Cutting off the supply, vulnerability, problem solving and more talking points from Doncaster Rovers' defeat to Plymouth Argyle

Doncaster Rovers fell to a second consecutive defeat as their worst performance of the season saw them slump to a 2-1 loss at Plymouth Argyle.

By Liam Hoden
Wednesday, 28th October 2020, 12:00 pm

Here we take a look at some of the major talking points from the defeat at Home Park.

CUTTING OFF THE SUPPLY

Plymouth arguably did the best job so far this season of an opposition side shutting Rovers down, particularly in the first half.

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Ben Whiteman fires on goal against Plymouth. Picture: Howard Roe/AHPIX

Strikers Luke Jephcott and Ryan Hardie pushed up against Tom Anderson and Joe Wright to take out the option for Josef Bursik to play a quick pass out to the centre halves.

The hosts’ wing backs also ensured there was little space for Brad Halliday and Cameron John to be picked out on the flanks.

Bursik’s ability to play longer passes with accuracy is still in development and definitely needs work. He found touch, or an opposition player, too many times.

The lack of options drew Ben Whiteman and Matt Smith back towards their own goal, and they were followed by Plymouth’s midfield which gave them little hope of advancing up the pitch themselves.

Matt Smith brings the ball forward. Picture: Howard Roe/AHPIX

All of a sudden, Rovers’ attacking front four found themselves miles away from the rest of the team.

Attempted long balls forward gave those attackers too much to do to bring others into play - if they found the intended target in the first place.

The first half was akin to pushing a boulder up a hill. And it was as toiling to watch as it appeared to be taking part in it.

INABILITY TO PROBLEM SOLVE

Josh Sims improved Rovers following his introduction. Picture: Howard Roe/AHPIX

Such issues are nothing new for Rovers - they encountered it plenty of times from a similar point onwards last season.

It had appeared that they had developed the ability to overcome the sort of close attention that prevented them from finding their natural and intended flow.

But Tuesday night’s showing suggested otherwise.

As long passes and lofted balls came back at them time after time, there was no alteration in approach and no rethink, making the first half a miserable experience all round.

Fejiri Okenabirhie hooks on goal. Picture: Howard Roe/AHPIX

It took a half time reset to change things, to get the midfield playing higher up the pitch and bring the attacking ranks into play.

A team as talented as this should not need the break for a rethink, particularly when the same issues prevailed throughout the first half.

Problem solving on the pitch is the next big thing for Rovers to tick off if they are to truly take their place among the leading sides in the division.

DEFENSIVE VULNERABILITY

The one thing that could be relied on consistently from Rovers was defensive solidity.

They presented one of the meanest defences in the division last season and started this term in the same stubborn fashion.

But after being carved open a little too easily in the defeat to Crewe at the weekend, they reached new depths at Home Park.

A player as talented as Danny Mayor is always likely to cause problems for the opposition and he certainly did that against Rovers, getting success on most attacks, particularly when coming down the left.

He did the hard work for the first goal as he surged to the byline and cut a pass back, but it was all too easy for Luke Jephcott to ghost in and finish from close range, leaving the Rovers defence looking around to see what had happened.

And the second was even worse. The lively Byron Moore cut another ball back from the byline that somehow made its way across a crowded box without being cut out, where Joe Edwards charged in and slammed home. It was a fine finish from Edwards but he never should have been afforded the space in which to produce it.

Moore put it down again to lapses of concentration, as he did for the two goals conceded against Crewe.

Add concentration to the list of things Rovers must discover quickly.

YET, THEY STILL CREATED CHANCES

Despite not deserving to take anything from the game, Rovers still created enough chances to win it. Really good chances too.

Joe Wright missed an unbelievable diving header, having done the hard work to power himself onto a superb delivery from James Coppinger, only to scuff the ball wide from six yards out.

And Fejiri Okenabirhie, before his clever finish that got Rovers off the mark, got the better of Tyrese Formah in chasing down a clearance to put himself in one on one. But he blazed over the bar from the edge of the area.

Okenabirhie had several chances, most of which he created himself with turns on the edge of the box and quickfire shots. Ben Whiteman too missed a good opportunity.

The chances created and spurned only increases the frustration at the other disappointing aspects of Rovers’ play. They did not need to be that much better to have at least taken something from the game.

THE BRIGHT SPOTS

It was not all doom and gloom on the rain battered south coast.

In the first half, Matt Smith stood out for Rovers with an energetic display in the middle of the park.

He tore around the pitch, closing down the ball, pinching it away from Plymouth and playing neat passes to get Rovers on the front foot.

His arrival has been less heralded than that of fellow deadline day signing Josh Sims but the Manchester City loanee could prove just as important as the eye-catching winger.

It was somewhat strange that Smith was brought off after an hour, given he was one of very few in red and white to make positive impressions.

Smith was replaced by Sims who himself made an impact with his lively running and attacking aggression certainly helping Rovers come into the game.

And Danny Amos, surprisingly sent on for Brad Halliday, got forward well, almost netted a free kick via a deflection and produced a couple of hammered shots that had Plymouth nervous.

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