Match report: Cleethorpes Town 2 Doncaster Rovers 4

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BOSS Dean Saunders was among the scorers as Rovers opened their pre-season programme with victory at Cleethorpes Town.

Saunders replaced the injured James Husband late on and made his mark on proceedings by slotting home Jordan Ball’s neat cut back.

Ball scored twice himself, once from the spot and another after a smart run into the box as Rovers turned the screw in the second half.

Chris Brown prodded home before the break to give Rovers the lead while two soft late goals for the hosts ensured a final score which suggested a far closer contest.

Saunders’ presence on the field – along with that of assistant Brian Carey who was named on the bench and introduced midway through the second half – highlighted the threadbare nature of the Rovers squad.

While the first half saw a relatively strong Rovers side with David Cotterill and David Syers making their first appearances in the red and white, Saunders was forced to name youth team graduate Jake McCormick out of position at right back.

Missing were James O’Connor (migraine), James Coppinger (virus), Shelton Martis (calf) Tommy Spurr and Robbie Blake (both thigh).

Triallist Amari Morgan Smith – who spent the last two seasons with Luton Town - started up front alongside Brown who had the first chance, meeting Cotterill’s cross with a diving header but flicking the ball wide of the far post.

Kyle Bennett, handed a free role by Saunders, failed to cap a surging run from the left as he scuffed the ball wide from the edge of the box.

But on eight minutes, Brown opened the scoring.

Cleethorpes keeper Miles Fenty fumbled McCormick’s drilled cross under pressure from Bennett and Brown was on hand to slide the ball in at the far post.

Any question of a Rovers rout was thwarted by the game hosts – newly promoted to the Northern Counties East League – who caused a few problems with neat passing around the Rovers box.

Syers showed a desire to get forward from his central midfield role and crafted a couple of decent chances for himself, volleying wide from the edge of the area and heading Cotterill’s deep cros s into the side netting.

Saunders, as expected, rang in the changes after the break.

Jonathan Maxted replaced Gary Woods in goal in front of an unchanged back four with James Baxendale, Martin Woods, Paul Keegan and Paddy Mullen forming the midfielder.

Jordan Ball was joined in attack by triallist Greg McDermott, son of Liverpool legend Terry.

It took just three minutes of the second half for Rovers to double their lead.

Fenty saved superbly from McDermott’s header but the ball was handled by a Cleethorpes defender from the rebound and Ball confidently slammed home the spot kick.

Cleethorpes were forced to make a temporary change by the referee with one of their players asked to leave for foul and abusive language while the late dismissal of a burly full back for an off the ball incident just soured what should have been a memorable day for the club for all the right reasons.

The eyebrow-raising introduction of Saunders added an element of excitement to a game which had petered out with the hosts tiring.

His first contribution was an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to lob the Cleethorpes keeper from the half way line.

But he was far more lethal in the dying moments as he timed his run to perfection to meet Ball’s cut back and side foot into the bottom corner.

This sparked a frantic late period with Ball scoring again.

A great ball from Wakefield sent Baxendale on the right and his perfectly weighted pass found Ball who clipped first time over Fenty.

Then came two poor goals for the hosts, the first in comical fashion.

McCormick attempted to head the ball back to Maxted but it struck the post, hit the keeper and trickled over the line.

Then, slow reactions from the Rovers defence saw Darren Hanslip beat Carey to the ball and stab past Maxted in the final act of the game.

Team: First half: Gary Woods, Jake McCormick, Liam Wakefield, George Friend, James Husband, David Cotterill, Brian Stock, David Syers, Kyle Bennett, Amari Morgan Smith, Chris Brown

Second half: Jonathan Maxted, Jake McCormick, Liam Wakefield, George Friend (Brian Carey), James Husband (Dean Saunders), James Baxendale, Martin Woods, Paul Keegan, Paddy Mullen, Greg McDermott, Jordan Ball.