Doncaster Rovers 1 Crystal Palace 0: Saunders’ gamble pays off

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DEAN Saunders played his trump card by unleashing Billy Sharp from the bench – and later admitted it was a big gamble.

Sharp only returned to full training last week and had not been expected to return to action until mid-October.

But his introduction as a second half substitute changed the whole atmosphere at the Keepmoat Stadium – and within minutes of his arrival John Oster’s deflected shot handed Rovers their first league win for six months.

Saunders said: “I was worried about him [Sharp] getting injured, especially when you’re in a dogfight like we are and you have to scrap for everything.

“But he went on and chased things down and made a nuisance of himself.

“Billy’s not fully fit and I wasn’t going to bring him on if we were winning.

“But the players got a huge life from him just been sat there with his kit on and his boots on.

“And I think him just being on the bench it changed the atmosphere when he stood up.

“He’s not played for a long time and he’s got a bit of work to do yet - but he knows where to go to score a goal.

“I thought we were poor first half,” he added.

“We couldn’t keep the ball and we were kicking it out of play.

“It was more noticeable to me having left a team who were top of the league, who were confident and they all wanted the ball

“Then I’ve come to a team bottom of the league and the players were nervous – it’s understandable.

“But we got in at half time nil nil and I just said to the boys relax, get the ball down and pass it.

“It was no slight on John Parkin and James Coppinger who came off, but Milan came on and did well and instead of hitting it long we got it down on the deck.

“The three points pleased me the most.

“And I’m pleased for the supporters.

“It means more to them than me – they’ve not seen a win for 19 games and it must’ve felt like agony.

“The most pleasing thing, apart from the three points, is that people left the stadium smiling.”