Jonathan Mitchell was the hero as Doncaster Rovers defeated Lincoln City to lift themselves off the bottom of the League One table


Doncaster Rovers continued to offer hope to their supporters that League One survival is possible as they defeated Lincoln City at LNER Stadium.

A spirited Rovers performance was encapsulated by goalkeeper Jonathan Mitchell, who kept the scores level at half-time after pulling off a string of crucial saves.

It was a shaky start from the former Hartlepool United man as he made of mess of Liam Cullen’s deflected cross in the sixth minute. Almost punching the ball back into his own net, the Rovers shot-stopper looked a relieved man as the ball bounced wide of the post.

However, he soon made amends for the error as he pushed Morgan Whittaker’s effort to safety after some good approach play by Brooke Norton-Cuffy who fed the Swansea City loanee on the edge of the Rovers box.

On 20 minutes, Mitchell made an even better save to keep the scores level. As Cullen found some room inside the penalty area, his left-footed shot was tipped over at full stretch.

Soon after, the 27-year-old was called into action twice in succession as Lincoln piled on the pressure, in search of the opening goal. Cullen had another effort tipped over, and from the resulting corner, Mitchell twice denied Conor McGrandles and Joe Walsh from close range.

As Doncaster struggled to keep hold of the ball and offered no outlet up top, the pressure continued to mount. Mitchell had to make another excellent save at close range as Chris Maguire slipped John Marquis in on goal, but the former Rovers striker was denied by some brave goalkeeping once more.

Norton-Cuffy was again Lincoln’s standout player as he showed more glimpses of his ability at right-back. He set the tempo in the opening half with his keen and powerful running.

He was unfortunate not to grab an assist just before the break as he skipped past a couple of challenges before squaring the ball back to Maguire on the penalty spot.

Unmarked but off-balance, the Scot blazed his first-time effort over the bar when he perhaps had time to take a touch before composing himself to register a shot on target.

Having gone into the break without conceding, Rovers continued to frustrate the home side. Lincoln’s second half showing very much typified their season, a Jekyll and Hyde performance.

Norton-Cuffy came close to scoring a screamer from 25 yards which just whistled past the post, but other than that, the Imps barely threatened the visitors’ goal.

A break in play following a medical emergency in the stands meant the players temporarily left the pitch before restarting 15 minutes later.

Doncaster, who had come back into the game before the halt in proceedings, got the opportunity they were looking for on 73 minutes.

As the Rovers picked up Josh Griffiths’ uncertain kick out from goal, the following passage of play saw Matt Smith pick out Tommy Rowe inside the box.

The midfielder took a touch before hitting a shot at goal, which was adjudged to have struck Walsh on the arm by referee Ben Speedie.

Dan Garner stepped up to smash the penalty past Griffiths, driving the ball high into the roof of the net to send the travelling 1,000 supporters behind the goal into raptures.

Lincoln’s night was further compounded after Walsh was sent off for a second bookable card offence in the dying minutes. The defender caught Garner late in the Rovers penalty box as a Lincoln attack fizzled.

Adding insult to injury, the returning Walsh will now miss the Imps’ next three games through suspension.

At full-time, Rovers boss Gary McSheffrey was delighted with the win and his goalkeeper for keeping a clean sheet following a heavy defeat to Rotherham United the previous weekend.

“He’ll be delighted. He made a couple of good saves although I’m not sure about his punch first off as the ball just went past the post but his kicking was good and his decision making was good in possession. There are no risks to his play and he deserves it [clean sheet].”

Asked about his side’s chances of survival, McSheffrey was calm in his assessment that there is still a lot of football to be played. Rovers have come through a challenging month with a decent points tally to keep them active in their battle for survival despite recent defeats.

“I said to the boys, we’ve got seven six-pointers left tonight before kick-off and we need to commit to this one. This was one of them, they’re at the top of the charts in terms of the six-pointers so don’t let them get further away.

‘There’s always a surprise package that drops late on and we’ve had a tough end of January and February. Some of the teams around us have got that to come. We’ve taken nine points out of seven games against really tough opposition. So putting things into perspective, would you take that? You would. Thank you.”

Imps boss Michael Appleton was again reflecting on another disappointing evening in the home dugout, but now was not the time to be lambasting players with Lincoln at risk of being dragged back into the relegation scrap themselves.

“I’m disappointed and a little bit angry and frustrated – the players know that. These are the moments where sometimes in the dressing room you’ve got to keep your cool because all sorts of things could have gone off.

“When I watch the game back I think the dominance we had in the game will calm me down a bit and then, hopefully, come Thursday the players can clear their minds and get it out of their system because the games are coming far too quickly and far too fast to dwell on them for too long.”

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