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Accrington Stanley 1 Doncaster Rovers 0

Accrington Stanley v Doncaster Rovers
Accrington Stanley v Doncaster Rovers

You cannot win them all.

And, on an occasion where they lost for only the second time this season, Rovers could not really argue that they should have. Or that they should not have been beaten.

Their trip to an Accrington Stanley side enjoying a similarly strong start to the season saw them struggle to wrestle the control of the game they have enjoyed in other recent matches.

Questions were asked of Rovers in a manner they have not been since the first half of the opening game of the season at Southend United.

A relentless opposition, pushing forward in great number and with superb energy, had them on the back foot and they struggled to shift the balance. It brought back memories of those worrying opening 45 minutes of the McCann era.

But on this occasion, thanks to an 88th minute strike from Offrande Zanzala, Rovers did not recover sufficiently enough to take anything from the game.

Accrington's players - particularly in wide areas - stepped up as soon as Rovers took possession, leaving time and space on the ball at a premium.

A side that has had its own way with the ball on so many occasions this season, did not take too well to being stifled. But that only led to Rovers causing themselves problems.

Play was rushed with a desperation to make something happen. At times, smart touches and flicks led to some excellent play for Rovers.

But all too often it simply handed the ball to the opposition, who were only too happy to surge forward themselves.

For all their struggles for composure, Rovers had the greater threat in the early stages.

Danny Andrew sent a controlled volley on goal while Mallik Wilks ended a arguably their best attacking move of the game with a low drive, both efforts drawing decent saves from Stanley keeper Connor Ripley.

But Accrington grew into the stronger side as the half wore on.

The lively Jordan Clark flicked a testing header on goal from a Nick Anderton cross. And it took a vital last ditch tackle from Joe Wright to prevent Sam Finley from breaking through one-on-one.

Accrington were inches away from taking the lead in the dying moments of the half.

First, Sean McConville blasted a free kick through the wall and watched it cannon back off the post. Once the ball was recycled, McConville collected again and curled a shot off the bar from the edge of the box.

Accrington started much the stronger after the break and threatened repeatedly.

Marko Marosi denied fine drives from both Dan Barlaser and Billy Kee while Niall Mason produced a vital block to turn away a shot from McConville.

Rovers finally grew into the game and enjoyed a strong spell, with the introduction of Alfie May’s pace in place of the underpar Wilks giving them fresh impetus.

Herbie Kane fired wide after a good lay-off from Matty Blair while May tested Ripley with a flicked header from a zipping Mason cross.

Ben Whiteman then curled a free kick inches wide from the edge of the area.​​​​​​​

But the decisive moment came after the longest period in which the hosts had failed to threaten.

A long ball forward bounced, and Andy Butler misjudged his header, allowing substitute Zanzala to spin off him and slam a low shot beyond Marosi.

It was a strike that brought to an end Rovers’ sensational run.

And deservedly so.

Accrington (4-4-1-1): Ripley; Johnson, Hughes, Ihiekwe, Anderton; Clark, Brown (Zanzala 76), Barlaser, McConville; Finley; Kee. Subs: Maxted, Richards-Everton, Nolan, Hall, Sykes, Mingoia.

Rovers (4-3-3): Marosi; Mason, Wright, Butler, Andrew; Blair (Crawford 76), Whiteman, Kane; Wilks (May 56), Marquis, Coppinger (Taylor 80). Subs: Lawlor, T Anderson, Amos, J Anderson.

Referee: Peter Wright

Attendance: 2,327 (546 away) ​​​​​​​