It was also 14 years ago that I was first exiled in Doncaster and this was the first time we had played at Belle Vue in that time. I could hardly contain myself with excitement, though as always it was all a bit of an anti-climax! On my previous visits I had got a great view on the Popular Side but today was in the windy open away terrace behind the goal where the view was not so great. A good turn out of Exiles in the Tut N'Shive due to the "new ground syndrome" and with all lunches at £1.95 it was a cheap start to the 2005 away tour calendar.
On arrival we were greeted with an over-exuberant announcer attempting to enliven the crowd. "A bit of a poor effort" was his description on the away fans songs but the whole place was extremely quiet until well into the second half. This was really a match too far, particularly for Donny who had played 4 in 8 days. Both teams looked jaded and there was no zip about the football.
That said we played some good stuff in the first half and should have gone in more than one up. If we had, I don't think Rovers would have got back in it and so it is a tad annoying to only come away with a point. Apart from a Wade Elliott effort which went just wide, the opening 10 minutes were dreadful as neither team got going in the blustery conditions. On 12 minutes though we scored what looked a fair goal as Elliott pounced on a Stock free kick which the stand-in keeper Jones only parried straight to him. The linesman gave offside but to me when the ball was kicked by Stock, Elliott was in front of the wall and the rebound came off their keeper! This was one of a few decisions which seemed to go against us on the day.
My notes then go blank until the 25th minute as the game became an untidy mess. Donny had a fair bit of possession but could not create anything clear cut with Cummings and Maher tackling strongly. Elliott then had a couple more efforts as we started to boss things and play a bit of football. Neil Young almost scored with a belter from way out which the keeper turned away well.
We then took a deserved lead on the stroke of half time when Spicer got in behind his marker to head in a superb Elliott cross. Before the game I would have settled for a point but at this stage I was very confident we could win it. I just couldn't see Donny getting back into it as they looked so shattered. They were also missing their key left-sided partnership of McIndoe and Ryan.
Spicer looked up for it at the start of the second half and crossed to Fletch who headed just wide. Rovers then woke up for a bit and the impressive Green shot just over after a bad Moss kick and Fletch then made a good clearance from a corner. This spell only lasted 10 minutes or so as we got back on top with Browning superb in midfield linking up well with Spicer. O'Connor was also all over the place though he faded towards the end.
With about 25 minutes to go, however, it all went pear shaped for us as Rovers really upped the pressure and started finding dangerous positions. The equaliser came on 69 minutes as Rovers were awarded a disputed free kick on the edge of the area which Mulligan swung in for Green to head in at the far post. Moss seemed to get to it but could only help it over the line-though it didn't reach the back of the net.
For a moment I thought the linesman may not give it but we are not Man Utd. so no such luck!
After this we didn't help ourselves by going down to 10 when Stock was given a straight red for a two footed challenge on Doolan. No arguments on that one and an entertaining brawl followed.
Browning then produced a great block from Johnson and McSporran shot just wide as we were hanging on a bit. Moss saved a point blank shot and Maher got in a great challenge in the box when I was convinced he would hack the man down for a pen. Credit to the home team as they really put us under the cosh at the end though in fact we could have nicked it when sub Rodrigues had a half chance and we forced 3 quick corners. A draw was a fair result though overall.
A word for one of our fans who at one point collected a wayward shot and instead of giving it back turned 180 degrees and wellied it into the Asda car park. A top kick but a bit uncalled for and about 15 minutes later no less than 10 stewards arrived to eject him. Wade Elliott though was not ejected for virtually the same offence just after. One rule for one..
A toss up between Maher and Browning but Maher just gets it for looking so calm during the last 15 minutes.
AFCB: Moss, Cummings, Maher, Broadhurst, Young, O'Connor, Stock, Browning, Elliott, Fletcher, Spicer
Subs: Stewart, Holmes (on for O'Connor, 90), Connell, Rodrigues (on for Fletcher, 86)
David Priddis - Doncaster!