Rovers fell to defeat against Huddersfield Town with goals from Rajiv van La Parra and Juninho Bacuna securing a 2-0 victory for the visitors in the first home pre-season friendly of 2019.
Rovers faced their toughest test of pre-season when they welcomed the ex-Premier League side to the Keepmoat Stadium and with the UK in the middle of a heatwave the conditions difficult for both teams.
The Terriers showed their class early with Aaron Rowe’s inviting cross from the right-hand side only narrowly missing Colin Quaner’s outstretched leg. Rovers responded with a few chances of their own. Kieran Sadlier’s shot from outside the box sailed way over Kamil Grabara’s goal and some smart recovery play by Juninho Bacuna was required to prevent James Coppinger from capitalising on a John Marquis flick on.
Despite the heat and the humid conditions, Marquis appeared to be everywhere. He held up the ball, danced around two Terriers defenders before picking out a cross-field pass to Reece James. James whipped in the cross and of course it was Marquis who came closest to heading it in. At the other end, a big block from Tom Anderson was required to prevent Colin Quaner from close range.
The Terriers turned up the pressure winning two quick corners. A shot from Rowe required a good stop from Ian Lawlor before Marquis got in the way of two Reece Brown strikes.
Huddersfield captain Elias Kachunga was next to try his luck, his right footed shot on the spin whistled past the post. Ben Sheaf responded with a similar effort. He reacted quickest to a loose ball in the Huddersfield box, but his shot was straight at Grabara.
The first goal of the game came just before the half-hour mark. Rajiv van La Parra’s effort from 25-yards curled beautifully into the far corner beyond an outstretched Lawlor. Rovers responded well with two chances, both falling to Marquis.
The no.9s first-time effort from a Sadlier cross was blocked and his low driven attempt from a free-kick was dealt with well by Grabara. Grabara was called upon against when Coppinger’s strike from the edge of the box looked destined for the top corner but the left-hand of the out-stretched ‘keeper tipped the shot around the post.
Half-time came and neither team made any changes as they headed back onto the pitch. The sun had finally dipped below the stadium so the conditions we much cooler.
Huddersfield doubled their lead almost straight after the restart with Bacuna volleying-in from a free-kick to the back post.
Sadlier fired an effort from a narrow angle after Sheaf was taken out near the corner flag. The Irish youth international tried to catch the ‘keeper out at his near post but Grabara was alert.
Shortly after referee Darren England saw fit to book Joe Wright for his reaction after conceding a foul, the defender received his second yellow just two minutes later for a late challenge on van La Parra. Manager Darren Moore was forced to shift the formation with Sheaf dropping into the centre-back role alongside Anderson. A substitution soon followed – Will Longbottom replaced Coppinger.
Huddersfield Town already provided what was likely to be the toughest test of pre-season but after an hour in the hot conditions and now down to ten-men, the uphill battle was something akin to an up-mountain battle. Rovers struggled to really get control of the ball – instead relying on discipline and shape to thwart the opposition. Rovers were able to create a few more chances - Sadlier almost capitalised from the melee created by a Rovers corner was only able to force the shot wide, and later his thunderbolt effort almost knocked Jon Gorence-Stankovic off balance.
Rovers best chance of the night came just ten minutes from the end. Madger Gomes probably should have done better with his volley from just inside the six-yard box but Grabara was in the way as he had been all evening.