Doncaster Rovers caretaker wants better fitness and more responsibility from his players after Mansfield Town loss
Gary McSheffrey insists his Doncaster Rovers players simply must get their fitness up to speed to handle the demands of the fixture list.
With only a small squad from which to select due to injuries and unavailability, the caretaker manager says those ready to play must be able to cope with plenty of game time.
And he felt that was not the case for some during his first game in charge as Rovers exited the FA Cup at the hands of Mansfield Town.
“They’ve had a tough week, playing Wednesday night and we’re thin on numbers,” McSheffrey said. “People are going to get a lot of game time and you’ve got to get up to speed and maybe improve your fitness.
“The big one in the second half for maybe a 20 minute period was they looked so much more energetic in the attacking half. It changed in midfield, they kept getting first contact onto any loose ball and we weren’t there to press so they could turn easily and get forward.
“It was just the energy level and the distances. We got penned back in a bit and the back three was dealing with quite a bit of stuff.
“But then we have to get onto the loose ball faster and track runners.
“I thought in the first half we came out well, we pressed them quite aggressively and forced errors and with a bit more cutting edge and quality in possession and decision making, we could have gone in at the break two or three up.
“Maybe if we had a bit more energy in the final third that maybe we could have gone in more than one up.”
Branden Horton netted after seven minutes to put Rovers ahead but while they controlled the first half, they could not add to their tally.
Mansfield scored just three minutes into the second half through William Forrester and never looked back, with George Lapslie bagging a quickfire brace to put them in command in front of more than 3,200 travelling fans.
McSheffrey felt his side should have been able to respond to the shift in momentum early in the second half much better and was disappointed in his more senior players.
“There comes a point where you have to take responsibility as individuals,” he said.
“We had three experienced defenders on the pitch initially. I had to move Tommy Rowe out because I thought it would make a difference keeping the ball when we cleared it or did try to play forward.
“But getting the message on is quite difficult. You can see the momentum but the last thing I want is for it to seem like I’m panicking.
“Will they work it out themselves? Will Tommy, Tom Anderson or Kyle Knoyle pull Lirak Hasani a bit deeper and be more solid, close the gaps?
“Sometimes they’ve got to work that out themselves. You’re asking them to do it but I don't think we fully committed to it.”
Rowe pulled a late goal back for Rovers but they could not find the equaliser and were dumped out of the cup at the second round stage.