Match analysis: How Doncaster Rovers’ defeat to Crewe mirrored their miserable season

Marcus Haber puts Crewe 2-1 up.
Marcus Haber puts Crewe 2-1 up.
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Doncaster Rovers did not just manage to bungle their great escape attempt at Crewe.

But they also produced a display that mirrored a woeful season, the end result of which will see the club make a wholly unwanted but totally warranted return to League Two for the first time in more than a decade.

Andy Williams had the ball in the net in the second half but, like Nathan Tyson, saw it ruled out for offside.

Andy Williams had the ball in the net in the second half but, like Nathan Tyson, saw it ruled out for offside.

For Rovers were not good enough on the day to beat a crestfallen Crewe and they have been nowhere near good enough over the course of an abject campaign to even retain their place in a distinctly average League One division.

They got people’s hopes up by scoring first at Gresty Road but ultimately let everyone down; a snapshot of a season that promised so much and yet has ended in more despair and dejection.

They started the game slowly, perhaps weighed down by a sense of expectation.

They found some rhythm just before the half-way point, taking the lead through Tommy Rowe, and appeared to be in control.

Picture by Howard Roe/AHPIX.com

Picture by Howard Roe/AHPIX.com

But they were rocked by a spectacular individual error, the type of which has become all too common.

And the minute things started to go wrong they did not have it in them to muster a response. There was a late rally, but not enough.

Cast your mind back to last July and the pre-season win over Sunderland. The talk at the Keepmoat Stadium was all about a top six challenge, minimum.

Well Rovers similarly got people’s hopes up on Saturday, taking the lead through Tommy Rowe’s third goal in three games.

A distraught Rovers fan

A distraught Rovers fan

With Blackpool having been thumped by Wigan in an early kick-off and Shrewsbury Town in the process of losing at home to Peterborough United, an escape route was fully mapped out and within reach. Those hopes, though, were later to come crashing down in rather calamitous fashion.

Under Paul Dickov, Doncaster started the campaign slowly and tentatively. Sat 17th in the table after six games, it was all too pedestrian for the club’s board who stated they wanted to see Rovers make a challenge for the play-offs.

Thus expectations were seemingly high, just like Doncaster were also expected to see off an already-relegated Crewe team that had not won for 15 successive games. Evidently, this Rovers team aren’t too clever at living up to expectations. They started this game with plenty of endeavour but, despite probing around Crewe’s penalty area, struggled to make inroads. They might have been behind early on too, had Callum Saunders - son of onlooking former Rovers boss Dean - held his nerve rather than dragging his shot wide having broken clear.

But after some scrappy stuff and a bit of indecision, just like the Rob Jones caretaker boss period and the overly drawn-out search for a new manager, Rovers got their break when Rowe fired home left-footed from the edge of the box via the aid of a deflection. Like the appointment of Darren Ferguson, the goal was symbol of hope. Maybe, just maybe, there was some light at the end of the tunnel after all?

Like a flashback to Ferguson’s first few months in charge, Rovers now appeared to be in total control. They were better on the ball than Crewe, and were more of a threat going forward. The three points were there for the taking. But, like so many times this season, Rovers proved to be their own worst enemy, shooting themselves in the foot in quite spectacular fashion just before half time.

In a moment not dissimilar to his brain-fade at Bristol City last season, Cedric Evina took an absolute age to deal with a cross from the left - or not deal with it as the case proved to be - allowing Callum Ainley to steal in and slot home an equaliser.

Ferguson’s men had an opportunity to go in at the break, take stock and come out and win the second half.

But just like they failed to nip that fatal 17-game sequence without a win in the bud early, they also failed to stem Crewe’s growing confidence and ended up losing the game in rather pitiful fashion.

Nathan Tyson swept home Rowe’s centre but the goal was ruled out for offside.

And when Doncaster again switched off defensively and failed to deal with another cross, allowing Marcus Haber to rifle home at the back post, the writing was on the wall.

Rovers huffed and puffed in response, unable to come up with any answers. Substitute Cameron Stewart tossed a couple of decent crosses in, one of which Andy Williams headed over, and the impressive Rowe fired a shot just wide.

But Doncaster had been found wanting and, to rub salt in their very evident wounds, Bradden Inman fired home a third for Crewe as the visitors threw bodies forward in a desperate attempt to rescue a desperate situation.

“You’re not fit to wear the shirt,” chanted angry sections of Rovers’ travelling support. They had just watched their team go missing when the going got tough - they had just seen the entire season encapsulated in 90 minutes.

the teams

Crewe: Garratt 6, Turton 7, Guthrie 6, Davis 8, Bakayogo 6, Jones 6, Bingham 6, Fox 6, Ainley 7 (Udoh 81), Saunders 7 (Inman 73), Haber 7 (Ray 83). Subs not used: Richards, Nugent, Cooper, Kirk.

Rovers: Matthews 6, Lund 5 (Taylor-Sinclair 46, 5), Alcock 6, Butler 6, Evina 5, McCullough 6, Coppinger 7, Calder 6 (Stewart 72), Rowe 7, Tyson 5 (Mandeville 72), Williams 5. Subs not used: Stuckmann, MacKenzie, Middleton, Pugh.

Referee: Lee Swabey (Devon)

Attendance: 4403 (861)