5 Things We Learned: Rovers 2-0 Peterborough
There is no better remedy for defeat in football than getting back to winning ways, which is exactly what Doncaster Rovers did against in-form Peterborough on Saturday. Goals from James Coppinger and Kieran Sadlier saw off former manager Darren Ferguson as a comprehensive team display banished the disappointment of losing to Blackpool four days earlier. Here we look at five aspects worth talking about from the 2-0 victory.
1. Barca, Eat Your Heart Out
Rovers dominated a game that felt a daunting prospect beforehand against a Peterborough side flying up the table, with Darren Moore’s decision to restore James Coppinger to the starting line-up paying dividends right from the off.
It was Copps who had the game’s first real chance, getting a shot on target without really troubling the keeper, before exerting his class and poise on proceedings to craft chances for others until opening the scoring himself on 30 minutes. Taking over from Ben Whiteman in the middle, Coppinger fed the ball wide to Kieran Sadlier before running on in front of defender Mark Beevers and meeting the winger’s cross with a deft header that flashed across the goalkeeper and into the far corner.
Sadlier assumed the mantle for himself soon after, needing just three touches from meeting a brave header forward by Brad Halliday just over halfway. The first was a sublime flick over Beevers, the second a header to control the ball and set himself into the area away from the defender, and the third was a ruthless strike past Christy Pym that underlined his determination to once again prove his quality to the Peterborough fans (and ownership) who have had so much to say of him recently.
The goal also highlighted the sheer quality on display from the team throughout, cutting through the Posh defence with ease as Sadlier, Coppinger and Jon Taylor consistently all afternoon. Taylor was unlucky not to score himself either side of half time, whilst Ben Whiteman also struck a post late on as Rovers pushed their superiority. In an interview typical of his pass-the-blame mentality, Darren Ferguson said his side “made Doncaster look like Barcelona” on the day but that was all down to how effectively we shut them down and imposed our play on a Peterborough team that just couldn’t live with it.
2. Dieng Delivers
In our review of the Blackpool defeat last week, the flaws in Ian Lawlor’s goalkeeping were analysed and heading into Saturday, the manager clearly felt those flaws merited a change. Seny Dieng stepped in for his league debut in a Rovers shirt and it was one he can be proud of, commanding his back line and keeping a well-earned clean sheet. Dieng came for every cross and had a near-perfect success rate at dealing with them, only finding himself stranded once when a header from Ivan Toney hit the bar before Dieng tipped the follow-up over.
Lawlor admitted his awareness that his cohorts were “breathing down his neck” to take his place beforehand and on this display by Dieng, he will have to find extra motivation to try and force his way back in. Lawlor is a very good shot-stopper but his distribution has been choppy and indecisive at times, an aspect of play which Dieng seemed much more convicted in against Peterborough assisting Rovers in imposing themselves upon their opponents from higher up the pitch than we had seen in the last few games.
With Darren Moore clearly favouring the tactic of playing out from the back, Dieng’s modern style suits this perfectly meaning he could be the one for #1 going forward, especially after this impressive debut.
3. Posh Potent No More
Coming into this one, Peterborough were unbeaten in six and had netted 19 goals in that run, almost all of them coming courtesy of their attacking triumvirate: Ivan Toney, Marcus Maddison and Mo Eisa. In the end though, Darren Ferguson’s diamond 4-4-2 set-up failed to have any effect on a Rovers defence who marshalled League One’s top scorers into impotence and rarely found themselves troubled until a switch to 3-5-2 late on enabled Maddison the freedom to get into the final third.
Eisa was anonymous, unable to do a thing against the rock-solid Tom Anderson and Cameron John, whilst Toney only caught the back line out twice running onto deep balls forward. The introduction of Siriki Dembele brought energy but he was also unable to affect any meaningful change for Posh and they left without a goal for the first time since the second weekend of the season. Much of this was also down to the full backs Reece James and Brad Halliday, who pressed into midfield and showed their progression as part of the collective to keep their counterparts at bay out wide.
4. Ennis Relentless
It was another solid display from front man Niall Ennis on Saturday as well, the precocious striker epitomising what it means to be a team player once again without quite getting his reward for it individually. Ennis runs himself into the ground in every game showing a never-say-die attitude coupled with plenty of ability and athleticism. He deserves to have more than just the one goal – a spectacular effort against Lincoln last month – to his name but brought team mates into play time and again playing with his back to goal and causing all manner of headaches for the defenders.
As Jon Taylor menaced disgraced former Rovers defender Niall Mason out of position constantly down the left, Ennis made sure the rest of the Peterborough defence were kept guessing, creating space for Coppinger and Sadlier to enact their game-winning contributions. Ennis also turned provider on the break after Posh switched to three at the back in the second half, notably racing down the left to play in Ben Whiteman who hit the post in injury time.
No doubt Darren Moore will be telling Ennis that the goals will come, and the signs are that that statement is true. If he can add the clinical touch to his game, the sky is the limit for a player already proving he has the physical and mental attributes to succeed at a high level.
5. Balance, Front to Back
Finally, a word for the team as a whole. Moore’s 4-2-3-1 formation is clicking together to get the best out of everyone and that was borne out for a full 90 minutes on Saturday.
In addition to the strengths of the goalkeeper and defence outlined above, the two-man midfield is beginning to function in exactly the way Moore wants it to. Ben Sheaf screens the back four in a deft way, busying himself to make sure he can move into the right positions of cover whilst also having the confidence to push forward and bring more creative players into action. His growing composure allows Ben Whiteman to be the true playmaker of the side, utilising his excellent vision and distribution to aid attacks whilst also finding space to get shots off himself.
Although it is unfortunate for Alfie May, who made a good start to the season starting on the flank, the current trio behind the striker appear to be Rovers’ most dangerous combination. Jon Taylor is improving his fitness with every game and his boundless running and harassing is vital, whilst he also adds a touch of quality and was unlucky not to score with a great curling effort early in the game. Coppinger and Sadlier bring unquestioned quality with a synergy that is developing all the time too, and with Ennis’ tenacity this all adds up to a well-balanced, confident team that can and has hurt sides with plenty of quality already this season.