Doncaster Rovers: What we learned this week
It is pretty difficult to learn much about Doncaster Rovers at the minute seeing as they are hardly playing any games.
Saturday’s gallant and deserved point at Southend United was a decent response to the defeat at Rotherham United – even if it did come a fortnight after.
So, as we wait for Monday night’s clash with Bradford City – ahead of the best part of a fortnight’s break before the next game – I pick out the notable points from the last couple of weeks.
SQUAD IS LOOKING A LOT HEALTHIER AT THE IDEAL TIME
In fact, you could argue that the Rovers squad is at the strongest it has been all season – or it will be by the time the Easter weekend rolls around.
At Southend, Rovers may have once again been without most of their centre halves, but the return to the starting XI of Joe Wright and Mathieu Baudry showed the new depth they have in their defensive ranks.
The Wright-Baudry partnership is one which has rarely been used by Darren Ferguson - for understandable reasons given the excellent form of Andy Butler - but there were promising signs Rovers could be confident with them as a duo if required.
Andy Boyle has a good chance of being available for the next game at home to Bradford with Butler to follow soon after and Tom Anderson still to return.
An area which has proved one of concern for Rovers this season is finally looking more shored up. Hopefully that will be the case come August for the next campaign.
But it is not just at the back where options are strong.
Ferguson can pick from three players to sit in the holding role in midfield – Luke McCullough, Jordan Houghton and Ben Whiteman.
And Andy Williams’ return to fitness means Rovers have a full complement of fit strikers.
With a busy April to come, it could hardly be more timely.
SERIOUSLY, ROVERS ARE RESILIENT
There might have been times this season when such a statement would seem more than a little daft.
I wrote a few weeks ago that 13 per cent of goals conceded this season have come after the 90 minute mark.
Holding on to leads or points has proved problematic at times.
But on Saturday at Southend, Rovers showed a streak of resilience late in the game.
I admit there were a few worries in my mind that Southend would score as they piled the pressure on in added time.
But Rovers never really looked like conceding which, given what has come before, is a considerable positive.
They were calm, assured and composed as they saw off the danger to earn themselves a very decent point on what was a horrendous and unpredictable playing surface at Roots Hall.
ANOTHER ONE FOR THE FUTURE
Issam Ben Khemis has had a tough introduction to life in English football but has gone through it with a smile on his face.
Affable, enthusiastic and determined, the French forward could turn out to be another gem unearthed by Ferguson.
His goal in the Development Squad game with Walsall in midweek was spectacular and there will be a few pining for him to get an opportunity to do the same for the first team before the end of the season.
Though keen for as much time on the pitch as possible – particularly after his injury – Ben Khemis admitted to me a few months ago in a chance meeting in the supermarket that this first year was one for him to settle in and, as he put it, ‘next season will be his.’
He took the lesson from his horror show against Rochdale earlier in the season and looked an improved player when he returned.
This first season will have been good for him, as will a full summer with the Rovers squad. Then he must kick on and truly show what he can do.
THE CLUB OFFERS GOOD VALUE
I expect people will throw the examples of Bradford and Huddersfield when it comes to real value in season tickets but there are reasons why Rovers cannot replicate that if they wish to operate as a sustainable business.
But there is plenty to be said of freezing season ticket prices for a third consecutive season – even if the club themselves did not particularly shout about it.
There isn’t a great deal of money swilling around out there so not asking for more is a pretty decent thing to do.
And you can win an Xbox. You can’t say fairer than that.