How Harrogate Town spoiled Grant McCann’s homecoming party at Doncaster Rovers

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Grant McCann’s second spell in charge of Doncaster Rovers ended in defeat as his side were beaten 1-0 at home to Harrogate Town.

Jack Muldoon's second-half penalty was enough to spoil McCann’s homecoming party at the Eco-Power Stadium on the opening day of the 2023/24 season on Saturday afternoon.

Rovers goalkeeper Ian Lawlor was voted man of the match on his second debut for the club, with his opposite number Mark Oxley enjoying a relatively quiet afternoon.

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McCann fielded nine debutants but his new-look side failed to click on the day.

Harrogate Town's Jack Muldoon scores a penalty past Doncaster Rovers' Ian Lawlor.Harrogate Town's Jack Muldoon scores a penalty past Doncaster Rovers' Ian Lawlor.
Harrogate Town's Jack Muldoon scores a penalty past Doncaster Rovers' Ian Lawlor.

They rallied after the goal and a triple substitution swung the momentum in their favour, but a breakthrough proved elusive.

With so much focus on the new-look hosts it was easy to forget their opponents were here to play their part in a competitive clash - even without star striker Luke Armstrong, who made himself unavailable for selection before kick-off amid numerous bids for his services - and Simon Weaver's side shaded a fairly quiet first half.

Muldoon and Dean Cornelius both drew smart saves from Lawlor with the hosts' best chance falling to Luke Molyneux, who should have done better when Rod McDonald's poor headed clearance landed fortuitously for him for a one-on-one chance.

But the winger couldn't keep his effort on target.

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Doncaster should have taken the lead with 51 minutes played when Jon Taylor saw his close-range effort cleared off the line by Matty Foulds after taking too long to pick his spot.

Fifteen minutes later they were punished from the penalty spot after Joseph Olowu brought down Abraham Odoh, with Muldoon burying the ball underneath Lawlor.

Rovers responded positively following the goal and the introduction of Deji Sotona, Tyler Roberts and George Miller saw them begin to turn the screw, albeit with time running out.

They must have thought they'd equalised in the 75th minute, only for Oxley to tip Owen Bailey's close-range header wide at full stretch.

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Not long after Lawlor was on hand to save from Matty Daly after he found space in the box.

Sotona used his pace to great effect to get past several Harrogate players in one of several eye-catching runs.

On this occasion he cut into the box, but his effort at goal was blocked when a pass to a teammate might have been the better option.

George Broadbent almost cost his side a goal late on when a careless pass landed at the feet of Odoh, who drew Lawlor into another smart stop.

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Fourteen minutes of added time drew one of the biggest cheers of the afternoon but still Harrogate held firm.

Rovers demanded a penalty after Tyler Roberts hit the deck under a challenge from Toby Sims deep in injury time, but the referee waved play on.

After keeping his side in the game, the impressive Lawlor came forward for a corner kick in the dying moments but couldn’t quite connect with the delivery as Doncaster opened the new season with defeat.

They have the chance to bounce back when they face Hull City in the Carabao Cup first round on Tuesday.