AN unbelievable late finale encompassing sixty bewildering seconds saw Doncaster Rovers go from likely participation in the play-offs to League One champions on a crazy afternoon at Griffin Park.
A tense game devoid of real incident sparked into sensational life in the fifth minute of stoppage time when referee Michael Oliver pointed to the spot following a foul by Jamie McCombe on Clayton Donaldson.
With the vast majority of the 12,300 crowd ready to herald the Bees’ promotion, Marcello Trotta saw his spot-kick crash against the woodwork and in the resulting breakaway, Billy Paynter teed up James Coppinger to tap in in front of 1,200 delirious Rovers fans, who had gone from despair to ecstasy in the matter of a minute.
With Bournemouth drawing at Tranmere, it ensured not just promotion, but title celebrations for Rovers, who have returned to the Championship at the first time of asking, with the final whistle following straight after Coppinger’s strike.
Chances were a premium in an unsurprisingly tense first period, with comfortably the best chance falling to the Bees in the 13th minute when Bradford-born Clayton Donaldson flicked on Simon Moore’s punt forward to send Bradley Wright-Phillips through on goal with his low shot coming back off the post.
Rovers, for most part, maintained their shape impressively at the back and in midfield and kept the Bees’ attacking forays in check with twin peaks Rob Jones and Jamie McCombe typically dominant..
Admittedly, their offensive threat was sporadic with David Cotterill’s drilled shot drifting wide early on in an isolated raid before two semi-threatening moments arrived just before the interval with, first, James Coppinger’s swerving shot beaten away by Moore, before the home custodian held a crisply-struck low shot from Cotterill.
The second half followed the pattern of the first, before the late madcap twist.
“So close, wasn’t it? All credit to the lads,” said Briuan Flynn.
“It was a monumental effort. Thankfully it came right in the end.
“You concede a penalty and you fear for the worst but thankfully it turned out brilliant,” he said. “It’s great for James Coppinger. I’m delighted.
“It’s a beautiful game this and crazy at times. To come up as number one is what the chairman wanted and thankfully we’ve done it.
“We have to enjoy the moment and build on this for next season and I’m sure we will.”