Analysis: Oldham Athletic 2 Doncaster Rovers 1 - league frailty extends to FA Cup
Rovers certainly know how to score goals but keeping them out at the other end is proving a significant and growing concern this season.
Defensive frailty delivered their downfall in a disappointing FA Cup exit, proving as costly in knockout competition as it has in league action in recent weeks
And a lack of attacking cohesion for the majority of the game certainly did not help either.
In a game against a struggling side from the division above, Rovers had a real chance of progression despite Darren Ferguson’s decision to make eight changes.
In the end, they exited the celebrated competition with a whimper.
The league may be the priority but the manner of the performance ensured plenty of disappointment at the end of a cup campaign.
After a bright start during which they dominated possession and territory, Rovers were hurt consistently on the break, particularly down the right where Tyler Garratt was given a torrid time on his third start for the club.
Oldham’s opening goal in first-half stoppage time came with poor decision-making. Marko Marosi and Joe Wright dropped on to the goalline as a high ball into the box was knocked down, presenting Ryan Flynn with all the space he needed to finish from close range.
Before Rovers could fully set themselves after the break, they went two down.
Mathieu Baudry - deployed as a deep-lying midfielder - pondered in possession and was robbed of the ball, sparking a break with Flynn feeding Billy McKay who finished well.
It was not until the late stages that Rovers threatened a comeback.
Liam Mandeville was hauled down in the box and confidently stepped up to convert.
But, coming in added time, it was too little, too late.
Sub Andy Butler was at the centre of worrying scenes at the final whistle after suffering a knock to his spine which saw him stretchered off.
YOUNGSTERS SET STANDARD
Bright points in performance terms were hard to come by from a day to forget.
But - as they have done previously in the Checkatrade Trophy - it was the younger members of the side who stood out the most.
Mandeville and Alfie Beestin, in particular, performed very well in difficult circumstances at Boundary Park. Both were key components to Rovers’ strong start and continued to be among the side’s better performers.
Mandeville showed a renewed confidence and greater intent after recent disappointing performances following Andy Williams’ injury. It was a positive to see him confidently grasp the ball for his penalty and finish with real assuredness.
Beestin, above all others, attempted to make things happen for Rovers, either by linking with teammates or heading directly for goal.
Ferguson may have marked the Marquis-Coppinger-Rowe triumvirate as the stand-out solution in Williams’ absence but Beestin and Mandeville provided a welcome reminder of their own strengths.
A major positive for Rovers was a first appearance of the season for Craig Alcock.
Since his arrival from Sheffield United last season, Alcock has proven to be Mr Reliable for Rovers, an ever-steady defender in whichever position he is deployed across the back four.
Given Rovers’ recent defensive frailties, the return of Alcock is timely and presents Ferguson with a genuine option heading into the winter months.
NEED FOR QUICK RESPONSE
After disappointing performances and three games without a win, Rovers need to show more of what they are capable - and quickly.
Tuesday’s Checkatrade Trophy tie with Port Vale may not be a priority fixture but it could be an occasion to offer reassurance Rovers have not wandered too far off course.