DONCASTER Rovers manager Sean O’Driscoll described the visitors as “underdogs” ahead of Tuesday night’s contest against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.
And despite Rovers being in the league above their hosts for the coming season, that assessment looked sound for much of the match as United created more than enough chances to have taken something from the game.
But Simon Gillett scored the only goal of the evening after 73 minutes when he cut inside his marker and dispatched an unstoppable thunderbolt beyond Steve Simonsen to make a mockery of Rovers’ pre-match prediction.
Of course, with the start of the new campaign less than a fortnight away, both Wilson and O’Driscoll prioritised performance over a result.
After an uneventful opening from both sides, Rovers, who used the occasion to run the rule over a flurry of potential signings including Spanish midfielder Lander, found their rhythm as the first half progressed with James Hayter dragging across goal.
But United also enjoyed plenty of possession and, having withstood some good pressure, responded with a fine move involving Neill Collins and Flynn which saw Daniel Bogdanovic go close.
Jordan Slew tested Gary Woods with a powerful shot after being released by Nick Montgomery and Collins, came within a whisker of heading home from close range.
Woods smothered Harry Maguire’s long range free-kick soon after the re-start and United were made to pay for wasting a series of clear-cut chances when Gillett thundered home from 25 yards out.
Doncaster, who took to the pitch wearing wrongly numbered shirts and with their substitutes going unnamed on the team sheet, survived a scare when McDonald tried his luck but held firm.
The result was the perfect tonic after Saturday’s defeat – Rovers’ first of pre-season – against Carlisle United at Brunton Park.
The goal doubled as a testimonial for defender Sean McDaid.
The full-back played for both clubs prior to being forced to retire earlier this year after suffering a knee injury playing for the Cumbrians.
He was presented with a mementoes by both Rovers Supporters’ Club official Paul Mayfield and the home side prior to the kick-off.
Rovers, who again paraded two different sides, fielded their strongest eleven in the first half.
They made a bright start with Kyle Bennett shooting wide from a good position and both James Coppinger (twice) and John Oster having shots saved by former Rovers’ keeper Adam Collin in the first 15 minutes.
But the home team, beaten by Morecambe in midweek, came more into the game as the half progressed.
Rovers rode their luck and carved out a couple of chances - Bennett shooting wide from a corner and Sharp getting an angled shot on target after being set-up by Tommy Spurr.
But it was United who broke the deadlock on 44 minutes. Sullivan could only punch a cross away as far as Thirlwell, who knocked it back in for Curran to stab the ball home from close range and score the only goal of the game.
Rovers conclude their pre-season programme tomorrow night against Grimsby Town before kicking off the new Championship season the following Saturday in the first match to be played at Brighton’s new ground.