Doncaster Rovers: Another mixed bag in final friendly

Bongani Khumalo climbs highest for Rovers in the win at Bradford City
Bongani Khumalo climbs highest for Rovers in the win at Bradford City

A pre-season programme which Rovers concluded unbeaten could be summed up with one well-worn cliche - a game of two halves.

In the 2-1 win at Bradford on Saturday, as in each of the four previous public matches, Rovers looked very impressive in one half and more than a little lacklustre in the other.

Rovers’ two goals at Valley Parade managed to reflect the two halves perfectly. Neat, short passing brought David Cotterill’s 24th minute opener while Kyle Bennett’s late winner - after Garry Thompson’s leveller - came from a scrappy passage of play.

Paul Dickov has regularly cut a frustrated figure this summer as he has seen good work undone by justifiable experimental changes of personnel and systems.

But seeing how threatening a preferred 4-2-3-1 formation was in the first half will have filled him with plenty of confidence heading into the new season.

The Rovers squad is far from the finished article but the attacking prowess it already contains is impressive, most clear to see in the three behind the lone striker.

Cotterill, James Coppinger and impressive new addition Mark Duffy regularly interchanged positions, combining with neat passing to see Rovers command possession for much of the first half. It did not take a great deal of trickery for Rovers to open the scoring midway through the half.

Cotterill exchanged passes with Duffy after a short corner and had plenty of space to work with as he curled home his shot on the angle.

Richie Wellens made his Rovers return in his first game of the summer with the lack of playing time showing as he made uncharacteristic errors.

Bradford’s front two provided a stern test for the Rovers defence, with Nahki Wells causing problems with his pace while powerhouse James Hanson demonstrated physicality to rival Rob Jones.

Neither could take full advantage of chances they forged with Hanson failing to turn headers on target while Wells could only fire straight at Jon Maxted when in space.

As promised prior to the game, Dickov changed things around at the break, switching to a 4-4-2 with Billy Paynter joining Chris Brown up front. Rovers lost most of their flow at this point, losing possession cheaply and allowing the hosts to establish a foothold in the game.

Thompson capitalised on hesitancy between Maxted and Tommy Spurr to chase down the goalkeeper’s long kick and deflect the ball into the net for a 55th minute equaliser.

Dickov sent on Paul Keegan to switch back to 4-2-3-1 and the chances came once again. But the winner would come six minutes from time. Cotterill squared to Coppinger on the edge of the area and his first time shot took a wicked deflection off Bennett’s head to flash past Jon McLaughlin.

Bradford: McLaughlin, Darby, McArdle, Davies (Nelson), Meredith (Ravenhill), Thompson, Doyle, Jones (Kennedy), Yeates (Reid), Hanson (Swain), Wells (Connell). Sub: Bentley.

Rovers: Maxted, Quinn, Khumalo, Jones, Spurr, Furman, Wellens (Paynter), Cotterill, Coppinger (Husband), Duffy (Bennett), Brown, (Keegan). Subs: Adam, Harper, McCullough.