Doncaster Rovers hold on for credible opening-day draw against Bradford City

Ten-man Doncaster Rovers held on for an impressive draw away to much-fancied Bradford City in an incident-packed match in front of a record League Two crowd.

Saturday, 30th July 2022, 11:00 pm

Lee Tomlin's red card in first-half stoppage time meant Rovers were a man down for more than half the game, but Gary McSheffrey's side stood firm despite having just 20 per cent of possession.

Bradford substitute Kian Harratt was also dismissed following a melee at full time.

A new fourth-tier high of 19,368 supporters – including 1,971 Donny fans - packed into the University of Bradford Stadium for the clash, which was marred by a suspected double leg-break for Bradford midfielder Emmanuel Osadebe.

Doncaster's Lee Tomlin gets sent off. Photo: Howard Roe/AHPIX LTD.

With Doncaster’s club captain Tommy Rowe missing from the matchday squad after suffering a neck spasm, Liam Ravenhill started in his place for just his fourth league appearance.

The 19-year-old was involved in the game's first flashpoint on six minutes when his tackle on Osadebe left the Bradford man badly hurt and requiring a stretcher following lengthy treatment.

Bantams defender Romoney Crichlow covered his mouth in shock at the state of Osadebe’s injury with Ravenhill shown a yellow card, which left the home crowd incensed.

The Rovers’ academy graduate was removed moments after the restart and replaced by Jack Degruchy for his professional debut.

Doncaster's Jonathan Mitchell catches under pressure. Photo: Howard Roe/AHPIX LTD.

But not before Vadaine Oliver broke free of Joe Oluwu and saw his shot from the edge of the area parried away by Jonathan Mitchell.

Bradford dominated for much of the first half without creating a better chance than Oliver’s effort.

The visitors had to wait until the 45th minute before their first opportunity.

Lee Tomlin controlled a ball into the box well and found George Miller, whose effort was blocked by Matty Platt.

Moments later Tomlin was once again in the thick of it.

A pantomime-esque sketch saw the experienced playmaker yellow-carded twice in quick succession.

He first went into the book for first refusing to stand the necessary distance away for a free-kick, insisting the ball should be moved back.

Tomlin then took it upon himself to roll the ball back before throwing himself to the ground when a Bradford player arrived to usher him away, prompting referee Robert Madden to send him off.

Bradford went on the attack from the restart after half time and an unmarked Jamie Walker might have done better with his close-range strike, but found the side-netting as a cauldron-like atmosphere inside the ground was ready to erupt.

A rare Rovers attack resulted in a corner following good pressure from George Miller, with Adam Clayton’s subsequent delivery cleared off the line by Bradford keeper Harry Lewis after Oluwu’s header.

As the game opened up, just after the hour mark Richie Smallwood saw his free-kick from around 20 yards smack the post with Mitchell beaten.

Not long after Mitchell was at full stretch to keep out Harratt’s effort from the edge of the box.

The Bantams huffed and puffed but couldn’t find a breakthrough as their expectant fans grew increasingly exasperated with a series of near-misses and stoppages in play.

Tom Anderson was brought on in place of Kyle Hurst as Rovers tried to see out the final 10 minutes.

The centre-back was a surprise inclusion on the bench, having not played since December through injury and missed most of pre-season.

Matty Platt, Smallwood and substitute Andy Cook all went close as McSheffrey’s men – eight of whom were debutants – held on for a credible point.

Doncaster Rovers: Jonathan Mitchell, Kyle Knoyle, Joe Oluwu, Ro Shaun Williams, Adam Clayton, Harrison Biggins (Adam Long, 90), Liam Ravenhill (Jack Degruchy, 15; Josh Andrews, 46), Kyle Hurst, George Miller

Bradford City: Harry Lewis, Brad Halliday (Harry Chapman, 68), Liam Ridehalgh, Matty Platt, Richie Smallwood, Lee Angol (Kian Harratt, 68), Emmanuel Osadebe (Levi Sutton, 8), Jamie Walker, Ryan East (Andy Cook, 81), Vadaine Oliver, Romoney Crichlow