Paul Dickov has called on Doncaster Rovers’ youngsters to step up to the plate - and become leaders themselves.
Inspired by the returning Rob Jones, a more experienced Rovers starting 11 held their own for 45 minutes against Rotherham United in their final pre-season outing.
But after altering things at the interval - and then seeing standards drop - the Scot admitted to having a word in the ear of his younger players in the aftermath of Saturday’s 2-1 defeat.
“We’ve had a chat with the younger ones,” Dickov said. “They need to start being leaders themselves, and not thinking they’re kids any more. We need them to step up to the plate.
“In the first two minutes of the second half we looked a little bit naive, although we finished the game quite strongly and got a good goal back. Sometimes when you’re a younger player you can get in the mindset that you can carry on being a younger player,” he added.
“But you’ve got to realise now you’re part of the first team squad. It’s not just after Saturday, I’ve spoken about this a lot.”
Doncaster were much more solid before the break as Jones returned impressively to the heart of the defence following nine months out. But a back five of Jed Steer, Reece Wabara, Liam Wakefield, Luke McCullough and Cedric Evina - with an average age of 21 - were exposed by a quickfire double from Matt Derbyshire and Ryan Hall at the start of the second half. Substitute Curtis Main netted a late consolation on his first appearance for Rovers to halve the deficit.
Dickov said: “It was a really good test for us against a strong Championship team. In the first half we looked fairly comfortable, without threatening too much. Second half we just lost our way a bit.
“It was a good work-out,” he added. “There have been some encouraging signs over pre-season.”