Rovers secured a place in the second round of the Emirates FA Cup after goals from James Coppinger and Rakish Bingham gave them a 2-0 victory against AFC Wimbledon at the Keepmoat Stadium.
In freezing temperatures, both sides took their time to get warmed up, but it was the visitors who had the early opportunity with Kwesi Appiah hitting the post from close range. Two second half goals set Rovers on their way and they could have had more with Ben Sheaf and Jon Taylor both seeing efforts cleared off the line.
Darren Moore made two changes to the side that drew ten days earlier at the Cherry Red Records Stadium. Reece James and Ben Whiteman came back into the starting XI in place of Danny Amos and Kieran Sadlier. Donervon Daniels – who missed the first match through injury – returned to the bench.
Dons manager Glyn Hodges also made two changes to his side that played in the first match. Ryan Delaney and Callum Reilly came into the starting XI in place of Shane McLoughlin and Paul Kalambayi.
The game got off to a slow start with Delaney’s off-target header after a succession of Wimbledon corners the only moment of note in the opening exchanges.
The main difference between the first match and the replay was the weather conditions. Cold but dry, the Keepmoat Stadium pitch allowed Rovers to pass the ball around and the home side showed early signs of that when a wonderful bit of play through the midfield eventually unleashed Taylor. His shot took a deflection en route making an easy stop for Nathan Trott.
Wimbledon retaliated immediately with dangerman Appiah testing Seny Dieng’s reactions from a tight angle.
Taylor did have the ball in the net just before the twentieth minute – the no.10 finishing off a devastating passing move by Rovers but Madger Gomes was ruled offside for his part in the build-up.
Rovers played themselves into some danger when a lack of communication between goalkeeper and defender meant Luke O’Neill’s cross wasn’t cleared properly, but referee Christopher Sargison spotted a foul in the box.
Joe Piggot tried his luck from distance after the visitors broke in numbers from Rovers first corner of the match, but the effort was straight at Dieng and he held it well.
Pinnock’s fantastic diagonal ball put Appiah through one-on-one but a heavy first touch meant Joe Wright was able to get back and block the shot at the expense of a corner. Pinnock was in the action again soon after, his low driven effort was off target.
Taylor went close. Quick one-touch passing allowed Rovers to break through a very resolute and organised Wimbledon defence but the no.10s shot was dragged wide.
Wimbledon then wasted a golden opportunity when a botched clearance found Appiah unmarked in the six-yard box but the Dons no.9 could only find the woodwork.
Rovers had the final say of the first half – a wonderful through ball by Sheaf found Coppinger who laid the ball off to Thomas. The striker connected well but the shot was straight at Trott.
No changes for either side at the break and the match resumed in a similar vein to the first half.
A skewed clearance by Terell Thomas unleashed his namesake Kwame. The Rovers striker held the ball up and brought Reece James into the play. James teed up Whiteman whose effort was blocked.
At the other end, Pinnock latched onto a bouncing ball just outside the Rovers box. He didn’t catch it cleanly enough to trouble Dieng but it was a warning of what the winger was capable of.
Wimbledon looked to have earned a wonderful opportunity when James conceded a free-kick in a dangerous position, however, Dieng punched the cross away and set Rovers off on a counterattack. Taylor’s ball through found Coppinger unmarked and being played onside by Terell Thomas.
Rovers no.26 was the calmest man on the pitch as he ran away from the Dons defenders, turned inside and chipped the ball over Nathan Trott.
The goal gave Rovers a lift and the passing that had struggled to produce shots in the first half was now providing chances. Sheaf tried to curl one from inside the box, but he couldn’t curl it enough to trouble the keeper.
Taylor forced Trott into a fantastic save down to his left. Coppinger had one blocked and Gomes’ follow-up was saved before a trademark Whiteman effort from distance took a nasty deflection off the back of Terell Thomas and almost dipped under the crossbar.
Dons had a few chances of their own - Reilly attempted to chip Dieng from the edge of his box but the 6”4 keeper wasn’t troubled. Pinnock unleashed two more efforts from distance – the first, stinging the palms of the Rovers keeper, the second fired wide. Piggot also hit the target with his curling effort but Dieng made the stop.
Rovers extended their lead with around 20 minutes to go. Substitute Rakish Bingham using his first touch of the ball to tap in from close range from Coppinger’s inch-perfect cross.
The home side could have made it three when fantastic link-up play between Taylor and Coppinger found Brad Halliday’s overlapping run.
The right-back got to the byline and cut a dangerous looking ball back across goal but it evaded everyone from both teams.
Taylor probably thought he had made it three when Sheaf laid the ball off to him. The Rovers no.10 struck it sweetly but watched it cleared agonisingly off the line by the head of Delaney.
Sheaf also had one cleared off the line. His powerful header into the ground bounced kindly for Appiah who was defending his post. Bingham was quickest to react to the loose ball but could only scoop it over the bar.