Liam Hoden: Change is a good thing for revitalised Doncaster Rovers

The positivity is back at Doncaster Rovers!

Thursday, 22nd November 2018, 10:11 am
Updated Thursday, 22nd November 2018, 10:19 am
Herbie Kane is congratulated after his goal against Chorley

The frustrating run of games without a victory is over and Rovers are into the second round of the FA Cup after two good wins in the space of four days.

So what have we learned from this last week?


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It was clear that Rovers needed something considerable to shake-off their vulnerability from set pieces.

A shot going in off someone's backside is often said to be the solution to a goal drought but it is not quite so simple for ending woes at the other end of the pitch.

With the problem of set piece defending only growing, Grant McCann pledged a different approach.

And the change delivered success in last weekend's win over a big and powerful AFC Wimbledon side.

The different approach was a switch from man-to-man marking to a hybrid method involving some man marking and some zonal.

A group of players lined up as a blocker on the six yard line, able to charge out and head away and balls while others kept a close watch on individual Wimbledon players.

And there was no real nervy moment where it felt as though Rovers would concede.

There will be further tests to come to see just how much better this approach suits Rovers and ultimately, as was pointed out by manager and players alike, it still requires the concentration they had been lacking.

But it was clear how much of a psychological burden it had lifted from the side, who played with much more freedom than they had been doing.


Shortly after his arrival as Rovers boss, McCann said he would always encourage his sides to twist the knife on the opposition.

If they scored one, he wanted four. If they scored four, he wanted seven.

So he will have been pleased with the events of Tuesday night.

Though we all know it is not quite so simple, Rovers were fully expected to breeze past Chorley in the replay.

The impressive factor was that as they breezed through, there was an element of no mercy about their play.

Out of sight of the sixth tier opposition with less than half an hour on the clock, they kept pushing for more.

McCann admitted afterwards he was disappointed Rovers only scored twice in the second half, even after going down to ten men.

While he remains as demanding as ever, his team showed they remain on board after a run of games where their collective ruthlessness was under question.


Many Rovers fans are worried about the increasing attention Herbie Kane is garnering for his excellent performances during his loan spell.

There is concern that there may be offers put in to Liverpool from Championship clubs to take Kane from January.

But there should also be some worry about how much attention he is receiving out on the pitch.

Kane was kicked from pillar to post against AFC Wimbledon and was subjected to a few late challenges in the mauling of Chorley.

McCann suggested Kane needs to move the ball quicker if he is to avoid a kick to the Achilles.

But, ball or no ball, it appears opposition teams are becoming increasingly cynical when it comes to stopping the talented midfielder from influencing the game.

Thankfully, it seems Kane can claim the tag of iron man to add to his long list of attributes.


It was difficult not to notice that McCann had dispensed with the usual training wear on the touchline for Saturday's win over Wimbledon.

Instead, the Rovers boss opted for shirt, tie, trousers and jumper, all under a smart coat.

So was he looking at more than just set pieces when it came to inspiring changes? And was there any superstition behind it?

'Probably, a little bit,' he said with a smile after the victory.

'I just thought let's have a change-up and it's worked so it'll stay for the next game.'

And it is not only McCann who has seen an upturn in fortunes since a change in look.

After chopping off his trademark locks a couple of weeks ago, Alfie May has netted six goals.

'I think the barnet is doing the job at the minute,' the striker said after his four goal haul against Chorley.

'I cut it once in non-league and it didn't go right so I was quite worried.

'It needed to come off because it was doing my head in.'

So was it purely coincidental that John Marquis ended his five game run without a goal after adopting a man-bun?