ITEN Fly-By: Hull Hurt, Northampton Knocking & Sims Smiling
The December slog is underway and Doncaster Rovers have unfortunately got off to a bad start to their festive schedule, losing to Yorkshire rivals Hull. They have a quick chance to put things right however when they travel to Northampton this weekend, and then have a full week to digest the results of those games before embarking on a run of six games in just 17 days up to the new year.
Tigers Topple Rovers
Wednesday night’s late defeat to Hull City leaves a sour, bitter, wretched taste in the mouth and surely goes down as the worst defeat of the season. Following a hapless first half in which Rovers yet again struggled to get a foothold in the game and on the ball, the team fought back and got level only to see that effort count for nought after Joe Lumley’s fumble in the 87th minute allowed Tom Eaves an easy tap-in for a 2-1 win.
Serious questions must be asked of the now regular failure by Rovers to assert themselves in games. It appears as though teams have worked out how to stop us playing, namely by marking Ben Whiteman out of proceedings and pushing up on our marauding full backs, and this is something that manager Darren Moore has to rectify. Hull boss Grant McCann had praise for Rovers after the game but got the better of his successor on this night at the KCOM Stadium and his side’s lofty league position is one to envy.
It may also help if he starts to play players in their proper positions – creating versatility in players like Reece James is one thing but consistently asking Cameron John to perform as a full back when he is not best suited to it and there are conventional options in the role available is beginning to appear negligent. Still, there was heart in the second half performance and a welcome goal for the returning Tyreece John-Jules, who Moore may look to give a start on Saturday, either alongside or in place of Fejiri Okenabirhie.
Cobblers Looking Up
Newly promoted Northampton welcome fans back to their Sixfields Stadium when they host Rovers this weekend, with the lucky 1000 or so supporters getting their first chance to show their team appreciation for last season’s Play Off triumph. Keith Curle has built a squad with a nice blend of blossoming talent and veteran experience and they will be in confident mood after seeing off Fleetwood in midweek.
Players like Alan Sheehan, Nicky Adams and Chris Lines have been around since the days of Rovers’ rise up the divisions – Sheehan a match winner for Leeds in 2008 at the Keepmoat and Lines a Bristol Rovers substitute in the 2007 Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Final – whilst a clutch of young forwards like Benny Ashley-Seal and Harry Smith are there to get on the end of chances the older heads create.
The Cobblers have managed less than 40% possession of the ball in all but one of their previous five league games, so they will look to soak up pressure and hit Rovers on the break, meaning Darren Moore must encourage his players to stick to their game plan of patient possession with sensible, incisive moves into attack at the right moments. He has the right weapons at his disposal to hurt Northampton and getting back on that winning track after a disappointing loss is exactly what he and the team needs.
Sims Eyeing Rovers Extension
Southampton loanee Josh Sims has been doing the media rounds this week and the topic of his future inevitably cropped up. The winger told the Yorkshire Post that he was open to extending his stay at the club having enjoyed life in South Yorkshire so far. Regular football and a chance to show his skills for a proper run are big benefits for Sims, and those benefits have been a boost for Rovers too.
His assist for John-Jules at Hull was his sixth in just nine League One outings, and the pace, guile and composure he brings to the team is unquestioned. Extending his loan beyond January, or even securing his signature on a permanent contract, would be massive for Darren Moore and all signs point now to the focus of the club’s January transfer window being the sizeable task of retaining both Sims and captain Ben Whiteman, who will surely be in demand himself after a brilliant start to the campaign.
What a boon it would be for Moore to be able to develop the most talented players in his team further, bring them on and bring the team on in the same breath. 2020/21 could yet still be a mightily successful one for Doncaster Rovers.