Analysis: Doncaster Rovers 1 Tranmere Rovers 0

Doncaster Rovers v Tranmere Rovers'David Cotterrill gets away from his marker
Doncaster Rovers v Tranmere Rovers'David Cotterrill gets away from his marker

STANDING five feet three inches tall, Brian Flynn might have made a decent jockey had he not had such a fine footballing career.

On Saturday, Grand National day, Flynn’s thoroughbred Doncaster side outstayed early pacesetters Tranmere to move further clear of the chasing pack.

The finish line is in sight. Just four more hurdles remain. A place in the League One winner’s enclosure is now Rovers’ to lose.

With so much at stake, Doncaster looked anything but a side feeling the pressure as they produced another calm and composed display against a side clearly short on confidence.

Indeed, Flynn appears to have whipped his team into one saving its best football for the final few weeks of the season.

The second half ole’s of the Keepmoat Stadium crowd spoke volumes. Because just like Flynn had predicted a few weeks ago, Rovers are hitting their straps when it matters most.

In truth, against a hard-working but limited Tranmere outfit they hardly had to break their stride to secure another valuable three points.

In similar fashion to Swindon a few days earlier, Rovers were in control for the large part - with Rob Jones’ second half winner enough to secure a fourth win in six and leave a return to the Championship almost within touching grasp.

The omens for promotion look good.

The last time Doncaster won on the same day as the world’s most famous horse race was in 2004 -when Rovers went on to win the League Two title.

That season also saw Rovers claim top spot at the 32-game mark and stay at the summit for the remainder.

Chris Brown was a rangy, hard-running teenager back then, emerging as a key man in the quest for promotion.

History appears to be repeating itself.

With both Sheffield United and Brentford dropping points, another hard-earned victory took Rovers seven points clear of third placed Yeovil. The other teams involved at the top seem to lacking stamina in the race for promotion.

But, most significantly, Rovers are playing well themselves. They are fully in control of their destiny, and just at the right time they have found a way of controlling the opposition.

Confident and compact, they look like a side right on top of their game.

Through the spine of the team, from goal hero Jones to new boy Dean Furman and in-form frontman Brown, there is a desire to finish off the job. They do not look like faltering.

Following a tentative opening to the game, Rovers always seemed most likely to break the deadlock.

Tranmere’s best chance came moments before the break when Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro headed a dangerous Andy Robinson free kick inches wide.

But, that aside, the goal shy visitors rather huffed and puffed.

There was no way past a Doncaster backline who stood tall and strong. Andy Griffin was particularly impressive at full back, while Jamie McCombe continued his recent form with another commanding display.

Rovers again laid a foundation and gradually turned the screw.

Their goal, just after the hour mark, came somewhat out of the blue but only the staunchest Tranmere supporters would have argued that it was not deserved.

Doncaster had dictated the tempo of the game up till that point, and also displayed some neat and tidy passing on the Keepmoat’s treacherous surface.

They might have struggled to create any clear cut openings, restricted to mainly shots from distance as the game became quite scrappy at times, but they always looked more likely to get their noses in front.

And once they got the lead, they were not about to surrender it. One nil to the Doncaster, it has a very nice ring to it.

The decisive moment, like so many times this season, had something to do with David Cotterill.

His hanging left wing cross was headed down by McCombe and there was Jones, on hand in the right place at the right time to smash home a first time left foot finish into the roof of the net.

Usually calm and level-headed, Jones’ elaborate celebration revealed how close this Doncaster team is to achieving something very special.

They sat deeper as the clock ticked towards ninety and the visitors threw more bodies forward.

Griffin, who hardly put a foot wrong all afternoon, had to be alert to head a long throw away at the back post with Zoumana Bakayogo lurking.

But that was the closest that toothless Tranmere came to an equaliser.

After getting in front, and despite a slightly nervy finale, victory never really looked in doubt.

It could have been by a greater margin if substitute Billy Paynter had connected properly with another teasing Cotterill centre in the closing stages.

But that missed opportunity did not affect the outcome as economical Doncaster edged to another priceless victory and ever closer to their ultimate aim.

Heading into the final straight, Rovers are now odds-on for a return to the Championship.

But that favourites tag, rather than weighing them down, seems to be getting the best out of them. This Rovers team look like the real deal.