Liam Hoden: A competition to put some much needed gloss on Rovers’ season

Richie Wellens celebrates Rovers' third against Burton in the JP Trophy
Richie Wellens celebrates Rovers' third against Burton in the JP Trophy

It may be a competition that comes in for much derision and plenty of scorn, but the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy could be a source of salvation for Doncaster Rovers this season.

On Tuesday morning, local newspapers around the country were filled with quotes from managers insisting they would be taking the JP Trophy seriously.

The very fact they have to make such comments – with or without sincerity – shows exactly how low the competition’s reputation is.

But it need not be that way, and for plenty of League One and League Two clubs, it shouldn’t be.

Rovers fall into that bracket and given the side put out at Burton on Tuesday night and the performance from the players, it looks like the competition is being given serious consideration.

Paul Dickov’s side looked as at ease in their play as at any other time during this campaign. They were happy to keep the ball and bide their time without the pressure to get forward quickly. This saw the fluid midfield triangle of Wellens, Keegan and De Val deliver some of their most productive work of the season to date.

Putting it simply, the lack of pressure brought out the best in them.

It may go against the grain somewhat to suggest a mid-table finish for Rovers this season would be a decent achievement but given the inconsistent first two months of the season, it seems the most realistic target on the table.

Rovers undoubtedly have one of the strongest starting XIs in the division when all are fit but having everyone at full fitness is a rarity for any club.

There is also a good weight of pressure coming from the stands, from supporters used to achieving at this level, and this was highlighted by the frankly ludicrous calls for Dickov’s head just a fortnight ago.

Consolidation is not an easy word to throw around, particularly for clubs that have been relegated and have a recent record of fighting at the top end of the third tier. But given another turbulent summer and a very tight budget, a finish between tenth and 15th would be something of an achievement.

That is where a successful JP Trophy campaign would come in nicely. Rovers are a club that knows full well what victory in said competition can mean. The 2007 JP Trophy triumph is held as highly as almost all the other achievements in the rise from non-league to the Championship.

A run to a Wembley final could provide much-needed consolation for Rovers this season. This is a club after all that have become very much accustomed to fighting on some form of front every season.

And the positive knock backs of a cup run which managers regularly discuss could even kick the side on in the league and make the outside chance of a play-off push slightly more likely.