Analysis: Portsmouth 1 Doncaster Rovers 2 - Rovers prove their promotion credentials

Questions were asked and questions were answered.

Sunday, 2nd October 2016, 4:16 pm
Updated Tuesday, 4th October 2016, 1:10 pm
John Marquis is challenged by Gareth Evans. Pictures: Howard Roe

Doubts had arisen over where Doncaster Rovers’ place was in the League Two pecking order after taking just a single point from two flawed performances against promotion rivals Luton Town and Carlisle United.

Rovers clearly have enough to see off the majority of teams in the division but what about the elite?

John Marquis rounds the goalkeeper to score

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Any concerns they will not be capable of a top-three finish have now been significantly eased following a tremendous win at powerhouses Portsmouth.

It came through the type of multi-faceted performance that they have not produced on enough occasions over the 11 games so far this term - one where attacking incisiveness and defensive resolve go hand in hand.

John Marquis gambled on a long ball forward from Andy Butler, knocked it past on-rushing keeper David Forde and slotted into an empty net to give Rovers a seventh-minute lead.

Though Portsmouth grew into the game, Rovers struck again on 34 minutes. Joe Wright lofted a free-kick to the edge of the box, Butler flicked on to Andy Williams who poked a scruffy finish under Forde.

Andy Butler goes for the loose ball with Connor Chaplin

It was far from comfortable an afternoon, particularly after Portsmouth pulled a goal back three minutes before the break. As the rest of the Rovers defence watched a Gareth Evans cross head out for a goal-kick, Wright attempted to hook a clearance only to send it straight to Carl Baker who smashed it straight into the top corner.

After defending so well for the majority of the first half, it was a shame a mistake would lead to a goal.

But Wright and his teammates more than made up for that with the manner in which they stood up to an almost relentless Portsmouth assault.

This was typified by a magnificent back-heeled goalline clearance from Butler to keep out Gary Roberts ten minutes from time.

Delighted Rovers fans at the end


Rovers had come in for criticism in recent weeks, being accused of gifting opponents goals.

While Wright’s unfortunate error and miscommunication led to Portsmouth’s goal, nothing else was given despite frequent requests from the hosts.

Bodies were thrown in front of shots and headers made in dangerous areas to prevent the equaliser coming during a half of near constant threat from Pompey.

John Marquis rounds the goalkeeper to score

Though bravery was key, it was excellent organisation that built the Rovers brick wall - both on the sidelines with Darren Ferguson’s tactical tinkering and on the pitch, marshalled by the exceptional Butler.


So many times this season have Rovers failed to twist the knife on the opposition.

But they showed a true ruthless streak to go 2-0 up at Fratton Park.

Real sights of goal were hard to come by but when a chance came in the first half, it was taken.

Williams and Marquis both gambled on being in the right place at the right time and finished well to take their respective goal tallies to six apiece.

Andy Butler goes for the loose ball with Connor Chaplin

Arguably they should have scored plenty more and Saturday was no exception.

As Portsmouth pushed for an equaliser, Rovers were restricted to counterattacks. Both strikers should have scored on the break, though Williams perhaps was the most guilty of wastefulness.

One particular attack presented Marquis with an open goal to make it 3-1 with 15 minutes to go. But with the ball at his feet, the single-minded Williams went for glory himself and saw his shot saved by Forde.

An element of composure is still needed in attack.

Delighted Rovers fans at the end