Blues were left frustrated as a late Doncaster equaliser forced them to settle for a share of the spoils at St. Andrew’s this evening.
The home side made an encouraging start to the match and deservedly went ahead just before the half-hour mark courtesy of Lee Novak’s fourth goal of the season. But the visitors came more into the game after the break and sub David Cotterill earned his side a point with a blistering shot from distance on 78 minutes. Blues pushed hard for a winner in the latter stages but it just wasn’t to be and the wait for back-to-back wins in the league continues.
Clark made just one change from the side that beat Barnsley at the weekend with Aaron Mclean handed his first start for the club in place of Shane Ferguson, the Blues boss opting to go with a 4-4-2 formation. The on-loan Hull City produced a delightful lay-off from a driven Dan Burn clearance to put Blues on an early attack and set the tone for a determined attacking opening from the hosts. Only a last-ditch Luke McCullough tackle denied Tom Adeyemi a clear run on goal as Blues continued in a positive vein.
Thirteen minutes on the clock saw the first scoring chance of note as Paul Caddis was obstructed to win his side a free-kick wide on the right, which was delivered with pace by Jesse Lingard. Burn rose highest to meet the out-swinging cross but saw his header deflected over the bar for a corner that came to nothing.
The visitors came more in the game as the game reached its quarter mark. A smart corner-kick routine set up Rovers captain Richie Wellens with a shooting chance from six yards but in a crowded penalty area the ball was diverted wide. It was the turn of Paul Dickov’s side to enjoy a purple patch and James Coppinger crashed in a half-volley but again Blues got bodies in the way to block the way to goal.
The action then swung to the opposite end as Novak played a neat one-two with Nikola Zigic before spotting Ross Turnbull off his line. The striker’s audacious 30-yard lob had the visiting keeper frantically backtracking but Turnbull was able to get his fingertips to the ball to send it over the bar. Moments later Mclean was sent clear inside the area but the loanee’s low shot was kept out by the feet of Turnbull.
Blues’ persistence finally told with the opening goal on 29 minutes as Novak applied the perfect finish to a quick counter-attacking move which began on the edge of the hosts’ penalty area. Burn was under pressure but pulled off a delightful dummy to tee up Mitch Hancox who then embarked on a barnstorming run from well inside his own half. The left-back advanced 40-plus yards before pinging a terrific ball to an unmarked Novak at the far post. The striker did justice to the build-up play by unleashing an unstoppable shot past Turnbull.
Rovers rallied and Blues were indebted to the fingertips of goalkeeper Darren Randolph for diverting Mark Duffy’s fizzing 20-yard shot over the bar. An exciting first-half almost had its second goal when Novak’s overhead-kick set up Zigic with a golden chance to score from six yards. The Serbian’s header drifted well wide however, although the forward’s blushes were saved by the assistant’s offside flag. Goal-scorer Novak’s confidence was sky high and the former Huddersfield man wasn’t far away with a 20-yard pot-shot from distance as the first-half drew to a close.
There was little goalmouth action of note during the first 15 minutes of the second-half until the visitors created their best chance of the match so far. Federico Macheda burst through on goal but Randolph was quickly off his line and denied the Italian, pulling off an excellent block with his legs. Danger-man Macheda was presented with another opportunity from Coppinger’s cross but sent his header wide of the far post.
Blues were struggled to get out of their own half as Rovers continued to press in search of an equaliser. Callum Reilly got in the way of a goal-bound Dean Furman effort and cleared the danger as the hosts held their nerve. Clark decided it was time for a change on 70 minutes and introduced Chris Burke from the bench to replace Mclean.
However, the visitors finally reaped their rewards with 12 minutes left on the clock as a 30-yard screamer from Cotterill left St. Andrew’s reeling. There looked to be little danger when the Rovers midfielder picked up the ball but he advanced a few yards before unleashing a ferocious drive that beat Randolph all ends up.
Blues mounted a response with Lingard’s jinking run almost setting up Adeyemi with a chance but the ball was just too high for the midfielder to reach. The attack continued though as Hancox lifted his cross to the far post and Zigic’s downward header was easily claimed by Turnbull.
Clark brought on Wade Elliott and the substitute tried to unlock the visitors’ defence with a pass which was intercepted and Doncaster broke quickly. Macheda skipped away from Paul Robinson and took the ball to the edge of the area before teeing up fellow striker Billy Paynter but, fortunately for the hosts, his shot veered well over the bar
A fast-flowing move from Blues saw Novak head the ball down for Adeyemi inside the area but just as the midfielder prepared to shoot McCullough was there again to take it off his toes. Doncaster were camped inside their own half during five minutes of injury-time but the home side just couldn’t prize open a stubborn visiting defence.
Blues’ point is enough to lift them up two places to 17th but victories for bottom-three sides Barnsley, Sheffield Wednesday and Yeovil has made the lower reaches of the table even more congested. Clark’s men get a chance to relieve the pressure and chalk up a first home win since early October when they take on Middlesbrough back here at St. Andrew’s on Saturday.