ADNAN AHMED and Pawel Abbott both blew big chances as Town's dismal defending gifted Doncaster a debut win at the Keepmoat Stadium.

There were fireworks as the teams appeared for the first football match at the impressive £32m ground.

And there were more in the 57th minute as first Ahmed, then Abbott, were shown straight red cards by referee Mark Halsey.

Ahmed, desperate to impress on his first appearance of the season, walked for an ugly two-footed tackle on Mark McCammon.

Then Abbott, the two-goal hero of Saturday's win over Swansea, followed his teammate down the tunnel after becoming embroiled in a melee as Ahmed left the pitch.

Town were already three down after goals by McCammon (nine minutes), Paul Heffernan (47) and Jonathon Forte (51), so it would be unfair to blame only the dismissed duo for a first defeat in five games.

But their enforced absence through suspension from the next three League I matches - at Yeovil on Friday, at home to Cheltenham on Saturday week and away to Bournemouth seven days after that - will do little to help the cause.

With skipper Jon Worthington and Mark Hudson both ruled out of yesterday's game because of groin injuries and Michael Collins certainly absent from the Cheltenhan clash because of a one-match ban, central midfield is a particular concern.

After the setback of a pre-season foot fracture, Ahmed has had to wait for a first-team opening, and having done well in the opening 45 minutes, he will have been gutted at what happened next.

There can have been no real complaints about either red card, although neither Premiership whistler Halsey nor his assistants picked up on Rovers man James Coppinger's aggressive-looking actions in the aftermath of the Ahmed challenge.

Home left-back Gareth Roberts did become the third player to be shown a straight red when he left Aaron Hardy in a heap with a clumsy 79th-minute challenge.

By that stage, with Town in damage-limitation mode, a game which at one stage had been a keen tussle had lost direction.

Hopes that Doncaster would suffer stage fright or be distracted by the carnival atmosphere among a 14,470 crowd proved unfounded as they swept into an early lead.

Frustratingly, the home goal came after Collins brought a fine save from Ben Smith after making a diagonal run into the Rovers penalty area.

Smith quickly lumped the ball upfield, normally reliable centre-back David Mirfin appeared to miscalculate the flight of the ball and McCammon claimed the honour of netting the first goal at the new arena with a rising shot which gave Matt Glennon no chance.

Having denied Heffernan just 39 seconds in, Glennon again saved from the in-form frontman on 22 minutes, when he showed good reactions to also block a follow-up effort by Forte.

Within 30 seconds, it was Town's turn to attack, when Collins, having played a lovely one-two with Abbott, somehow poked his shot wide when he looked odds-on to score.

At least the hard-working midfielder wasn't afraid to try again, although shots in the 32nd and 39th minutes both went over.

Coppinger twice tried his luck for Rovers, with a 24th-minute shot being saved before a 44th-minute drive from a quick throw-in whistled narrowly wide.

That might have been a let-off for Town, but when, with the second half only two minutes old, Heffernan sprinted onto Forte's through ball (left-back Danny Adams later claimed an offside in the build-up), the former Bristol City striker made no mistake, clipping his seventh goal in nine games.

Town came back from two down to beat Swansea, and during a run of three successive corners, they almost claimed a quick reply when first Collins watched his deflected shot hit the bar, then Brandon had an effort tipped wide.

But yesterday's game was then put out of reach when Forte broke down the left flank, skipped past Hardy and lashed home the third.

Turning Point

Without doubt the moment in the 22nd minute when, with Town a goal down but pressing hard, Michael Collins, pictured, played a lovely one-two with Pawel Abbott and got himself into a near-perfect shooting position only to put the ball wide. A goal at that stage would really have rocked Rovers and dampened the carnival atmosphere.

How They Rated

Matt Glennon Despite the scoreline, a decent display. Made some solid saves, and was left exposed for each of the home goals. Rating: 6/10

Aaron Hardy With Andy Holdsworth injured, played his fifth game of the season and other than for Rovers' third, did okay. Rating: 5/10

Danny Adams Solid and seemed to have a point with his claim that he played Forte offside in the build-up to the second. Rating: 6/10

Martin McIntosh Worked hard against a tough three-pronged home frontline of McCammon, Heffernan and Forte. Rating: 6/10

David Mirfin Good in patches but will have been highly disappointed about his misjudgement for the opening goal. Rating: 5/10

Gary T-Fletcher Going through a bit of a lean patch and despite reverting to midfield, struggled to make an impact on this one. Rating: 5/10

Michael Collins Didn't allow first-half miss to affect him. Town's most creative player and unlucky when hitting the bar. Rating: 7/10

Adnan Ahmed In his first game of season, looked bright in opening half but then let himself down with sending off. Rating: 5/10

Chris Brandon Worked hard but little end-product. Replaced in reshuffle which followed the two red cards. Rating: 5/10

Andy Booth For once, failed to get the better of an opposing centre-back in the air, with Graeme Lee impressing. Rating: 6/10

Pawel Abbott Produced some decent touches, but unable to repeat Saturday's heroics before it all went pear-shaped. Rating: 5/10

Spotlight on the Ref

Some would say he might also have shown James Coppinger a red card for his reaction in the wake of Adnan Ahmed's two-footer on Jonathon Forte, but other than that, there was little to criticise in the performance of Bolton's Mark Halsey, who lived up to his reputation as a top Premiership whistler who has even had praise from Jose Mourinho this time.


Smith, O'Connor, Lockwood (Thornton, 65), Lee, Roberts; Green, Wilson, Coppinger (Guy, 75); McCammon, Heffernan (Dyer, 75), Forte. Subs not used: Price, Butz. Sent off: Roberts. Cautioned: Lee, Heffernan.