Doncaster Rovers U23s 3 Walsall U23s 2: Senior players get game time as Rovers hold on for win
Darren Moore was pleased to hand several senior players game time as Doncaster Rovers U23s held on for a 3-2 win over their Walsall counterparts.
Goals from Joe Wright, Branden Horton and a trialist saw Rovers surge into a deserved and commanding lead at a blustery Cantley Park before a late fightback from the visitors.
Wright played an hour with Tom Anderson – currently two matches in to a three game suspension at senior level – featuring for the full 90 minutes while Niall Ennis played the first half on his return to action after injury.
“Niall having 45 minutes, Joe having 60 minutes, Tom coming through 90 minutes – it’s all positive for us,” Moore said.
“When you have the seniors in like that it helps bring the younger ones on.
“I thought it was a good workout for everyone.”
Strong winds played havoc on the fixture with Rovers taking advantage of having the gusts at their back in the first half.
Play was sensibly kept low, with Rovers looking to play long passes out from the back and find the dynamic front line.
Anderson and Wright operated in a back three alongside U23 skipper Shane Blaney while the attacking line comprised of Ennis, Max Watters and the trialist.
Rovers’ best early attacking work came down the flanks, particularly on the right where Elliott Walker made some powerful runs and cut low balls into the box.
But the deadlock would be broken from a set piece just after the hour mark.
AJ Greaves whipped in a free kick which Wright met with a glancing header into the top corner.
It looked as though the wind would be a decisive factor in the fixture as Walsall pushed on with it at their backs in the second half.
But they struggled to make it count in the final third, allowing Rovers to push clear.
A sustained period of pressure around the Walsall box brought a smart passing move which saw Horton released to lash a shot beyond Jack Rose in the Walsall goal.
And the game looked to have been put to bed soon after. The trialist embarked on a mazy run into the box before clipping a shot past Rose from a tight angle.
Rovers looked home and dry but grew sloppy in the final ten minutes with Walsall mounting an unlikely comeback.
The visitors saw a goal ruled out for a questionable handball before Alex McShane eventually got them off the mark, firing past Louis Jones.
And Luke Pearce pulled another goal back almost straight away as Rovers were again punished for switching off.
But the hosts would see out the game intelligently by keeping the ball at the other end of the pitch for the remaining few minutes.
“I thought in difficult conditions they managed the ball quite well,” Moore said.
“Apart from the last five minutes and conceding a couple of sloppy goals, I thought it was a good workout.
“In difficult conditions you need to keep your game simple because it’s effective. Going long all the time doesn’t help.
“In order to play the short game your movement has got to be quick and dynamic early doors.
“When they’re done properly like that, they’re a good workout and I’m pleased.”
Rovers: Jones; Wright (Prior), Anderson, Blaney; Walker, Greaves, McGowan, Horton; Watters (Boocock), Trialist, Ennis (Gibbons).