Rovers 1-2 Wednesday: What We Learned
Updated: Jul 16, 2019
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.
Thank You Mr. Watson
First things first though, earlier this week we received the sad news of the death of Dick Watson who, alongside Terry Bramall was one of the owners of Doncaster Rovers. Brought in by John Ryan ten years ago, Mr. Watson played a big part in our success of the last decade, with the addition of the duo on the board paying immediate dividends when we were promoted to the Championship in 2008. He was a lifelong Rovers fan who invested in the club following retirement after a hugely successful business career running Keepmoat Regeneration alongside Mr. Bramall, and was a well-liked influence at the club, described by those who knew him as a true gentleman and a passionate Rovers supporter.
I personally never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Watson, but have always greatly appreciated the stability that he and Terry Bramall brought to the club in recent seasons when John Ryan’s tenure at the helm came to an unfortunate end, and was delighted when they agreed to stay on in the wake of the bizarre failed takeover attempts involving Ryan, Sequentia Capital and then Louis Tomlinson. I was very sad to hear of his passing and would like to send my heartfelt condolences to his family and those who knew him, and I hope that his legacy at the club will be of continued stability and success much like it has been during his years in charge. I’m glad to hear that we will be able to celebrate his life at the Gillingham game next weekend – let’s hope that we also get those three precious points in his honour and kickstart our season the right way.
On to the game then, and the first real chance for our best available XI to show where they’re at in their preparations for the season. Darren Ferguson opted to give the majority of the team the full 90 minutes here against very strong opponents, and the Rovers players acquitted themselves well against a Sheffield Wednesday side that is surely set for a Premier League promotion push this campaign. Adding to the tough task in front of us, the Owls brought nearly 4000 fans to pack the away end in an impressive show of support, and it was the visitors who showed more willing in the first half. Fernando Forestieri was a constant menace up against Matty Blair on the left wing, but it was from the opposite side that Wednesday took the lead, Ross Wallace floating a cross in that bewildered the entire Rovers back line, allowing Sam Winnall to wander forward and glance a header past the statuesque Marko Marosi.
It was a bizarre defensive lapse on our part, but in truth it was probably a deserved opener for Carlos Carvalhal’s team as they nullified much of our attacking threat in that first half. Rovers really only began to kick into gear heading into the break, but that did give us enough time for a well-worked equaliser made and converted by our two stand-outs of pre-season. New boy Danny Andrew put a peach of a cross into the middle and Liam Mandeville was on hand to put it in the back of the net, notching his 6th goal of the summer so far. Against the run of play, but it enabled the home side to kick on after the break and become much more of an attacking threat. Mandeville, James Coppinger and substitute Issam Ben Khemis tied Wednesday’s defenders in knots time after time, showing a lot of willingness to get into dangerous areas and cause problems for the Championship outfit. The Owls would claim victory after sub Gary Hooper sprung the offside trap, lobbed Marosi and tucked in from close range, but Rovers continued to push and in the end could count themselves unlucky not to get a draw.
Defensive Additions Needed
It has been a tough week for Rovers on the transfer front and this game only served to drive home that fact. With Steven Taylor opting to sign for Peterborough on a two-year deal instead of coming here, Fergie made the surprise move to state he was now no longer looking to bring in a centre half, citing the faster recovery time indicated for Mathieu Baudry, who should now be back by the end of August. However, even before Baudry’s setback it was clear that we were not yet strong enough in defence, something which the manager acknowledged on more than one occasion. Whilst moves for as many as three midfielders remain in the pipeline, we are still short at least one body at the back and it was clear to see on Wednesday night that we have problems to address in this area.
Fergie played a back four here which looked woefully exposed throughout the game, and it was not a night to remember for Craig Alcock, deployed alongside Andy Butler at the heart of the defence. Alcock made crucial errors leading to both goals, and whilst Butler was a strong presence and covered for both Alcock and Matty Blair on more than one occasion, this didn’t look like a partnership built to last in League One. Deploying five at the back is clearly the better option right now even without Baudry, as Butler can be flanked by ball-playing defenders such as Niall Mason or Joe Wright, allowing the wing backs to do their job further forward. There is no question that another centre back, one who can marshal his team mates and stay strong in the face of skilled attackers, is needed. Let’s hope it is a case of smoke and mirrors from Fergie to claim we are no longer looking for reinforcements.
Good Night, Bad Night
It’s the age old story for Doncaster Rovers: promising up front, worrying at the back. Liam Mandeville got the nod from ITEN as Man of the Match, netting the equalising goal and proving a constant thorn in the side of the entire Wednesday defence. The midfield provided a lot of good link-up play after half time, particularly when Ben Khemis was introduced. Danny Andrew continued his good form through the summer as well, his delivery from the flank proving troublesome from minute one, whilst fellow new signing Ben Whiteman also picked up when shifted to the base of the diamond after the break.
At the back though, it was a night to forget for Craig Alcock, who made errors leading to both goals, struggled to find his passing range out of defence and was caught off-guard too often by the Wednesday attackers. Matty Blair also struggled up against Forestieri which, although understandable, highlights his lack of true defensive ability and is therefore not the ideal option when playing a four-man defence. Goalkeeper Marosi also showed that he has not improved in his distribution or speed of thought, perhaps the two main reasons why Ian Lawlor is the preferred choice between the sticks.
A tough game then, but it was always expected to be against a very strong opponent in Sheffield Wednesday. ITEN will have live match coverage on Twitter tomorrow for our visit to Chesterfield, and check back in from Sunday here on the website as we count down the days to the new League One season with several features throughout next week, including a summary of where the squad is at heading into the Gillingham game and a look at our league rivals for the coming year.
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