Analysis: Doncaster Rovers 0 Wigan Athletic 1 - There's something to work with at Rovers but a smaller squad could stunt progress
There is clearly something to work with at Doncaster Rovers.
But it is going to take a summer of very clever recruitment to push things on from the foundations in place.
And that will especially be the case if, as has been suggested, Rovers are indeed planning to run with a smaller senior squad.
Doncaster ended the season with a largely forgettable affair against the best side in the division.
It was a game overshadowed by the absence of manager Darren Ferguson after his father had taken ill.
And it was also a game that, in some ways, summed up a fairly mediocre season - something of a rarity over the last decade at Doncaster.
Rovers essentially achieved what they set out to do, consolidate their place back in League One.
Within the club it might be a campaign they look back on and think a 15th place finish was slightly below par.
But ultimately they came up short in some key departments - they scored too few goals and conceded too many late ones - to really make an impact at the top end of the table.
For long periods Rovers showed what they are about by giving as good as they got against a well-drilled, powerful Wigan Athletic team that should have little problem adapting to the Championship.
They kept their defensive shape and were dogged in their approach.
In terms of effort, commitment and togetherness, no one can really say a bad word about this group of players.
But they just did not have enough pace or precision in the right areas to really trouble Paul Cook’s side.
Rovers struggled to make attacking inroads and they drew a blank for the fifth successive game. With 52 goals to their name they are the sixth lowest scorers in the division.
On the flip side, 52 goals against represents the sixth best defensive record in League One.
But, like so many times this season, they were unable to see out what would have been a very respectable result had it ended goalless.
Wigan’s extra quality eventually told in the 75th minute when Will Grigg raced clear and coolly slotted past Marko Marosi, sealing the league title for the jubilant visitors.
Rovers had again given a decent account of themselves but, like their season in general, they had ran out of steam.
STORY OF THE MATCH
Rovers’ best moment came very early on when John Marquis prodded an opening wide.
From then on Wigan grew into the game and the writing appeared to be on the wall when Grigg twice went close to breaking the deadlock after the re-start.
It proved to be third time lucky for the Northern Ireland striker when Rovers’ otherwise impressive defence were caught flat-footed and he stayed onside to latch onto Nick Powell’s through ball and stroke home the winner.
The disappointing way the season has ended, with no win from the final six games, should not overshadow a season that has been another step in the right direction.
But it does suggest Rovers, who have been hampered by injuries to key players, were running on empties.
How running a smaller squad would counteract those problems remains to be seen. An interesting summer certainly lies in wait.
Ferguson, before meeting the board to confirm his budget, suggested last week that he may have a smaller squad next season. He had previously hoped to have two players competing for each position.
After the match on Saturday Gavin Strachan said he and Ferguson preferred working with smaller, tight-knit, squads.