Doncaster Rovers v Hartlepool United: Will Ferguson start the way he finished?

Rob Jones is close to a return to fitness for Hartlepool.
Rob Jones is close to a return to fitness for Hartlepool.
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Darren Ferguson must decide whether to carry on where he left off for this weekend’s visit of Hartlepool United.

Only the introduction of Liam Mandeville - and also a switch to three at the back - jolted Rovers into life at Exeter City last weekend.

A goal and two assists has made it very difficult for Ferguson to leave Mandeville out, although the Scot will be wary that the 19-year-old has been much more effective from the bench than from the start.

He is also likely to consider how well the midfield diamond worked in Rovers’ last home game in the league against Wycombe - when Tommy Rowe at the tip produced arguably his best 45 minutes of the season, linking up superbly with James Coppinger and John Marquis.

Three at the back, which failed against Accrington, Crawley and Blackpool, is still to convince the majority of fans. Yet it is absolutely vital that Ferguson has a Plan B for situations just like the one that arose in Devon.

And after it worked so well at St James’ Park, there might just be a temptation to start that way on Saturday - especially if defensive lynchpin Andy Butler is forced to miss the game.

Doing that would get the experience of Craig Alcock back into the side and place less onus on Mathieu Baudry, who has lacked a little conviction in recent games.

The return to fitness of Alcock certainly gives Ferguson the ability to be more flexible - but whatever he opts for this weekend I expect Rovers to have too much for Pools.

n Former Rovers captain and caretaker boss Rob Jones could return to the Hartlepool squad this weekend after two months out.

“Rob is close, he’s trained, but he didn’t feel we should risk him after being out so long,” said Pools boss Craig Hignett last week, before a 2-0 win at home to Cheltenham. “He’s not 100 per cent yet so we gave him a couple of extra days.”

Jones, 37, did not feature against the Robins.