Rovers 3-3 Blackpool: Honours even in thriller
Rovers’ unbeaten start to the season continues, but it’s two points dropped in a pulsating draw against bogey side Blackpool. ITEN analyses what went right and what went wrong on a windy afternoon at the Keepmoat.
Rovers Clinical Again
Going forward, it was another triumphant day for the men in Red & White after a memorable 3-1 victory at Blackburn. For a third straight match, Rovers hit three goals to further underline the side’s attacking talent despite stepping up to a higher level. Clinical in attack again, our forwards made the chances that they made count, starting with Tommy Rowe opening the scoring with a cracking drive from outside the box. Afforded the space to have a touch and take aim, his rasping drive cannoned back off the bar but, luckily for him and the team, it then rebounded off the back of beleaguered Blackpool stopper Ryan Allsop and settled in the net.
If there was a touch of fortune about that opener, the second Rovers goal on the stroke of half time was a product of pure quality. Liam Mandeville linked up well down the right hand side with Matty Blair and, after a couple of balls across the box, one seeing Andy Butler have an effort cleared, Blair headed that clearance back across the face of the six yard box and John Marquis demonstrated terrific improvisation to put Rovers back ahead with an unorthodox overhead kick of sorts. Up and running now for the season, Marquis looks a man in red-hot form and that can only be good news for the Rovers going forward.
Another man in rich form is Alfie May, who looks to have benefitted from a full pre-season in professional football by adding strength and a keener positional sense to his game, along with improving his finishing rate by netting three goals in as many games. That equals his tally from last season, and should go a long way towards earning him a starting berth when we head to Wimbledon next weekend. Certainly he has added more to our attack off the bench than anything Liam Mandeville has tried in three games starting in League One this term. Fitness may well be an issue for the teenager still, but it is hard to argue he deserves to start again now May has continued his fine goalscoring form. Rovers’ third today was a product of May’s tenacity and positioning, seizing on a mistake as Blackpool’s defence failed to adequately deal with a first-time Blair cross from the right, and May needed no second chances to convert.
Concentration (or lack thereof) Costs Dear
Despite taking the lead three times, still victory eluded us this afternoon, with Darren Ferguson rightly blaming a lack of concentration for that. Twice Rovers squandered the lead within a minute of earning it, although there was more than a touch of class about Blackpool’s three equalisers. Sean Longstaff, who opened his account for the Seasiders with a cracker last week, netted from distance moments after Rovers had taken the lead in the first half after a sloppy pass from Ben Whiteman gifted possession back to the visitors.
If that goal was something to shout about, so was the second equaliser in the second half, as Oliver Turton, who constantly troubled Rovers’ back line from the right hand side, cut across the field before releasing a dipping effort that Ian Lawlor had no chance of stopping. The question must be asked as to why Rovers’ midfield screen did nothing to stop his advance, indeed this was a problem all game as captain Jimmy Ryan often had the time to pick his precision passes and craft Blackpool attacks. The home side then fought valiantly to retake the lead through May, but instead of learning from their previous errors switched off again, allowing substitute Callum Cooke to drive home for 3-3 before half the crowd had even managed to find their seats again.
It would be harsh to pin the blame on any of the defenders today, as Andy Butler and Joe Wright put in another solid, composed display together at the heart of the back four. The lack of protection from in front of them was the problem, as the diamond midfield failed to keep its shape and concentration.
Good Day, Bad Day
John Marquis and substitute Alfie May were lively and ruthless in front of goal once more, Marquis earning the ITEN Man of the Match award for his endeavours in support of the attack, and of course that classy goal in first half stoppage time. Tommy Rowe had probably his best game of the season to date, constantly finding himself at the centre of Rovers’ best moves in the final third, and it’s a shame that the opening goal won’t go down as his. In addition to May, Rodney Kongolo performed admirably off the bench again and must be in contention for a start against Hull in the EFL Cup on Tuesday night, if not in the league at Wimbledon.
Matty Blair did some good work in the second half once switched to right back, which allowed him more freedom to get down the wing towards the byline, leading to him creating the third goal, but overall it was another forgettable display for him on the right of the diamond. His lack of physicality makes him a bit of a square peg in a round hole situated in the middle, and it also nullifies his best asset: his lightning pace. Liam Mandeville was also largely ineffective, with questions remaining over his fitness after suffering a hamstring strain on the opening day. Whether fully fit or not, he has done very little to earn another start next week, especially with his deputy Alfie May in fine goalscoring fettle.
Two points dropped without question today, but Blackpool are something of a sticky thorn in our side and haven’t lost on a visit to Rovers since 2004. With three league games gone, we remain unbeaten and sit just outside the play-offs, a position we would all be happy to see come the end of the season.