Doncaster Rovers: How did our sports writers do with their pre-season predictions?

Before a ball was kicked last season our sports writers made a few predictions.

Sunday, 20th May 2018, 6:00 am
John Marquis scored 15 goals in all competitions as Rovers finished 15th in League One.

So this week we have decided to re-visit them.

Here is a reminder of what Paul Goodwin, Liam Hoden and Peter Catt saw in their crystal balls.

And the trio reflect on how their predictions turned out....

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Paul Goodwin

Final league position: 10th

Key man: John Marquis

The squad currently appears to lack the required depth for a concerted top six push. Everything at the moment points to a mid-table finish but that could change with a few more shrewd additions. The failure to add more experience and size to the squad could be detrimental.

Liam Hoden

Final league position: 8th

Key man: Tommy Rowe

I’m confident they will compete with the big boys of the division. I’d imagine there would be a few sticky patches along the way, and probably some very good runs of form. The squad doesn’t have the greatest depth so injuries could prove to be a big stumbling block for success.

Peter Catt

Final league position: Top six

Key man: Liam Mandeville

I don’t think successive promotions are out of the question. Anything less than the play-offs, even a top ten finish, would be a disappointment and I bet the manager and players will be thinking the same. At the time of writing Rovers need more strength in depth.

Additional points

n All three writers tipped Shrewsbury Town to be relegated

n Liam correctly said Wigan Athletic would win League One

n Peter tipped relegated Bury to be the division’s dark horses

Paul Goodwin

I was right to err on the side of caution.

It’s very telling that all three of us mentioned the lack of depth to the squad and it’s something, I fear, could hold Rovers back again next season.

That early win at Blackburn showcased the potential but the Danny Andrew injury completely knocked the team out of its stride and also resulted in square pegs in round holes for the majority of the campaign - notably Niall Mason, Matty Blair and Tommy Rowe.

Rovers displayed a soft centre in September but they became harder to beat as the season went on and the likes of Mason, Joe Wright, Alfie Beestin and Ben Whiteman are maturing fast.

But it seems fairly obvious that this squad needs an injection of players with League One experience to mount any sort of promotion challenge.

John Marquis will more than likely be my key man again next season. Subtract his goals - and his infectious work ethic - and Rovers would have struggled to stay up last term.

Liam Hoden

I think it is fair to say I got caught up in a wave of positivity last summer following the previous season’s march to promotion.

In hindsight - and with a more measured view - it should have all started with consolidation and anything else would have been a bonus.

I still don’t think Rovers were a million miles away from clicking into gear and having a decent push into the top ten and towards the top six.

But a lack of consistency and creativity, a few too many mistakes and a brittleness late in games cost them dearly and meant consolidation was the best we could hope for.

Hoping for no big injuries proved prophetic, but not in the right way. Losing Danny Andrew was a massive blow and Alex Kiwomya never really got going after his unfortunate illness.

Then there was that terrible week in January when Rovers lost all three recognised centre halves, which hardly helped.

The less said about the rest of my predictions the better. Although I will say 22 out of 24 club writers in League One said Shrewsbury would be relegated.

And nothing was quite as bad as Peter’s tip of Bury as the dark horses.

My big mistake was somewhat writing off James Coppinger in my prediction that Tommy Rowe would be the key man. Coppinger could consistently be relied upon to be the real creative spark for Rovers. As for Rowe, it was another steady season but I continue to have the feeling that there is plenty more to come from him.

The only prediction from which I can save any real face is that Wigan would be champions.

When it comes to next season, I imagine the positivity will be back when time for predictions comes in early August - although I may be slightly more reserved.

Peter Catt

It looks like my predictions were mostly wrong which is why I would always be reluctant to invest even a small bet on football, especially when it comes to Doncaster Rovers.

Okay, so I optimistically went for Rovers to finish in the top six and did not rule out successive promotions.

But I did warn that injuries can scupper the best laid plans, especially when Rovers did not have the biggest of squads, and it gave me no pleasure at all to be proved absolutely right on that score.

The number of long term injuries sustained last season was almost on an unprecedented scale underlined by the fact that highly rated summer signings Alex Kiwomya and Danny Andrew started fewer than ten league games between them.

And the failure to acquire another specialist centre back came back to haunt them when the club had to make the emergency loan signings of Tom Anderson and Andy Boyle when Joe Wright, Andy Butler and Mathieu Baudry were all ruled out at the same time.

However, despite those injuries, the defence performed well and it was offensively – unusually for a team managed by Darren Ferguson - that there were unexpected shortcomings.

The magnificent John Marquis apart, allied sporadically to the creative talents of Tommy Rowe and James Coppinger, Rovers were just not menacing enough in the final third underlined by the miserable run of five games without a goal at the finish.

With hindsight Rovers lacked experience in certain areas and, with one or two notable exceptions, they lacked the physicality they enjoyed the last time they won promotion from League One five years ago.

On the plus side we saw the progression of two young players who could have a lot to offer next season.

Joe Wright came on leaps and bounds to show he could have a bright future in the game and Alfie Beestin, 20, displayed not only the burgeoning talent we all know he possesses but also the application and maturity necessary to fulfil his potential.

Teenage left back Danny Amos also looked one to watch with a couple of impressive displays at the end of the campaign, but I got it horribly wrong when predicting Liam Mandeville as a likely key player.

Mandeville was transfer listed at the end of the season but I still believe he can make an impact at the club and change the manager’s mind if he takes a leaf out of Beestin’s book.

He is still only 21 and there is no questioning his ability, especially with stats that show he has scored 15 goals in just 27 starts in a Rovers first team shirt.

The young striker needs to have a long think in the summer, improve his strength and stamina, and show the manager the desire that he wants to play a part in the future of the club.