Analysis: Dynamic Doncaster Rovers offer plenty of encouragement in Gillingham draw

Rodney Kongolo came off the bench to make his Doncaster debut.
Rodney Kongolo came off the bench to make his Doncaster debut.

Doncaster Rovers lacked a finishing touch in their opening day stalemate with Gillingham but there were plenty of encouraging signs.

Matty Blair and John Marquis squandered the best opportunities against a Gills outfit happy to sit back, counter and ultimately take a point.

Doncaster's John Marquis attempts to make some space under pressure from the Gillingham defence

Doncaster's John Marquis attempts to make some space under pressure from the Gillingham defence

Rovers dictated the tempo and really ought to have made their dominance count.

Darren Ferguson later admitted it was a case of two points dropped for Rovers on their return to League One.

But there were numerous positives, right through the team, for the Scot to reflect upon, not least how his side look more dynamic than the one that strolled to promotion last term.

Goalkeeper Ian Lawlor was a virtual spectator but produced a stunning reflex save to deny Gabriel Zakuani before the break.

New signing Rodney Kongolo made his debut

New signing Rodney Kongolo made his debut

Full backs Niall Mason and Danny Andrew gave the side good balance and got forward to good effect.

Despite the clamour for an experienced centre back, Andy Butler and Joe Wright barely put a foot wrong en route to a confidence-boosting clean sheet.

Ben Whiteman and substitute Rodney Kongolo added notable quality to a midfield already blessed with the talent of the evergreen James Coppinger.

And a newly bulked up Liam Mandeville gave the Gills a constant headache with his clever link-up play and movement.

Niall Mason battles for the ball in Rovers' draw with Gillingham

Niall Mason battles for the ball in Rovers' draw with Gillingham

The obvious down side for Doncaster was not displaying the sort of ruthlessness in front of goal that saw them waltz to promotion last season.

There will also be much tougher tests to come than Gillingham, who were well organised but unable to sustain any pressure on the Rovers goal.

But, as goalless draws go, this was very much of the encouraging variety - something to build on.

DYNAMIC DONCASTER

Doncaster's Matty Blair prepares to make a challenge

Doncaster's Matty Blair prepares to make a challenge

Doncaster had the look of a more dynamic outfit and that was in no small part down to the three new signings who featured on Saturday.

Andrew is a smooth operator whose long throw and set piece delivery provide new attacking weapons.

That Whiteman started in the defensive holding role, ahead of Mason, was something of a surprise given his reputation as a box-to-box midfielder with an eye for goal. But the Sheffield United loanee justified that call by displaying a calm head on young shoulders, maturity on the ball and also his appetite for a tackle.

And he came within inches of netting a sensational winner when his 40-yard piledriver cannoned off the crossbar.

He and Kongolo add a whole lot more than sheer size and presence to the Rovers midfield.

Kongolo’s touch and mobility, in particular, gave them a new spring from the middle of the pitch when he came on for the last 20 minutes. He has the potential to become a real crowd favourite.

Doncaster Rovers manager Darren Ferguson. Picture: Marie

Doncaster Rovers manager Darren Ferguson. Picture: Marie

CASE FOR THE DEFENCE

The Gills occasionally threatened on the break in the second half and, in seasons gone by, this is a game Rovers might have ended up losing.

But Doncaster defended diligently and Butler, in particular, put his body on the line and gave his doubters a timely reminder of his warrior-like qualities.

Rovers, however, did at times play themselves into a bit of bother and still look susceptible from set pieces.

POST MATCH REACTION

Darren Ferguson: “For the majority of it I was very pleased with the performance. We played some very good stuff, some very good football.

“But the most important thing is always the result. It’s two points dropped.”

Ady Pennock: “It was a tough place to go, we were up against supporters where every decision again them they were loud but we stood our own, we had chances as well.”

Doncaster's Tommy Rowe. Picture: Marie Caley

Doncaster's Tommy Rowe. Picture: Marie Caley