Opposition Talk: Plymouth Argyle (H)
Doncaster Rovers look to follow up Tuesday night’s excellent win over Portsmouth when they take on Plymouth Argyle this weekend in Andy Butler’s second game as manager. The Devon side won the reverse fixture at Home Park earlier in the season and come into the game in good form, so what can we expect from Ryan Lowe’s side?
To get an insight into our next opponents, we spoke to Argyle fan Tom Sleeman to get his thoughts on his side and the game on Saturday.
After just two defeats in 12 league games, how are you feeling about Plymouth’s season to date and your prospects for the remainder of the campaign?
It would be safe to say that consolidation is the objective this season. Prior to this run of form we lost six games on the bounce, and with all due respect to our opponents, there were games we should have won.
Inflicting just a second away defeat and scoring four against a Lincoln side who had only conceded six goals on the road is a show of what this side is capable of. Similarly, Tuesday's lacklustre 2-0 defeat against relegation threatened Northampton was further proof that our defence simply hasn't been good enough for much of the season.
You went on that losing run towards the back end of last year before – pretty much the opposite of ourselves since December – so what do you believe have been the biggest factors in the turnaround?
The win against Milton Keynes in mid-December proved to be vital in our turnaround. Heavy defeats against Fleetwood and Rochdale were scorelines which largely flattered our opposition, highlighting our defensive frailties which have since improved in the beginning of 2021. Confidence was low and this showed, particularly against Ipswich where we effectively threw the game away. Fulham loanee Jerome Opoku has been a revelation in defence putting in some key performances.
Luke Jephcott has 18 goals this season, including one against Rovers in Plymouth’s 2-1 win back in October. How good has he been and do you see yourselves holding onto the striker next season?
His all-round game has improved massively once more this season and the signing of Niall Ennis in January, along with Ryan Hardie will push him even more towards upping his game. His emergence was unprecedented after moving to non-league side Truro on-loan last season. His positioning is what sets him apart from other forwards in this division and largely why he has been so successful during the past 18 months. He will command a seven-figure fee this summer, but I've no doubt a player of his quality will be playing regular Championship football next season.
Niall Ennis was a popular forward at the Keepmoat Stadium last season, when he was on loan with Rovers from Wolves. What have you made of the young forward so far in his games for Argyle?
Ennis has been rather exciting to watch in his short stint at the club so far. Quick, deceptively strong on the ball, and with a good work ethic he has already shown why the club decided to pay a fee for him. Coming off the bench he earned us a point against Accrington before transforming the game in similar circumstances against Portsmouth. His first start saw him score the only goal in the reverse fixture against Accrington. With fellow forwards Luke Jephcott and Ryan Hardie, they will push one another on and likely be rotated on occasion.
What are your thoughts on Doncaster and the season they are having?
Doncaster are perhaps the most interesting of the clubs challenging for promotion, and that was even before the unfortunate departure of Darren Moore at the beginning of the week. Despite a torrid run of form and a noticeably poorer defensive record than their promotion counterparts, their fate is solely in their own hands with at least two games in hand on each of the sides above them. They have a good spread of goals throughout the side and appear to be finally getting the best out of Fejiri Okenabirhie.
Finally, what do you think will be the key to victory for either side in Saturday’s game?
With Argyle conceding eight in their previous three games coming up against a Doncaster side without a clean sheet in seven games, it would be fair to say that it will be anything but a cagey affair between the two sides. Doncaster are likely to fancy themselves following an impressive victory over fellow promotion challengers Portsmouth on Tuesday night.
Ryan Lowe's side will come into the game likely to play a makeshift back three. Gary Sawyer remains injured as potentially does Jerome Opoku, who missed the Northampton game. Crystal Palace loanee Sam Woods was also sent off during that game leaving just Kelland Watts and Will Aimson as recognised options.