Doncaster Rovers talking points: More injuries, referee grumbles and transfer tease

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Doncaster Rovers were dumped out of the EFL Trophy after a 1-0 quarter-final loss at Bradford City.

Here are four salient takeaways to emerge from last night's Yorkshire derby.

Mixed news on injury front

The standout line from this fixture wasn't Rovers' exit from the EFL Trophy. Nor was it the continuation of a poor return over the last ten games (just one win in that period, incidentally).

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Doncaster's Ben Close clutches his knee after a challenge late on in the defeat at Bradford.Doncaster's Ben Close clutches his knee after a challenge late on in the defeat at Bradford.
Doncaster's Ben Close clutches his knee after a challenge late on in the defeat at Bradford.

The main subject on the agenda was not one, not two but three fresh injuries to contend with. Luke Molyneux and Conor Carty both departed prematurely before the break at Bradford with Ben Close being stretchered off in stoppage time.

McCann was unhappy with the manner of all three incidents: "Luke's got a swollen and cut ankle which is no surprise when someone stands on you. Conor was thrown into the advertising boards and twisted his knee so we'll have to see how he is. And then Ben's obviously had a player come through him and he landed funny. It's too early to say (how long possibly out for) until physios send them for scans or x-rays or whatever it needs to be.

"It's been a theme of the season really. Injuries are a part of football, for sure. But those tonight - I'm not saying the (Bradford) lads done it deliberately because I believe Graham (Alexander) and his staff have got a real honest group of players here. But from what I saw it looked really, really nasty on Luke and then it looked a nudge pushing Conor."

Ref grumbles

As well as being unhappy at referee Will Finnie's performance when it came to protecting his players from the well-documented injuries, McCann also had grumbles over other key incidents involving the officials.

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He said: "We should have had a penalty in the first half on Richard Wood which the referee somehow doesn't see. I felt that was the tone of the night. As I've said, our three players who got injured weren't protected and they're on crutches in the dressing room. I've had a chat with the referee and some of the things he said just don't make sense. There was moments in the game towards the end where the ref is giving free-kicks 30, 40 yards away. I'm not one to be tough on referees because it's a tough job but I felt tonight there was no protection."

Positives to take

Despite the result and the aforementioned injury woes, there were still plenty of positives for McCann and his coaching staff to look back on when they dissect this performance at Cantley Park today.

The obvious one is the big uplift in output compared to last Saturday's sorry showing against Stockport. Players defended stoutly, especially from corners, and the work-rate was back to the level it should be - highlighted by the warm applause they received at the final whistle from the travelling Rovers support.

"We kept going and there was much more steel and determination than on Saturday," McCann reflected. "I was pleased with the response and hopefully we can carry on with that fight and passion."

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A big part of that organisation was undoubtedly the inclusion of veteran Richard Wood. His return to the side was welcomed by his manager: "I'm sure you could hear his organisation from the stands and his talking. It's huge in any team - you need three or four in any side. Woody's huge for us and it was a really good performance."

Wood wasn’t alone – James Maxwell and Jamie Sterry were also impressive in their respective returns to the starting line-up whilst Jack Senior made a bright cameo in the latter stages.

Any more transfers?

The January window slams shut late on Thursday night and before this game the expectation was that Rovers' business had largely been done. Five players had arrived, and all in good time to suggest no panic buying or trolley dash was necessary.

The trio of injuries suffered in this contest has however thrown a big dollop of doubt into proceedings.

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McCann was coy, when speaking to the media pitchside at Valley Parade post-match, on whether he'll now be forced to dip his toe into the market again, saying he wanted to confirm the prognosis of the injuries before deciding his next move.

"We felt we did our business early," he said.

"We were hoping for a relatively quiet transfer window but as I say we'll wait for the prognosis on the three injured players. Even if it is bad news then we may still be done. But you never know what the window throws up in a day or two."

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