Doncaster 2-2 Blades - report
Two late goals secured United a point in the first game of 2013.
With ten minutes remaining, the Blades trailed Doncaster 2-0 in the local derby at the Keepmoat, but goals from Nick Blackman (penalty) and Dave Kitson earned United a point.
A total of 4,285 Unitedites made the short trip and saw Danny Wilson hand out three full debuts on an eventful afternoon.
Higginbotham - signed from Stoke City as soon as the transfer window opened - started at the Keepmoat, as did 19-year-olds Whitehouse and Kennedy, both making their full debuts. Boss Wilson made a total of four changes with McMahon also recalled after suspension, they replaced Maguire, who was banned, Westlake, Cofie and Williams, who all dropped to the bench. The home team included former Blades Cotterill, who started, and Harper, who was on the bench.
The formation, confirmed shortly after kick-off, was variations of 4-5-1 and 4-3-3. Hill was at left-back and Higginbotham and Kennedy partners in the centre of defence. Further forward, Whitehouse joined McDonald and Doyle in the middle of midfield and Blackman and Flynn supported Kitson from the flanks.
After ten minutes of cancelling each other out, the first opportunity came the way of United after McCombe's clumsy foul on Kitson. The 25-yard free-kick was set up by McMahon and his effort was heading for the top corner before goalkeeper Woods tipped over.
Doncaster, however, opened the scoring with their first significant attack on 18 minutes. Keegan's chip into the box saw Syers get to the ball before Long before being upended by the goalkeeper. Long was shown a yellow card and there was further punishment when PAYNTER slotted home the resulting penalty.
The home side's confidence was boosted and they went close twice more in a matter of minutes. Hume's effort from a free-kick was deflected wide and from the resultant Cotterill corner Syers headed just wide at the back post.
Hill and Doncaster's Jones were booked for a tussle off the ball on the half hour and United, not helped by a number of decisions from the officials, were forced to withstand a spell of pressure.
Spurr's foul on Blackman was just outside the penalty area and from McMahon's free-kick Kitson headed over, and the Blades, despite getting on top just before the interval, were unable to level before the break.
Within 13 seconds of the second half, Rovers had had two chances to extend their lead! Straight from the kick-off, Hume's 20-yarder struck a post and the follow up, from Cotterill, was on target but saved by Long.
Whitehouse's first booking in senior football came after he pulled back Hume and it was the young midfielder's last action as he was replaced by Cofie soon after and the formation reverted to a more familiar 4-4-2.
Long saved from Hume as a cross got through to the back post but it was another delivery into the box which undid the Blades on 63 minutes. Cotterill touched the ball to tell his team-mates what he was planning to do and SYERS was switched on, getting a deft touch to beat Long.
McDonald volleyed over and Ironside was introduced but Doncaster remained a threat and after Paynter and Hume had linked up well, Long was forced to save from the latter with Higginbotham clearing the danger.
United were given hope with just over 10 minutes remaining by way of a penalty after Ironside went down under a combined challenge of Jones and Griffin, the latter picking up a booking. BLACKMAN, as usual, took responsibility for the spot-kick and sent goalkeeper Woods the wrong way, slotting into the bottom corner.
McMahon's tackle on Coppinger prevented Rovers adding a third as the Blades, expectedly, committed men forward in the closing minutes. The Blades were boosted when Paynter was sent off on 88 minutes, for a late challenge on McMahon, and Rovers were reduced to hacking away everywhere - a tactic that didn't work.
As the clock ticked around to 90 minutes a melee in the box, with Ironside battling away, saw Kitson have an effort blocked, Hill's shot deflected on to a post before KITSON, barracked by the Rovers fans most of the afternoon, stabbed home before heading off to celebrate with the away end.
In the five minutes of added time Ironside half-volleyed over but at the final whistle it was the Blades fans who were celebrating after securing what looked like an unlikely point with ten minutes to go.
Rovers: Woods, Quinn (Griffin 64), Spurr, McCombe, Jones, Keegan, Syers, Cotterill, Bennett (Coppinger 76), Paytner, Hume (Martis 83).
Unused: Maxted, Husband, Ball, Harper.
Blades: Long, Higginbotham, Hill, Flynn (Ironside 74), Doyle, Blackman, McDonald, Kitson, Whitehouse (Cofie 53), McMahon, Kennedy.
Unused: Westlake, McAllister, Cresswell, Williams. Coyne.