No Joy in Lancashire for Goal-Shy Rovers
Updated: Jul 16, 2019
She’s Having a Baby
Our goalless draw at Fleetwood seemed a half-decent point on the face of it, it was a clean sheet away from home and an extender to our unbeaten run, proving that we have become harder to beat as the players have settled into League One over the past couple of months. If the previous result against Rotherham was a rocking uppercut owing to the late, late equaliser in that big derby game, then the battle at Highbury was more of an attritional bout in which the two fighters spend most of the time in the clinch, disappointing the watching faithful but ultimately doing enough to satisfy their own aims. Last night then was a bit of a mismatch, one fighter delivering continual heavy blows and the hapless opponent failing to muster much of a response, staggering away at the end knowing he’ll have to hit a hell of a lot harder the next time he steps in the ring.
But enough with the boxing analogies, this is football. So let’s talk about babies instead. No, not a witty putdown of Darren Ferguson or Andy Williams, but the miracle of life itself contributing to a story that is, unfortunately for us, garnering our latest heavy league loss national media attention. Wigan midfielder Ryan Colclough was blessed to have his partner go into labour last night, bringing about the birth of their second child shortly after full time. The beauty of the story, for all not willing the Rovers on of course, is that Colclough was informed that his partner’s waters had broken by his father in the stands just before half time, with the Latics already 1-0 up.
Most men would surely see their performance wane as thoughts drift towards events at the hospital, but oh no. This is Doncaster Rovers of course, so instead Colclough harnessed his excitement and nervous energy on the pitch, netting just prior to the break and then electing to give it ten more minutes after half time to see if he could put the game to bed before rushing off to be by his partner’s side. He duly did just that, scoring a second goal to wrap up the win before then being immediately substituted, running straight down the tunnel and off to be there just in time to witness the birth of his second son Harley. This woman’s work was all worth it in the end, and the Colclough family can tell this unique tale to their children in years to come with great admiration.
On any other night, the cynic in me says that Colclough’s performance would have tailed off dramatically, and no doubt John Marquis would have scored a simple goal at 0-1 to level things up, and maybe Rovers would have even gone on to win. But no, I’m sure we can all look back in future and smile at this story unfolding as it did.
Rovers slide to seventh from bottom then in the table, and also have the seventh worst scoring record in the division. Goals are proving hard to come by, to the surprise of many who said our achilles heel would be our defence this year, understandably so after the way we out-scored the opposition more often than not on our way to promotion last season. Whilst the defensive duo of Joe Wright and Andy Butler have stepped up superbly and put in consistently solid performances at the back, at the other end it is a different story. Both John Marquis and Alfie May started off the season well in front of goal, but May has been out injured for a few weeks now and Marquis is without a goal in six league games. Not only that, but Marquis is cutting an ever more frustrated figure, squandering chances that he surely would have converted last season, and hasn’t been able to find the right balance between teamwork and ruthlessness in front of goal since having to play as a lone striker in the adapted 3-4-2-1 formation applied by Fergie in recent games.
I would ordinarily suggest taking him out of the firing line for a game or two at this point, to freshen things up, give him a break and try something different, but the reality is that there is no other option but to persist with Marquis leading the line. May, perhaps our most forward-thinking striker, is still sidelined for a couple of weeks, and Andy Williams’ big chance to impress off the bench at half time last night imploded in minutes as he went off with a potentially serious ankle injury. That leaves only Liam Mandeville, who has struggled to meet the demands of third tier football and was unable to even make the substitutes bench at Wigan. Beyond that, you are looking at placing the burden on the precocious shoulders of Alfie Beestin, who is not an out-and-out striker anyway, or one of the teenage youth academy lads like Lewis Scattergood. So we plough on with Marquis in the hope that he will find his scoring knack again and help us to a few more victories as we head towards the busy festive period.
Window of Opportunity
Last week saw the first mention of the January Transfer Window in the local press, with manager Darren Ferguson asked if he yet had an eye on improving the squad when the window opens in a little under six weeks time. He stated there would be “tweaks here and there perhaps”, basically confirming the expectation that a couple of additions would be looked at to try and pull us a bit further up the table. Pressed on the specifics, Fergie agreed that it was in attack that we will probably need to address more than anything because of that low scoring rate, and the lack of form and injury that has befallen the forward ranks so far in 2017/18. Bringing in an adequate foil for Marquis and May is vital, with such names as Sheffield United’s James Hanson or former loanee Keshi Anderson suggested by some fans. What type of man we need is up for debate, but somebody with a decent scoring record is a must. If Alex Kiwomya is still sidelined by January, then Fergie may look to find someone with the pace to unlock defences that we don’t really have right now, but if he is close to full fitness by then it may be worth investing in a “unit” the likes of which are more readily available at this level.
Elsewhere in the squad, adding some experience in both defence and midfield is surely under consideration by the management. We have a young squad that, whilst full of potential, doesn’t have the same kind of hardened edge to it that you only get from veterans who know the tricks of the trade. This is a vastly different team than the one that won our last promotion from this level, and adding someone with the stature and calibre of Rob Jones, Jamie McCombe or Paul Quinn would go a long way towards assuring a comfortable finish away from the relegation places come the end of the campaign. If the budget will allow it, Rovers should look to bring in a left sided centre half and perhaps a central midfielder who can get in amongst it and win those tough physical battles that we so often find ourselves on the losing end of in games. Neal Bishop, who will be back at the Keepmoat with Scunthorpe in under a fortnight, is a great example of this type of player and is having a career renaissance in the Iron midfield at the age of 36. At the back, Steven Taylor would have addressed that gap in the summer were it not for the larger bags of money waved in his direction by Peterborough, so we at least know that Ferguson is aware of this issue. Mathieu Baudry has deputised on the left side of a back three since regaining full fitness but isn’t naturally adept on that side.
Three potential new additions doesn’t seem too much to ask for come January, especially if some of the more out of favour squad players (looking at you Andy Williams and Craig Alcock) can be shifted off the wage budget. If the club play their cards right over the next six-to-eight weeks, we may yet be able to celebrate a successful season when all is said and done in May.
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