Analysis: A dud game but another point for lacklustre Rovers - Gillingham 0 Doncaster 0
When you reach this stage of the season, you can probably expect one or two dud matches.
Rovers’ goalless draw at Gillingham was the archetypal end-of-season fare featuring two sides without real pressure of chasing or escaping something.
They started incredibly brightly with relentless pressure over the first quarter of the game. A strong press out of possession was coupled with an intent to play quickly with plenty of first time passes as Rovers pushed hard from the start.
But after failing to make it count, Rovers settled into a largely lacklustre and error-strewn performance which was only matched by their hosts.
Gillingham altered their formation to slow Rovers’ advance and it seemed to work, as well as resulting in a contest where there was very little between the two sides.
Marko Marosi - again preferred to Ian Lawlor in the Rovers goal - had very little to do though he had Joe Wright to thank for getting him out of jail after being dispossed close to the corner flag in the first half.
For Rovers, there were tame efforts from Niall Mason, Alfie Beestin and Tommy Rowe who all should have done better in decent positions.
But the best opportunity came for substitute Alfie May in stoppage time. Fellow sub Rodney Kongolo flashed a low cross across the box which ran through to May.
The striker’s mistake was trying to take a tough and his heavy connection with the ball gave the Gillingham defence enough time to clear.
Scoring would have been somewhat unjust for Gillingham with neither side particularly deserving of the win.
DEALING WITH CHANGE
Rovers’ strong start forced Gillingham into a change off system and then a change of approach.
At half time, boss Steve Lovell threw on striker Tom Eaves, creating a twin towers attack with Conor Wilkinson.
Gillingham began peppering the Rovers box with crosses which forced the visitors onto the back foot.
But, continuing the defensive resolve of recent weeks, Rovers did not particularly look like conceding.
Though not naturally balanced in traditional terms, the Joe Wright-Mathieu Baudry pairing has been excellent in recent weeks.
And they deserved to add another clean sheet to their growing haul.
The two have shown a superb composure since being pushed together as a pairing and are showing increasing intuition as a duo.
PLEASE, NO COMPLACENCY
The one worrying factor of Saturday’s game was it was clear to see several Rovers players switched off somewhat as the game wore on.
Passing that was sharp became sloppy. Runs that were intelligent became sluggish.
Hopefully it is isolated to this game because it has been good to see Rovers playing with the shackles off at times over the last few weeks.
But the worry plenty will have is that now that Rovers are all but mathematically safe, their levels of desire and determination will dip.
This is their chance for a good run of games where the pressure is off and they have an opportunity to play with the freedom that should bring out the best in them.
The competition for places should keep the players on their toes. Let’s hope it does.
THERE ARE NO GUARANTEES
Alex Kiwomya’s absence from the matchday 18 was a surprise - and the reasoning for which even more eyebrow-raising.
Ferguson simply could find no place for the striker, largely due to a desire to keep the squad largely intact from the win at Blackpool, which Kiwomya missed through illness.
Kiwomya was left as the spare man at the Priestfield Stadium, a status which reflected the strength of the Rovers squad currently.
Ferguson has a level of availability unprecedented for this season and it is giving him a severe selection headache.
It means there are no guarantees for the likes of Kiwomya, despite his fine form since his debut.Nor are there any guarantees that Andy Butler will force his way back into the starting XI, with Wright and Baudry performing so well in his absence.
Get a chance, play well and you will, in all likelihood, keep your shirt.
And that is a healthy position for Rovers to be in.