DONCASTER Rovers avoided equalling their club record for the number of games without a victory as new boss Dean Saunders got off to a winning start in Saturday’s home match against Crystal Palace.
The only goal of the game was scored by midfielder John Oster with a deflected 25 yarder midway through the second half to give Rovers their first league win since the start of March.
“I thought that we were poor in the first half,” said Saunders, who took over from the long-serving Sean O’Driscoll on Thursday night.
“It was more noticeable for me because I’d left a team (Wrexham) who were top of the league winning every week and who were confident and who all wanted the ball and then to come to a team two days later who are bottom of the league, who’ve got some really good players, but who were nervous, although it was understandable.
“We came in 0-0 at half-time, without having really created too much.
“We had a chat at half-time and I just said ‘relax, get the ball down and pass it to each other in the second’ and we did. We passed it a lot better.
“I think the fact that we had Billy Sharp sitting on the bench was a great help. Obviously he’s a great player and the fans love him.
“I think the players got a lift just with him being sat there with his kit and his boots on so that was my intention. He’s not fit (after being out injured) and I wasn’t going to bring him on if we were winning,
“But I just think having him on the bench changed the atmosphere when he stood up (to come on). He’s not played for a long time and he’s got a bit of work to do but he knows where to go to score a goal.
“I was just worried about him getting injured, having to do the work, especially when you are in a bit of a dogfight like we are.
“But he went on and made a nuisance of himself and I also thought that Milan (Lalkovic) did well when he came on, and it was no slight on Jon (Parkin) and Copps (James Coppinger) coming off,
“I just felt we were hitting too many long balls and sometimes that happens when you’ve got a big striker - especially when players are nervous; they just get rid of it.
“When big Jon came off we had to pass the ball a bit more and we did and we got a bit of luck.
“I think 9,000 people would happily have come into the dressing room at half-time and told John Oster to start shooting because he never shoots. How do you score a lucky goal if you don’t shoot and if you never get into an area where you can score?”
He added: “We’ve got another game on Tuesday (at home to Hull City) and I’ve got a couple of days where I can go over what we’ve done today. I might miss out the first half and go straight to the second.
“It gives me a bit of time to have a look at what we’ve got and I don’t have to be scrambling around like a lunatic trying to get loads of players in, I can have a look at what we’ve got and obviously winning stops the panic.
“I’m pleased for all the supporters because it means more to them than me because they’ve been here when we hadn’t won for 19 games and it must have been like agony.
“The most pleasing thing apart from the three points is that people were leaving the stadium smiling today.”
Asked what his immediate target was, Saunders replied: “To try and get to halfway and then start looking at the other way. We’ve got a bit of work to do and I’ll be looking at some of the things we did out there today. Obviously I just put the team together; we’d hardly worked on it.
“The back-four hadn’t played together in that formation, the midfield three probably hadn’t played together (this season) with Brian Stock being injured and the front three hadn’t played together, so I’ve got work to do with all of it and we can improve no end.”
Director of Football Mickey Walker was on the bench alongside Saunders.
“He’s an experienced man and he guided me in team selection and he guided me on the bench,”he said. “He’s been a big help to me; I would have been struggling today if I’d been on my own.”