a 25 yarder on 55 minutes as they continued to take the game to Rovers, who had looked anything but a top-five side to date.
Martis got on the end of a long throw by Tommy Spurr but Martin made a routine catch from his header.
There was a let-off for Crewe three minutes later, Keegan hitting the crossbar after Martin had done well to block a fierce angled shot by young left-back James Husband. Martin produced another good save after Paynter had set Blake up on the edge of the box on 61 minutes.
It was Rovers first spell of sustained pressure of the match and raised hopes among the disappointing crowd that they could yet salvage a result.
Crewe thought that they had doubled their lead from a 67th minute free-kick but the linesman had spotted an infringement and the ‘goal’ was disallowed.
The 168 Crewe fans didn’t have to wait long to celebrate a second goal, however, Pogba heading home in fine style at the near post from a 72nd minute corner.
Rovers have come from behind on several occasions this season to salvage a result with late goals, but given the way they had played for most of the game it was difficult to see where two goals were going to come from.
The introduction of leading scorer Brown on 75 minutes offered a glimmer of hope for home fans, as did Hume’s goal bound shot which was blocked by Martin at the expense of a corner.
Woods was again equal to the task when Mellor got a header on target. Martin saved with his feet from Paynter in stoppage time.
ROVERS: G Woods 8 Quinn 6 Jones *5 Spurr 6 Husband 7 Syers **5 Keegan 6 Harper 6 Martin Woods 6 Hume 7 Paynter 6 Substitutes Blake **46 Brown Griffin Martis*26 Michael Woods Sullivan Clingan.
CREWE: Martin 7 Mellor 7 Davis 7 Ellis 7 Tootle 7 Pogba 7 Murphy 7 Osman 7 Moore *6 Aneke **6 Dalla Valle 7 Substitutes Phillips Dugdale Turton Robertson ** 90 Ray Daniels West *46
Bookings: Rovers: Syers, Hume, Quinn. Crewe: Osman