Analysis: Barnet 1 Doncaster Rovers 3 - Coppinger class counts as Ferguson's men flex their muscle
There is no hint of politeness in this Doncaster Rovers side when it comes to getting out of an uncomfortable situation.
For the second successive match, they found themselves pushed onto the back foot by an on-form opposition and they were rocking.
But for the second successive match they showed a real ruthlessness to blitz their way into the game and the lead before locking a stranglehold on proceedings.
And the best part about the cold-hearted manner in which they turned the game on its head? They are getting better at it.
Rovers were all over the place for the first 15 minutes of a clash with a Barnet side that had won six of their previous eight matches.
The hosts pressed hard, led from the front by the bruising John Akinde, and Rovers played panicked passes sideways and backwards which brought no end to the pressure.
One such pass gifted Barnet the opening goal on 13 minutes. Niall Mason solde debutant keeper Ian Lawlor short with a back-pass, allowing Akinde to nip in, round the keeper and slot into an empty net.
Still Barnet pushed and Rovers wobbled. But five minutes after falling behind, the visitors levelled against the run of play.
Matty Blair stormed down the right wing and picked out James Coppinger with a superb pass into the box. Barnet keeper Josh Vickers blinked, anticipating another pass inside, allowing Coppinger to rifle into an open goal.
Rovers never looked back and Coppinger’s first sparked a devastating 13-minute spell in which they swept Barnet aside.
On 28 minutes they were in front. A scramble in the box resulted from a Conor Grant free kick with John Marquis eventually turning the ball home. TV replays showed Marquis’ shot went in off Mathieu Baudry’s hand.
Three minutes later they were out of sight. Jordan Houghton’s pass into the box was cleared but only as far as Coppinger who struck a first-time, low, curling effort into the bottom corner from the edge of the box.
Rovers dominated possession for the rest of the half and fully supressed Barnet’s energy and enthusiasm to see out another win in comfort of which they could have only dreamed in the early stages.
A HINT OF SWAGGER
After going 3-1 up, Rovers kept the ball with real class and quality. Passes were sprayed around The Hive with care and incisiveness to leave Barnet chasing shadows in the last 15 minutes of the first half.
Rovers, at their best, are excellent in possession. But rarely do they have a swagger about their play to demonstrate they know how good they are.
During that quarter hour, hints of swagger came through. Confidence was high and it was finally reflected in the way they took care of the ball.
Darren Ferguson wants to see more of it. If Rovers can produce it over the last 20 games, it is going to be a thrilling run-in.
It was hard to judge new keeper Lawlor on his first outing for Rovers.
Preferred to Ross Etheridge after being handed a two-and-a-half year deal, it appears the former Manchester City keeper could have first dibs on a starting place.
He looked nervy in the early stages when Rovers were put under intense pressure, though a plethora of back-passes did not aid his cause.
But he settled in and produced a fine double save from Ricardo Santos in the second half to maintain Rovers’ two goal cushion.
It has been written many times this season but Coppinger shows no signs of slowing despite his advancing years.
His double on Saturday came from a place of confidence, vision and audacity. And it took him to a career-high eight goals for the season.
Not only that, he was incredibly influencial in a fluid Rovers front six that should only improve as Conor Grant settles back into life at the club.
Ferguson has numerous options for his midfield and Liam Mandeville has shown himself more than capable of playing at the tip of the diamond.
But, suspensions aside, Coppinger has played himself into undroppable status at the age of 36.