Analysis: Rovers 1 Bury 1 - Bizarre end overshadows underwhelming start

All square as  Leon Clarke dribbles the ball unchallenged into the Doncaster Rovers goal. Photo:  Steve Flynn/
All square as Leon Clarke dribbles the ball unchallenged into the Doncaster Rovers goal. Photo: Steve Flynn/

Just when you think you’ve seen it all in football, this game never ceases to amaze you.

Putting it frankly, the sight of Leon Clarke walking the ball in after Harry Forrester’s inadvertent (so he says) stoppage time goal was one of the most ridiculous things you could ever wish to see on a football pitch.

There was no alternative after referee Eddie Ilderton had awarded Rovers’ goal.

But it was a situation that could have easily been avoided, either with a linesman’s flag for a foul throw in the build-up or with a bit more care and precision from Forrester in the first place.

The crazy conclusion had everyone talking at the final whistle and unsurprisingly dominated Doncaster’s 30-second slot (if that) on the new, painful to watch, Football League round-up show later on Saturday night.

But it should not really overshadow what ultimately proved to be a fairly underwhelming start to the new season by Rovers, who had goalkeeper Thorsten Stuckmann to thank for preserving a point against newly-promoted Bury.

It may be a little unkind to suggest that the only way Clarke was going to find the net was by presenting him with an open goal but the big striker had one of those days in front of goal.

A nuisance all afternoon, the former Sheffield Wednesday and Wolves frontman missed chance after chance as the Shakers created the clearer opportunities and came closest to snatching all three points from a hard fought contest.

But it was credit mainly to the excellent Stuckmann for keeping him out, and as Clarke dribbled past the giant German to tap in his token equaliser you could not help feel a degree of sympathy for a goalkeeper who fully deserved his clean sheet bonus.

Bury’s impressive physicality and their pressing put Doncaster on the back foot from off and Rovers found themselves playing on the counter attack for large periods.

Unlike in the preceding friendly matches, Richie Wellens was not afforded the time or space to pull the strings in midfield and the home side missed the presence of Paul Keegan in the anchorman role. The Dubliner was ruled out with a knee injury, handing Curtis Main the chance to impress up front alongside Andy Williams.

Keegan’s absence forced Dickov into partnering Wellens with Richard Chaplow and although the attack-minded pair performed admirably, especially given Chaplow’s lack of minutes, they never really got a grip on proceedings.

In true League One style the pretty passing of pre-season had to be forfeited for hustle and bustle against a big Bury team not about to take any prisoners.

Doncaster were far from at their best but nor was this an afternoon to strike fear into their fans. Far from it.

In front of man of the match Stuckmann, Rob Jones and Andy Butler relished the physical battle with Clarke and Tom Pope, kept quiet against one of the teams he turned his back on over the summer.

Chaplow displayed the sort of versatility that will make him a very handy player to have around.

Williams enjoyed his most threatening game yet in a Doncaster shirt and the signs are that he is starting to tune into his midfielders’ wavelength.

And, most importantly, Rovers as a unit did not buckle when Bury piled on the pressure, particularly after the re-start. They took heed of Dickov’s mantra: ‘if you can’t win it, don’t lose it’.

And yet in saying that the home side might have completed a smash and grab on their own patch had Ilderton not waved away what looked like a stonewall penalty in the closing stages.

Nathan Tyson, whose introduction midway through the second half gave his side extra impetus in the final third, appeared to be hauled down in the box by Peter Clarke after breaking clear but the referee was having none of it. Just seconds earlier James Coppinger had also appealed for a spot kick but he was perhaps tripped just outside of the area.

Rovers had saved their best for a final flourish which also saw Tyson find the back of the net only for his effort to be ruled out for offside. It was a spell that coincided with the introduction of Harry Middleton and Cedric Evina who, along with Tyson, did their chances of starting against Leeds United on Thursday night no harm at all.

Bury had earlier enjoyed the better of the chances and restricted Rovers’ passing game.

Leon Clarke fizzed an effort inches wide from distance before the break and Stuckmann saved well to keep out Pope’s header at the back post.

Clarke then fluffed a one on one after the restart and rattled the bar, while Butler stretched to somehow keep out an effort by Jacob Mellis.

And then Forrester gave the ball back. The less said about that the better.

Rovers: Stuckmann, McCullough, Butler, Jones, Taylor-Sinclair, Coppinger, Wellens, Chaplow (Middleton 82), Forrester , Main (Tyson 67), Williams (Evina 82). Subs not used: Marosi, Lund, MacKenzie, Whitehouse.

Bury: Walton, Riley, Hussey, Cameron, P Clarke, Etuhu, Mayor, Soares, Pugh (Tutte 56), Pope (Mellis 56), L Clarke. Subs not used: Hope, Sedgwick, Lainton, Rose, Brown.

Attendance: 6,429