Doncaster have found their groove recently..why?

FANFARE | Rovers are refinding their rhythm

2020/01/24 16:02
By Adam Stubbings

After going a month without a win towards the end of 2019, Doncaster Rovers have won four of their last six in League One.

In out latest dose of 'Fan Fare', Adam Stubbings @DRFC_ITEN discusses this upturn in form and speculates about Rovers' promotion chances. 

Four wins from six games have propelled Doncaster Rovers from lower mid-table up into the League One Play-Off mix.

The team has, along with a clutch of other sides who suffered from inconsistency earlier in the season, found a winning formula to live by after struggling to put wins together through the autumn. So what ingredients have led Rovers to their recent success?

Moore’s Mantra

Impressive wins against Peterborough and Oxford in that run over Christmas and New Year marked out Darren Moore’s credentials as a tactician, adapting his team selection and set-up to find a way past two of the division’s best teams.

Rovers came into the Boxing Day game away to Posh on a five-game winless run, and with only one win across the previous ten matches in all competitions. On the other hand, Peterborough were up to second in League One and nine games unbeaten, with the most potent attack in the league.

Despite all of this, Rovers won the game 3-0 by soaking up pressure, stifling Peterborough’s usually relentless strike-force and exploiting space down the flanks. Cameron John was deployed at left back instead of his usual centre half berth, and his jaunts in behind wing-back Dan Butler were a valuable outlet, directly contributing to Ben Whiteman’s breakaway goal.

©Getty / Andrew Vaughan - CameraSport

Moore likes his team to play patient possession football, but isn’t too proud to abandon this principle when needed. He took the philosophy to another level in the New Year’s Day home win over Oxford, another side atop the form table and sitting in the top two ahead of the match. Rovers played like the away team against Karl Robinson’s technically adept side, snatching a 1-0 win despite only having four shots and an uncharacteristic 32% of the ball.

Reece James was brought in to the side as a more conventional left back, but netted from a Niall Ennis flick-on in the first half and Rovers held on under immense pressure, with James and Tom Anderson both making goal-line clearances and Oxford hitting the post.

Moore’s ability to accentuate the positives and hide the weaknesses in his youthful side paid off handsomely here, proving that he can adapt to the toughest of challenges in this league.

Fighting Fit

It’s no coincidence that the side’s upturn in form aligns with the return to fitness of striker Niall Ennis and centre half Joe Wright. Both have suffered from lengthy injury absences this season, but came into the starting line-up at Peterborough, the first in this sequence of four wins from six games.

Ennis is only 20 years old and with very little senior experience under his belt, but his willingness to compete as a lone centre forward marks him out as one to watch. Blessed with pace to burn and strength belying his rangy 5’10” frame, he looks the sort of forward who could in time become an all-rounder and elevates the Rovers attacking frontline immeasurably, as proven by the lack of victories during his lay-off.

He doesn’t shy away from the challenge of battling physically superior, seasoned League One defenders and although his goalscoring ability isn’t quite there at senior level yet – he netted only his second goal of the season in the win over Shrewsbury last week – Ennis links up superbly with team mates and runs the channels effectively to open up space behind opponents.

Joe Wright meanwhile is enjoying his first run of starts in 15 months due to a succession of unfortunate injuries. The centre half has had to compete hard to earn a place in the side thanks to the form of Tom Anderson and Cameron John. Afforded a place thanks to the tactical switch at Peterborough, Wright quickly struck up a strong partnership with Anderson, benefitting from the form that has seen Anderson touted as the main reason for Rovers possessing the joint-best defensive record in League One.

Wright’s obvious size and strength pairs well with Anderson, as does his improvement in the technical aspects that Darren Moore is keen to emphasise in his defenders. Short distribution from the back is a hot topic for Rovers at the moment, but we have seen the upside of the tactic with numerous goals coming from quick transitions often started by Wright, Anderson and keeper Seny Dieng.

Stepping Stones

Doncaster Rovers now sit in 9th place, four points off the play-offs with games in-hand on virtually the entire league.

Defensively things couldn’t be much better, with a solid back-line that has conceded only one goal in 2020 so far and boasts four clean sheets in six matches.

That robust record holds as a solid foundation for the rest of the year with Tom Anderson leading the way, and indeed Rovers have only lost by more than a single goal once in League One this season.

Ben Whiteman and Ben Sheaf, the midfield duo that have progressed into a composed engine room for Darren Moore, regularly hit high passing percentages in games and have proven vital contributors in attacking areas as well as a formidable screen for the defence against attack-minded opponents, such as Oxford and Peterborough.

The only question mark here is a lack of cover when form or injury hampers them, with only the developing Madger Gomes so far proving adequate as a replacement.

©Getty / Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA

Replacing Marquis

No doubt the main issue has been replacing the goals and general play of John Marquis since his summer departure. Niall Ennis has filled the void admirably, but isn’t an out-and-out goalscorer, and although only six teams have scored more league goals than Rovers this season, finishing chances has cost the side in a number of games leading to frustrating draws and galling defeats.

The transfer window may solve this problem, but whether or not a desired leading man is brought in, Moore must find a way to turn the team’s high chance creation percentage into goals, with finishing a major issue for the entire squad. If he can find the answer to that conundrum, then Doncaster Rovers may yet find a way to emulate last season’s run to the play-offs.

Thanks to Adam for the insightful article, go check him out on Twitter (@DRFC_ITEN)!



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U Friday, 24 January 2020 - 19:45
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James Adcock
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