York City 1 Doncaster Rovers 2: Victory overshadowed by another injury

Luke McCullough limped off against York - giving boss Darren Ferguson yet another injury headache
Luke McCullough limped off against York - giving boss Darren Ferguson yet another injury headache

Just when you thought the injury situation could not get any worse at Doncaster Rovers.

After the horror show of losing four players against Newcastle United last week, Rovers saw another hobble off just 16 minutes into their win at York City.

Luke McCullough - handed his first minutes of the summer following Euro 2016 duty with Northern Ireland - became the latest victim of a cursed pre-season.

The 22-year-old twisted awkwardly as he attempted to track the pacy Aidan Connolly and limped off, becoming the eighth senior player to be sidelined just a day after signing a new three-year deal.

It was a blow that clearly affected Darren Ferguson’s side, who must now have real concerns about what state the squad is going to be in come the start of the season, now just ten days away.

Rovers were given a decent test by an impressive York side who looked to have recovered well from relegation from the Football League. It was the sort of examination they are likely to face on a regular basis in League Two this term.

Clinical finishing proved to be the difference between the sides with strikes from Tommy Rowe and Matty Blair earning the win for Rovers. Scott Fenwick had equalised for York around the half hour mark.

Ferguson - whose side was watched on from the directors’ box at Bootham Crescent by father Sir Alex - would have been relatively pleased with the start Rovers made.

They were deployed in a 4-4-2 diamond system with McCullough at the base and Tommy Rowe at the tip. Signs of the injury crisis were present in a back four which had Blair at right back and Mitchell Lund at centre half.

Though more makeshift than many would like, Rovers started well, looking to move the ball quickly and with a decent rhythm about them.

But the crisp, short passing play went missing after McCullough was forced off and replaced by trialist Blair Yule, who impressed off the bench against Newcastle United the previous week.

An eye-catching move did bring the first goal however with 21 minutes gone.

John Marquis was played in on the corner of the box and squared to Andy Williams who then back-heeled the ball into space for Rowe to slot home low past Scott Flinders.

The quality of Rovers’ play declined considerably after their opening goal. Passing was sloppy and punished regularly by a York side intent on playing on the counter.

Rovers were particularly exploited in wide areas and York consistently found space behind the back line but failed to truly test Ross Etheridge.

It was a scrappy effort with which they found the equaliser on 32 minutes. From a free kick, the ball looped high off the head of Marquis and Etheridge failed to claim under considerable pressure, allowing Fenwick to poke home from close range.

Rovers came out strongly for the second period and forced York deep into their own half with their best spell of play of the game. Yule settled more into his role and the passes began to flow again.

Balls came into the box with regularity but they found it difficult to work space with so many York players back.

It took something special to find a way through and Blair did just that against his former climb.

James Coppinger nodded down to Blair, 25 yards out, who lashed home a superb volley into the far corner.

The game petered out somewhat as the half wore on, though there was a surprising moment of needle between Marquis and Joshua Robinson, who went down claiming he had been headbutted. Referee John Brooks flashed a yellow card Marquis’ way.

Williams came closest to adding a third for Rovers with a first time shot from the edge of the box which was palmed away well by Scott Flinders in the York goal.

A positive performance and a win but it will be difficult to shake the disappointment of another injury to another key man.

York: Flinders, Clappison (Nti 60), Robinson, Higgins, Rooney, Heslop, Kamdjo, Klukowski, Whittle, Connolly, Fenwick. Subs not used: Simpson, Walton, Kennedy, Wardle, Felix, Thompson, Clarke.

Rovers: Etheridge; Lund, Butler (Fielding 63), Garratt; Coppinger, Rowe, McCullough (Trialist 16), Calder (Evina 74), Blair; Marquis (Mandeville 70), Williams. Subs not used: Marosi, Pugh, Longbottom.

Referee: John Brooks (Leicestershire)

Attendance: 834 (189)