Report: Bradford City 2 Doncaster Rovers 3

Ben Whitehead and teammates celebrate Rovers' match-winning goal in front of the visiting fans.
Ben Whitehead and teammates celebrate Rovers' match-winning goal in front of the visiting fans.

As markers go, this was not a bad one at all for Doncaster Rovers.

An early season tie against one of League One’s top sides - albeit one which played for half an hour with ten men - was a particularly useful exercise, even if the merits of the Carabao Cup will continue to be debated.

The fact they came away from the game with a win and a place in the second round, where plenty of Premier League big boys enter, was an added bonus.

And that it played out as a breathless contest added the wrapping onto a gift of a cup tie.

Ben Whiteman grabbed his first goal for the club to win a topsy-turvy clash with two minutes left to play, condemning Bradford to their first home defeat in 19 games.

Bradford had twice fought back to level the match through Dominic Poleon and substitute Alex Jones with Rovers taking the lead with goals from the lively Alfie May and Rodney Kongolo, on his full debut.

The hosts at Valley Parade had fought valiantly with ten men after skipper Romain Vincelot was sent off for a late challenge on May.

It may not be where the main business of the season will be done but Rovers delivered enough positives to suggest there will be more highs than lows in the campaign to come.

Building on Saturday’s impressive opening day showing against Gillingham, Rovers took the game to a side that reached the League One play-off final last term.

They were high energy, confident and combative against a Bradford outfit in a very similar mold.

Darren Ferguson made three changes, handing Manchester City loanee Kongolo his full debut with May and Tyler Garratt also coming into the side for Liam Mandeville, James Coppinger and Matty Blair.

Rovers took the lead just eight minutes in.

John Marquis latched onto a pass into the area but was tackled as he lined up to shoot, sending the ball on goal where Colin Doyle was forced to save which allowed May to lash into an open goal.

Rovers were firmly in the driving seat and could easily have extended their lead through May or Marquis, who both forced good saves from Doyle.

Bradford grew into the game and threatened an equaliser from Jake Reeves and Timothee Dieng.

And they did draw level on 35 minutes courtesy of a superb individual effort from Poleon. He collected a loose ball on the right and powered past Andrew before lashing an unstoppable effort past Lawlor from a tight angle.

Bradford were in the ascendancy and could have gone ahead before the break through Daniel Pybus.

There was very little between the sides in the early stages of the second half.

That was until Bradford suffered a significant blow on the hour when Vincelot saw red. May beat him to a ball on the touchline and the Bantams skipper jumped into the challenge.

Tommy Rowe should have put Rovers ahead on the break. Fed in by the advancing Kongolo, he delayed his shot and was smothered by Doyle.

But they made the numbers game count on 72 minutes. Andrew sent a wonderful low ball into the box which rolled through to Kongolo. The Manchester City loanee saw his first shot saved but reacted quickest to slam in the rebound.

The game looked destined for extra time when Bradford equalised with a fortunate effort with six minutes to go. Pybus’ long range effort was blocked only for the ball to fall kindly for Jones who hooked a good effort beyond Lawlor.

But there was still time for more drama. A corner was cleared out only as far as Whiteman who smacked a brilliant strike from the edge of the box into the far corner.

It was the sort of finish a match of such entertainment deserved.

Bradford: Doyle, Reeves, Vincelot, Dieng, Poleon, Field (Taylor 76), Gilliead (Kilgallon 64), Pybus, Knight-Percival, McMahon, Patrick (Jones 78). Subs not used: Sattelmaier, Law, Devine, Hudson.

Rovers: Lawlor, Mason, Wright, Butler, Andrew, Garratt (Beestin 67), Kongolo (Alcock 79), Whiteman, Rowe, Marquis, May. Subs not used: Marosi, Longbottom, Fielding, Fletcher, Prior.

Referee: Darren Drysdale (Lincolnshire)

Attendance: 3,175 (388 away)