Ace Alfie has Fergie's men winning again: Plymouth Argyle 0 Doncaster Rovers 3
After all the criticism and all the doubts, Rovers delivered an emphatic response by sweeping aside Plymouth Argyle to finally add their second win in the league this season.
They delivered the sort of attacking performance of which we know they have been capable all along.
And they coupled it with excellent defensive resolve to ensure a comfortable afternoon at Home Park.
Those who cannot help but criticise will attempt to add the caveat of Plymouth being poor and clearly struggling for confidence - which are justifiable observations.
But they should not detract from an excellent Rovers performance. After all, Rovers had the same labels attached to them a week ago.
Confidence was by no means lacking on Saturday. Buoyed by their superb showing against Arsenal in midweek, they began the game with a real assurance and only grew in stature as the game advanced.
The first goal undoubtedly helped. Alfie May volleyed on to the bar from a James Coppinger corner and Andy Butler barged through a crowded box to power a header home.
The 19th-minute goal gave Rovers a cushion and allowed them to play on the counterattack with comfort, particularly as Plymouth struggled painfully to threaten.
And the second half was a procession. John Marquis slammed in a loose ball after goalkeeper Luke McCormick parried from both the excellent Joe Wright and May from another Coppinger corner, putting Rovers two-up with more than half an hour to play.
By 73 minutes the game was over when May finally got the goal his performance deserved by sliding in to poke home Rodney Kongolo’s stunning low cross.
There was still time for Plymouth to shoot themselves in the foot as Sonny Bradley was sent off for throwing a punch at Andy Butler following a penalty box tussle. Bradley was the fourth Argyle player to be sent off in as many games at Home Park.
Rovers were rampant.
THE PERFECT GAME PLAN
Darren Ferguson knew all along Plymouth was sit back and let Rovers have the ball from the start. Experience from last season told him so.
Rovers were handed the initiative and approached it superbly.
They kept the ball intelligently and patiently, gently probing the opposition and biding their time for opportunities. With confidence sapped in recent weeks, a strong element of panic crept into Rovers’ play but they were blissfully relaxed at the weekend.
Passing was therefore incisive and they were threatening from the start.
The pattern of the game changed with Butler’s goal. Plymouth had to come out and attack but this played into Rovers’ hands moreso than being asked to attack themselves.
Saturday proved Rovers are a much better counterattacking team than one which has to systematically break down the opposition.
They swarmed forward quickly and with plenty of numbers. They scored three and could have scored more.
But they also took the sting out of the game when needed, happy to pass the ball around at the back to leave Plymouth frustrated.
We have waited seemingly a long time for Rovers to do well what they were doing well last season. On Saturday they did it.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?
Alfie May was simply sensational at Home Park, delivering arguably his best performance in a Rovers shirt.
His energy and tireless running up top was excellent, seeing him pop up between the lines and between defenders.
It looked like he would not get the goal he deserved, particularly when flagged offside when turning home after a Tommy Rowe shot was saved. But he showed real determination to lunge forward and meet Kongolo’s cross to score soon after.
May has become adept at receiving the ball and holding onto possession, even if it takes him dropping back after spinning away from his marker.
His rise from tier eight to a striker that looks more than comfortable in League One has been the stuff of dreams.
Ferguson said afterwards he is now keen to see how the May-Marquis partnership develops. On this evidence, it should be an interesting experiment indeed.