Tommy Rowe: Doncaster Rovers well prepared for Portsmouth clash
After the hard fought draw at Mansfield Town on Saturday, the Doncaster Rovers squad grabbed their trunks and headed en masse to the nearest swimming pool.
But this was no festive jolly. They were already thinking about tonight’s opponents Portsmouth.
Rovers’ hectic New Year schedule of three games in six days culminates in this evening’s Sky-televised clash at home to fourth-placed Pompey.
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail, as they say. And midfielder Tommy Rowe, clearly buoyed by a run that has seen Doncaster win seven of their last nine games in League Two, is convinced Rovers are well set to make a splash in 2017.
“The recovery has been crucial,” said Rowe, following Monday’s hard earned 1-0 win over Stevenage.
“We’ve used loads of methods individually and collectively to be in the best shape possible.
“A few of the boys have come in with different ideas, like pool sessions after games.
“It’s good to see and it’s encouraging when you’ve got all your teammates pulling in the right direction.
“What’s amazing about this team is the unity when it comes to wanting to improve.
“The club and the gaffer have invested in the type of players who have the same vision, they want to go to the next level.
“You can’t take shortcuts if you want to get there, you’ve got to do everything properly and slowly we’re getting there.”
Andy Williams and Craig Alcock could return to the starting line-up tonight after being benched against Stevenage.
The signings of Conor Grant and Alfie May have notably strengthened boss Darren Ferguson’s hand - much to the approval of Rowe.
“The competition for places is incredible,” he said.
“It’s one of those situations where you’ve really got to be on top of your game every week to stay in the team.
“I think it drives everyone on, and that’s what the manager wanted to create at the club.
“You can get complacent when you’re winning but if you’ve got players coming off the bench and doing well it’s good for competition.
“You can see in training too that the lads that aren’t involved are there or thereabouts.
“So you really need to work hard to stay in the team.”
Only adding to Rowe’s sense of optimism is the way Rovers have successfully adapted and evolved in recent games.
The 28-year-old found himself at left back in the second half at Notts County on Boxing Day when Ferguson switched from a diamond 4-4-2 to a flat one. He went on to set up the winner for Williams.
Against Mansfield there was a second half switch to three at the back. And that carried into the Stevenage game, in which Rowe found himself employed as a left wing back.
“We have a structure and a way of playing but we don’t just have one way, we have two or three,” said Rowe.
“If at half time the gaffer sees an opportunity for us to change our shape, we’ll do it.
“We work hard in training and we’re patient with our build-up.
“The Notts County game was a great example of when it’s not going our way, change formation and the chances came soon after we went to a [flat] 4-4-2. It just shows we can adapt and change. We’ve got different levels to the way we want to play.”
Rovers will go ten points clear of Portsmouth if they win tonight. They won the reverse fixture at Fratton Park 2-1 with goals from Williams and John Marquis.