Signs are positive as Dunn stops the bleeding
Reporter: Simon Smedley
Date published: 21 September 2015
Photo: Pictures by ALAN HOWARTH
HIGH FLIER: Timothee Dieng leaps above the Doncaster defence to power a header towards goal.
Doncaster 1, Athletic 1
IT was as far removed from spectacular as you could probably get, but Athletic's performance in David Dunn's first match in interim charge showed plenty of encouraging signs.
A fixture contested by two confidence-sapped sides who both ended up in the Sky Bet League One drop zone by 5pm was pretty poor, but from Athletic's point of view an away point is nothing to be sniffed at as the road to recovery from a difficult, short reign of Darren Kelly begins.
Athletic huffed and puffed for the most part as Dunn watched from the sidelines, cajoling and clapping as his players paraded total commitment from the first minute to the last.
But there was still a distinct cutting edge missing going forward, something Dunn is clearly keen to turn his attention to this week.
Dominic Poleon looked lively up front on his own without truly testing Rovers 'keeper Thorsten Stuckmann, but he, like the normally more dynamic Danny Philliskirk and Carl Winchester, looks to be in need of a shot of confidence.
There were, genuinely, good signs at the Keepmoat Stadium. The back line looked much more organised and in Jonathan Burn, they had a warrior supreme who also added a goal to his blood and thunder display.
There was also graft and determination in midfield, with Mike Jones once again playing a tigerish role and Mark Yeates looking dangerous at dead-ball situations.
Excitement and a cert for the play-offs? Maybe not, but Athletic under Dunn will offer renewed hope to the long-suffering Athletic fans if this maiden effort under his charge is anything to go by.
The new boss resisted any temptation to play as his name was among six changes to the 11 that started the awful Peterborough game.
The alterations began with the last line of defence, as David Cornell stepped in to replace youngster Joel Coleman. Joseph Mills was out injured so Timothee Dieng filled his shoes, while Burn replaced Eoghan O'Connell at the heart of the back four.
Jones slotted back into the middle to replace his new boss, while Lee Croft returned clearly hoping to make a big impact at the beginning of what hopefully will be an exciting new era for Athletic.
There were changes up top, too, with Poleon being handed another chance just in front of Philliskirk.
Of Friday's new signings, Jay Fulton's international clearance didn't come through in time following his loan switch from Swansea, while former Burnley defender Richard Eckersley made the bench, but wasn't used.
Dunn had clearly been keen to make something of a statement thanks to his first team selection, and his reshuffled pack didn't let him down in the early stages. Yeates had a couple of long-distance pops and the recalled Poleon was full of running, so it was slightly against the run of play that Rovers went in front after 26 minutes.
A scrappy opening preceded a frantic 10-minute spell, with centre-back Andy Butler bundling home a header from close range after Cameron Stewart's cross had been deflected right into the danger zone.
Eight minutes later, the scores were level as Burn struck the first goal of Dunn's reign.
Yeates flung in a sweet cross for the powerhouse, who headed in despite the clearing efforts of Butler on the line.
There then followed a crazy 10-seconds passage of play, with Athletic being saved twice by the crossbar.
Stewart was the first to strike the woodwork from a superb free-kick, and as the ball bounced back out, early substitute Dany N'Guessan saw a goalbound header expertly tipped onto the same area of the crossbar as Athletic somehow survived.
Compared to the closing stages of the first period, the whole of the second was barely watchable.
Rovers, with Rob Jones in caretaker charge for the second game following Paul Dickov's sacking, had the better of it, with the visitors indebted to Cornell who again produced a breathtaking fingertip save to keep out N'Guessan's thunderous strike.