Guiseley 0-1 Rovers: What We Learned
ITEN made the relatively short journey to West Yorkshire yesterday to see Rovers maintain their unbeaten pre-season record with a narrow victory away at Guiseley. Whilst we covered the match live over on our Twitter page, here we take a more in-depth look at the key elements of the game from a DRFC perspective.
Now four games into the summer schedule, certain aspects of manager Darren Ferguson’s game plan are coming to fruition. He now seems firmly wedded to the notion of playing a 3-5-2 formation, deploying it for the full 90 minutes once again here at Guiseley. Before the match, he expressed a desire to see our wing backs push forward more in order to try and pin back the opposition, something that we struggled to do against strong opposition when Derby visited the Keepmoat last Tuesday night, and yesterday we definitely saw an increased number of balls to the flanks although the true test of this strategy will come against stronger opposition in Sheffield Wednesday and Chesterfield in our next two friendly games. Tyler Garratt and Niall Mason were wide options for Rovers here but that is unlikely to be the case come August 5th, so it will be interesting to see how Matty Blair in particular fairs against the Owls midweek.
In addition to this, Fergie has clearly put a lot of thought into the individual functions of the central defensive trio that form the backbone of the team. Whilst the identity of the middle player in this unit is yet to be determined due to the injury suffered by Mathieu Baudry and ongoing pursuit to cover him (more on that later), our observation from seeing the team in action the past two games is that Fergie is looking to use the middle defender as a marshal of sorts, leading his adjacent team mates and allowing them to distribute the ball to the flanks at every opportunity. The other key component to this style of playing out from the back is for the holding midfielder to drop deep and carry the ball out to try and find either the wingers or our creative midfielders, expected to remain Tommy Rowe and James Coppinger on either side.
Whilst Wednesday night’s line-up should give us the best indication yet, we would expect to see Ben Whiteman placed in this role between Rowe and Coppinger, with Blair and Danny Andrew wide of the back three and, barring any new signings in the coming days, Andy Butler leading Craig Alcock and Niall Mason in the back line.
Breaking Them Down
In what was a largely uneventful encounter, Rovers did just enough to see off our National League opponents who were clearly well-drilled defensively by their manager, former Rovers centre half and club captain Adam Lockwood. This stoic set-up meant we had to use our creativity and ingenuity to break through and create chances on goal but, as the low scoreline suggests, we found that difficult even with our best strikers on the field. One of the main reasons Fergie has married himself to the 3-5-2 is because it allows us to keep bodies at the back when defending but also allows us to outnumber opposition defences with two strikers feeding off the midfield as well as runs down the wing. Against teams set-up to defend against that, as Guiseley were yesterday, our front two need to have a little more about them if we are to see similar goal returns to last year.
The pace of Alfie May to get in behind is vital, but the scrappy forward has got to show more clinical feet when he gets there if he is to make a career as a professional. His non-league goals return proves he knows where the net is, but is it a matter of confidence or merely experience that has thus far failed to see him put away chances? There is no doubt that he’s done well since joining in January from Hythe Town, but he has missed a plethora of good chances after extremely good work to get into these positions. We know also that John Marquis and Andy Williams will work tirelessly to create the space they need, and have a great eye for goal, but against stronger opposition than last year Rovers will be reliant on these strikers hitting the ground running on the goalscoring charts.
Saturday’s match winner Liam Mandeville is the wildcard up front. His opportunistic finish after an error from former Rovers keeper Jonny Maxted gave us victory here, and it was a demonstration of the movement, reactions and composure of the young hotshot that could play a big part in our successes this season. Mandeville is probably our best commodity at present and he looks determined to make up for lost time after an injury-plagued 2017 so far.
Who Is It?
As mentioned earlier, Mathieu Baudry’s latest injury setback has left Fergie with an urgent need to fill a spot at centre half. After a strong showing against Derby, trialist Steven Taylor looked like the man to fill Frenchie’s considerable boots, but he was absent from Guiseley amid reports that other clubs may be in for him. Simon Parker, from the Bradford Telegraph & Argus, broke the news on Twitter last night that veteran Scottish international Gordon Greer could be heading back to Rovers and he re-iterated that claim this morning when asked about the fact we seemed more keen on Taylor, but will this come to fruition? And is Greer the man we need?
It’s no secret that we have been trying all summer to add a centre half to the defensive ranks. It hadn’t seemed as pressing a need however until Baudry was revealed to be out of action for a couple of months after pulling out in the warm-up against Armthorpe, and despite the recent update that he may in fact be back by the end of August, it is clear that we still need to add a body. Thus far we are set to start the season with the same central core as we had last year – Baudry, Butler, Wright, Alcock, Fielding – so strengthening should be a priority, and whilst Steven Taylor looks a good fit with bags of experience at the top level, Greer may just suit our needs better. He is an unquestioned leader who knows the club having spent two injury-hit years here under Sean O’Driscoll, someone who could play a big role in the development of Joe Wright and Reece Fielding in particular, and would represent a strong indication that players want to come here, with Greer reportedly having turned down promotion candidates Bradford to come and play for Fergie instead.
Good Day, Bad Day
In what was a pretty typical pre-season warm-up game, nineteen players got on the pitch for Rovers, with the manager opting to give an hour to those who were second half substitutes against Derby. Only trialist Issam Ben Khemis and wing backs Garratt and Mason played the full 90 minutes, nevertheless it was Tyler Garratt who put in the best performance for DRFC, earning ITEN’s Man of the Match award for his strong show both in defence and going forward. Ben Khemis also put in another lively showing, surely earning a contract offer from the club, whilst some smart saves from both Marko Marosi and Ian Lawlor kept Rovers’ nose in front.
The only real negatives to come from the game were knocks taken by Marosi and club captain James Coppinger. Marosi went down under a hard challenge from Guiseley’s Reece Thompson, who had a little too much bite behind his bark for such a game – something he ultimately paid for late on when Tommy Rowe went straight through him – and Coppinger over-stretched for a sliding tackle and had to come straight off. The good news is that neither player seemed badly affected and saw out the rest of the game sat on the bench, and both received their injuries mere minutes before their scheduled substitutions on the hour anyway.
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