Doncaster Rovers defender Bobby Faulkner "working tirelessly" to improve his game

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Cliff Byrne says Bobby Faulkner has been "working tirelessly" to improve his technique and tactical awareness.

Defender Faulkner made his first appearance for Doncaster Rovers this season in Tuesday's 2-0 EFL Trophy win over Everton's Under-21s.

The 19-year-old was given the man-of-the-match award for his display after helping restrict the young Toffees to zero efforts on goal.

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"He settled into the rhythm of the game really well," said Doncaster assistant Byrne, who was also a centre-half in his playing days, of Faulkner's performance.

Doncaster Rovers defender Bobby Faulkner.Doncaster Rovers defender Bobby Faulkner.
Doncaster Rovers defender Bobby Faulkner.

"He's all action, he's on the front foot. He's really positive to work with and is infectious around the place for such a young boy.

"It was a good reward for him to go and get that performance and put a positive performance in."

Norton-born Faulkner was in a running battle with Everton's Katia Kouyate in the first half.

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After a back-and-forth struggle, on the stroke of half time he headed a goalbound effort from the Blues' biggest attacking threat on the night over the bar.

Then, moments later, Faulkner showed a different side to his game when he intercepted a pass inside his own half and carried the ball all the way to the byline before teeing up Louie Marsh for a shot at goal.

Marsh admitted after the match he should have scored.

"He's not been working on marauding down the right wing and crossing the ball but he's been working tirelessly on his game to improve his technique and tactical awareness," said Byrne.

"You saw the full benefit of that."

Faulkner's ability on the ball has previously been highlighted as an area for improvement within his game, although the youngster excels at the more physical aspects of defending, especially for someone so young.

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Heading, tackling, bravery and leadership - traditional characteristics associated with being a centre-half - are among his biggest strengths, as well as a deceptive turn of pace which makes him one of Doncaster’s fastest players.

"He can shift for a big lad," Rovers captain Richard Wood previously told The Free Press.

"As a central defender he's got plenty of years ahead of him but he looks a good talent and I'm looking forward to working with him and helping him."

Faulker’s fearless style is a throwback and a joy to watch at its best.

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But sometimes – and it’s worth highlighting all players, young and old, make mistakes – an over-exuberant approach has resulted in a footballing lesson or two.

Still, there were improvements as he went along on Tuesday after some shaky moments early in the first half.

"He came up against a direct, powerful and dynamic winger and dealt with the challenge, and figured out a way for each challenge that came his way,” said Byrne.

"It’s a credit to him. He’s probably not experienced in a lot of these situations. But he was certainly determined not to let anyone past him.”

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Byrne’s final point is what makes local lad Faulker so popular with Doncaster fans.

He leaves everything on the pitch and goes to war when he crosses the white line.

Finessing his game, which may well come with time and another loan move or two, could see him develop into a very good defender.

So many of the hard-to-teach traits are already in place.