• Adam Stubbings

Job Done, Just: 5 Takeaways from Rovers 1-0 Colchester

Updated: Jul 16, 2019


1. The Art of Finishing

The biggest factor in any football game is of course the capability of a team to score goals. Strikers trade on their ability to do this, but on Saturday it was a midfielder who shone by example. In a game that was hard to watch from start to finish, one moment of quality that surpasses League Two settled things. Tommy Rowe showed composure and class typical of his on-pitch demeanour to slot home the winner just before half time. A languid, disjointed showing to that point didn’t really deserve a goal but Rowe’s finish after James Coppinger’s bobbling cross, taking one touch to set himself then applying a deft dink over Sam Walker in the U’s goal would prove decisive.

John Marquis’ clever dummy to step over the ball and allow it to run through to Rowe was also a good touch of class in that moment, but Marquis will be wishing he had shown the composure and skill of his team mate later in the game when he latched on to a long clearance to go clean through and look to seal the points. However, with too much time on his hands, Marquis took too long to pick his spot and, despite going round the stranded keeper, his low finish to the bottom corner was met by scrambling defender Richard Brindley, ensuring a slightly nervy finish to proceedings.

2. Magnificent Marko

Just as important as any good finisher is an effective shot-stopper at the end, and in young Marko Marosi, Rovers appear to have found a new firm Number 1. On this very website I wrote off the Slovakian in the summer, suggesting he had had his chance and should move on, but after surprisingly signing a new deal shortly after that Marosi has shown his determination to succeed in South Yorkshire. Saturday was arguably his best performance yet for the club, pulling off a couple of diving saves as well as a point-blank block from a first half header by Chris Porter moments before the goal and an agile stop after half time when the visitors broke through on goal, Marosi having to rush out of his net to close down the angle and maintain his clean sheet.

It was a Man of the Match showing from the goalkeeper, and summer recruit Ross Etheridge must be wondering what he has to do to force his way back into the manager’s plans. Etheridge was hailed as the stopper to lead the way going forward after an impressive debut season with Accrington last term, but a shaky start cost him his place and now he is left on the fringes as Marosi continues to go from strength to strength.

3. Who’s Best for Butler?

Players are slowly but surely returning from injury and the squad is beginning to look fuller again. Tyler Garratt and Niall Mason are both now back in the squad, whilst fellow defender Craig Alcock is set to resume full training on Thursday having missed the entire campaign up to now due to an injury suffered against Newcastle in pre-season. However, the one man really pressing for a start in the back line is Mathieu Baudry. The former Leyton Orient defender was hailed as perhaps our biggest signing of the summer but an achilles injury meant a long wait to see what he was capable of. A couple of recent substitute appearances suggest he is now ready to step in and provide the calm, skilled and powerful presence he was brought in to provide.

This poses a big problem for Darren Ferguson, but it is one we’re happy to have. Whilst Andy Butler appears a lock to keep his place, as a natural leader at the back and the sort of no-nonsense presence that every club in the fourth tier needs, it is the selection of young Joe Wright alongside him that raises the dilemma. Wright has been superb since joining from Huddersfield, but was not originally expected to be featuring as a regular starter until the aforementioned injuries to Baudry and Alcock, along with Luke McCullough who unfortunately is missing for the entire season with a serious knee injury. Wright has done little wrong, but did struggle to deal with the physical Colchester attack at the weekend and the Rovers defence looked more solid when he was replaced by Baudry. The Frenchman needs a run of games and might be able to strike up a better partnership with Butler than Wright can at this stage, but this doesn’t mean that both can’t be integral parts of our side for years to come.

4. Mandeville’s Latest Audition

We’ve seen Liam Mandeville deployed in several different roles this season now. As an impact substitute, the teenager impressed in the early weeks of the season providing several good assists and netting in our EFL Cup defeat to Nottingham Forest. Last week, Mandeville again played well when asked to deputise for John Marquis in the 3-2 victory over Barnet, laying it on a plate for Matty Blair to cap a superb team move for our second goal. Against Colchester however, Mandeville did not quite have the same level of performance on an afternoon where he huffed and puffed with little to show in place of Andy Williams.

My belief was and still is that Mandeville’s game is more suited to playing alongside Marquis than it is Andy Williams, but the proof wasn’t there on the first go round. With Williams out for eight weeks or so according to reports, Mandeville must now step up and stake a claim to a regular starting berth. His vision and movement should be the perfect foil for Marquis’ strength and hold-up play, and a run of games might be all the duo needs to get into the swing of things, but the academy graduate needs to be careful he doesn’t have any more shy showings like against Colchester or his place could be nabbed by any one of several waiting in the wings. More on that coming later this week on ITEN.

5. Winning Ugly

Many fans were left unenthused by the manner of performance on Saturday, but at the end of the day Rovers still came away with the three points. It was the same last week against Barnet, after a poor second half showing nearly cost us what had looked a comfortable win, but there is no need for concern right now. The message from the manager afterwards was that it is a mark of a good team to be able to win when playing poorly, and he is right. This was rightly labelled our worst performance of the season, yet it was a victory and a clean sheet to boot to keep us second in the table, closer to leaders Plymouth and with clear daylight behind us to the Play Off places.

Plenty of positives, but fans are right not to ignore the warning signs. Rovers do need to find a way to execute a Plan B when things aren’t going our way, and quickly need to address how to get around physical teams with game plans to stifle our usual passing game. Barnet did this quite well, combined with the aerial bombardment of the long throws, and Colchester were even better at pressing us out of our rhythm, but in the end couldn’t add quality up front to punish us. We will play worse teams than John McGreal’s side this season and probably lose, but we will also play better sides and win. Such is the nature of this division.