MATCH REPORT: Swindon 1 Doncaster Rovers 1

Swindon vs Doncaster - James Harper launched ball into the area
Swindon vs Doncaster - James Harper launched ball into the area

AS you would probably expect with Messrs Martin, Williams, Ferry and Collins in their side, Swindon Town were on song in their League One clash with Rovers.

With every one of Paolo Di Canio’s squad singing from the same song sheet, they created enough chances to have won several games and there was a lot of disappointment at having to share the spoils with Doncaster.

A combination of the woodwork, some solid defending and an inspired display by keeper Gary Woods, denied the Robins three points.

It takes many qualities throughout a season to win promotion, particularly automatic promotion, and second-placed Rovers displayed a couple which will be needed during the second half of the season if they are to stay the course.

On a day when their footballing skills failed to sparkle for long periods, they showed their battling qualities to thwart the Robins and stretch their unbeaten league run to five games.

None more so than striker Iain Hume and skipper Rob Jones.

The on-loan striker played the second half with a bandaged head after suffering a cut in a clash with Town defender Aden Flint just before half-time, and the inspirational Jones limped his way through the game for over an hour.

Although his running was clearly affected, Jones still played his part in the defence of a precious point during a second half reminiscent of the ‘battle of the Alamo’ at Prenton Park earlier this season.

On that occasion, Rovers snatched a last-gasp winner but that rarely looked liked happening against the Robins.

Rovers boss Dean Saunders had predicted the Robins would be ‘there or thereabouts’ at the end of the season in the build-up to the game, and what he witnessed during the 90 minutes will only have reinforced that opinion.

They are indeed a formidable team and not many sides in the division would have escaped a beating on the day.

But they aren’t the only talented side and the likes of Brentford and Bournemouth can also be added to the teams who have been up there for most of the season as strong threats to Rovers’ ambitions.

Saunders is certainly likely to need a couple of additions during the January transfer window if the Keepmoat stadium club are serious about wanting to go up, especially automatically.

Any worries that Di Canio might have had that his side might be a little ring rusty after a two-week lay-off were quickly dispelled as the Robins started to find space down the left.

Jones couldn’t prevent striker Andy Williams from crossing the ball from wide out for right winger Matt Ritchie to rifle it past keeper Gary Woods.

No sooner had the cheers died down, however, than Rovers were back on level terms.

Defender James Husband knocked a ball into the box from wide out on the left and, unfortunately for the home side, midfielder Danny Hollands turned it past keeper Wes Foderingham.

Such was the open nature of the game, particularly in the first half-hour or so, that you would have got long odds on it remaining 1-1.

Although by no means was it one-way traffic - former Barnsley man Hume shooting just wide on 24 minutes - the Robins had the better of the play with Williams, in particular, posing problems.

The home side also had the edge in midfield, where Rovers could have done with the likes of the injured David Syers, both in terms of creativity and sharpness.

Luck plays a huge part in the outcome of many games and that again proved to be the case on Saturday, with the crossbar twice denying Swindon what could have been a match-winning 3-1 interval lead.

Hollands went close to making amends for his own goal on 37 minutes, with striker Chris Martin suffering a similar fate minutes later.

Swindon, for whom wide men Raffaele De Vita and Ritchie proved a real handful, dominated the second half for long periods.

Only some heroic defending, with Jones, as usual, leading from the front, and some outstanding work in goal by Woods, saved the day.

Rovers offered little in return with the emphasis being on defending the point rather than trying to pick up all three as Saunders brought on defenders Shelton Martis and Andy Griffin and played them in front of the back-four.

The closest they came to a goal was from a free-kick by David Cotterill, who had little opportunity to run at the defence during the afternoon, which seemed to catch Foderingham off guard late on.