The Cherries’ first half dominance paid off as Arter’s 38th minute shot fortuitously rebounded off the post and into the Rovers’ net, to give the visitors all three points at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Despite mounting second half pressure from the home side, another impressive defensive performance ensured the Cherries stood strong and saw out the victory in front 343 travelling fans.
Eddie Howe made just one change to the starting line-up that beat Shrewsbury on Tuesday night, with Steve Cook replacing the injured Simon Francis. A noticable inclusion on the bench was that of striker Wes Thomas, returning from injury to make his first appearance in the squad since returning from a loan spell at Portsmouth at the end of October.
Both teams entered the match on the back of a good run of form. However, whilst Howe was looking to add to his side’s impressive six match unbeaten run, Rovers’ manager Dean Saunders was in search of a response after his side succumbed to their first defeat in eight on Tuesday night.
Despite the Cherries dominating the opening encounters and chances, the first half was a relatively uneventful affair. Lewis Grabban’s speculative effort on the tenth minute was easily saved by Rovers’ keeper Gary Woods, before Charlie Daniels’ 15th minute free kick went narrowly wide of the right hand post.
Rovers had their first, and also arguably their best, chance of the half in the 20th minute, as on-loan midfielder Iain Hulme crossed the ball in to target man Billy Paynter. Despite connecting with the ball, a succession of rebounds favoured the visitors and the ball went behind for a goal kick.
The Cherries continued to press for an opener, looking the more convincing when going forward. Barnard’s speculative header in the 24th minute went well over, whilst moments later Woods tipped Marc Pugh’s cross into the path of Lee Barnard. The striker teed up the incoming Harry Arter, but the keeper comfortably caught his shot.
As the half progressed the home side began to creep into the game. On the 31st minute, neat work around the Cherries’ area enabled Hulme to get a low shot in from the corner of the area which trickled wide. Paynter was also inches away from tapping it in on it’s way but fortunately for James he couldn’t get the connection required. In-form winger David Cotterill was the next to try his luck but his shot from midway inside the Cherries half went well wide.
The Cherries got their reward for their early dominance on the 38th minute though, as the impressive Harry Arter scored his third goal of the season to give the visitors the lead. Picking up the ball on the edge of the area and beating off pressure from Paynter, the midfielder’s low shot found it’s way across the area and thanks to a rebound off the post, into the back of the net.
Whilst the rest of the half remained fairly even, the Cherries looked to use the tempo that manager Howe has looked to evoke in their play since his return. Grabban looked lively on the right wing, and after beating his man in the 43rd minute, his cross flashed across the face of goal, but unfortunately none of his team-mates were able to connect and tap the ball home. As a result, the Cherries went in at the break one goal to the good.
Under pressure from the home crowd, Rovers emerged for the second half hungrier as they continued their quest for an equaliser. James Husband was the first to come close in the 47th minute with a header which went well wide and high over James’ bar, before Paynter tried his luck again with his head with the same result in the 51st minute. Winger David Cotterill continued to cause the Cherries problems on the right, and three minutes later he earnt the home side a free kick which Hulme also headed over.
The Cherries had their first shot of the half in the 56th minute, as goalscorer Arter was again teed up on the edge of the area, but in a similar manner to the goal, he failed to get the required connection – this time though his shot trickled wide.
Just three minutes later, striker Josh McQuoid earnt and then took a free kick on the edge of the area, but his shot was easily caught.
With the noise in the Keepmoat heightening, Rovers continued to press and in the 71st minute Howe introduced striker Thomas in place of McQuoid in an attempt to swing the game back in the Cherries’ favour.
The pressure continued though and Hulme again tried his luck from distance in the 76th minute and former England stopper James did well to hold the midfielder’s cannoning shot.
Just two minutes later and the home crowd, who had been far more vocal in the second period, were on their feet as they deemed Miles Addison to have fouled lively midfielder Ian Hulme in the area. Fortunately for the Cherries, the referee waved their claims away and they breathed another sigh of relief.
The pressure was rarely lifted as the game drew to a close, and Howe used his substitutions wisely. Wes Fogden was introduced in place of Lee Barnard in the 84th minute, before striker Steve Fletcher was introduced in the dying moments of stoppage time.
The Cherries stood strong and saw out the final moments, giving Eddie Howe his fifth win from six in his second spell at the helm.
Cherries: James, Cook, Addison, Elphick, Daniels, McQuoid (Thomas 71), Arter, MacDonald, Pugh, Grabban (Fletcher 90+2), Barnard (Fogden 84)
Unused substitutes: Jalal, McDermott, O’Kane, Tubbs
Goals: Arter (38)
Doncaster: Woods, Quinn, Husband, Spurr, Griffin, Cotterill (Syers 69), Harper, Clingan, Paynter (Blake 78), Brown, Hume
Unused substitutes: Sullivan, Wakefield, Woods, Keegan
Attendance: 5951 (343 away).