Donny nick it in Fergie time


Andy Williams

Doncaster Rovers came within three minutes of seeing two points slip through their fingers, after undoing their work in a dominant first half by letting visitors Barnet back in after the interval. Thankfully, in-form striker Andy Williams netted his seventh league goal of the season in stoppage time to secure a crucial 3-2 win for Darren Ferguson’s Donny.

The hosts were the more impressive side early on, Tommy Rowe pulling strings in midfield, but did not test the goalkeeper too much. At least seven of Barnet’s players were always in their defensive third, which meant their attacks lacked substance. They crowded the penalty area and hoped their opponents would not be able to find some quality outside it. With James Coppinger around, they should have known better, the evergreen midfielder unleashing a superb volley into the bottom corner.

It said little that Barnet’s best effort was a tame overhead kick from Jean-Louis Akpa-Akpro on 19 minutes after a long throw. The Frenchman is one of many strikers to have started alongside John Akinde this season and none have quite performed. Matty Blair caused problems for Bira Dembele and the former Mansfield winger cut in from the right, before tucking the ball into the far corner in a lovely team move. It was a first half of limited goalmouth action in which Doncaster were in control, without needing to attack too often.

One sensed Barnet’s physicality would make them a threat from set pieces, yet in the first half, they did not show enough pace or positivity in open play to get any free-kicks or corners. That changed early in the second half, as they won a succession of corners shortly after the restart.

Traces of complacency crept into Donny’s play. A lack of pace meant Barnet would not have been comfortable pressing high up the pitch, so Doncaster’s approach should have been to keep the ball and draw them into unnatural positions. Instead, they gave the ball away too cheaply and were too willing to concede throw-ins in their own half, which became the source of Barnet’s best attacks with Sam Muggleton’s delivery. Muggleton was quite static in open play, but his impressive long throws were the visitors’ main source of danger.

On 61 minutes, a Bondz N’Gala header came close but from the following corner, Dembele headed home unchallenged at the near post. Both centre-backs went forward for throw-ins and that created a few gaps at the back. Williams therefore had chances to put the game to bed, but he tried too hard at times and did not always use his teammates. It looked as though the ex-Swindon striker would be punished for profligacy when Barnet levelled. Maltese winger Luke Gambin was suspended for his national side’s game at Wembley that day, but he came off the bench to push Barnet towards an unlikely point late on, scrambling the ball home from close range.

However, Doncaster pressed and when five minutes of stoppages were announced, home fans chanted ‘Fergie time’. Their humour proved fitting when Williams atoned for his earlier misses by tapping home Blair’s cross, sparking jubilant scenes in the Polypine Stand.

Defeat might have been cruel on Barnet, but they would have been fortunate to escape with a point, physicality and long throws among their few strengths in evidence. Ferguson will have words with Doncaster’s defence and midfield about the way they let a limited Barnet side back into the game. However, victory keeps his side second and strengthens their position in the promotion race.