ANALYSIS: Major area for concern for Doncaster Rovers as Burton Albion become latest side to 'do a number' on them
One major question has emerged regarding Doncaster Rovers after three months of the season – how do they cope against opposition teams that seek to shut them down?
It was a question that came up again, mere minutes into what went onto be a thoroughly frustrating performance against a Burton Albion side that really should have left the Keepmoat with all three points.
And despite an admirable show of character to twice fight back from behind and earn a point, it is a question that remains unanswered.
Burton – like Portsmouth, Blackpool and, in particular, Oxford United before them – looked to stop Rovers at source.
When Seny Dieng was looking for options to play a short pass out from the back, there was always an opposition player within a few feet of the typical targets ahead of him.
The two centre halves and two sitting midfielders are the ones that will drop short to collect a pass but well-drilled Burton put a man on each of them throughout the game.
Arguably the most frustrating element of the afternoon was the persistence Rovers showed in playing out from the back.
While it has brought some wonderful fluidity, excellent passing play and rapid attacks already this season, on this occasion it brought them nothing but trouble.
The moans from the stands grew more audible – and this was well beyond the ‘gerrit forward’ brigade – as Dieng continued to send passes towards players who were under tremendous pressure.
It seemed that everyone at the Keepmoat could see the problem except those in the red and white hoops.
Rovers did eventually begin to mix their play at the back as the first half wore on, opting to occasionally go long towards Kwame Thomas or into the channels for Jon Taylor. With Burton operating with a high press, it meant there were plenty of spaces up field for Rovers to exploit.
But frustratingly they went back to playing short at the start of the second period.
So for long periods of the game Burton were the side pushing forward, with only a lack of ruthless edge preventing them from surging clear.
Panic grew among Rovers players in their own half, bringing out uncharacteristic sloppiness in possession and only seeing pressure from Burton grow.
Dieng must take some of the blame as he continuously failed to read the danger and react to it. And there are certainly now questions over the suitability of the likes of Donervon Daniels – someone typically comfortable with the ball at his feet – to carry out the approach when put under so much pressure.
Seemingly unwilling to make a long clearance, Rovers instead played short passes to each other inside their own final third of the pitch, despite the strong press from the opposition.
It saw them gift Burton both their goals.
First Ben Sheaf scuffed a square ball across his own box where David Templeton curled a wonderful effort into the far top corner to give the visitors a 36th minute lead.
And after the break, Daniels was put under pressure with a delayed pass from Dieng but handled it poorly and swiped down Joe Sbarra as he looked to clear, which allowed Lukas Akins to smash home from the spot.
Amazingly, despite being well off-form, Rovers managed to take something from the game and were behind for only seven minutes in total.
Just three minutes after Templeton's stunner, Jon Taylor struck. James Coppinger forced a good save from Kieran O’Hara who then brilliantly blocked Taylor’s initial follow up only for the diminutive forward to slam in at the second attempt.
And they could even have been ahead at half time when Taylor curled a superb free kick onto the bar with O’Hara fortunate not to send the ball in off the back of his legs as it bounced down.
Four minutes after Akins had put Burton back in front, Rovers were back level.
Coppinger sent a sublime through ball for Kieran Sadlier who saw his shot saved by O'Hara, only for the ball to ricochet in off him.
There was certainly an element of fortune with the second goal and the final result, which Darren Moore labelled ‘a point won’ afterwards.
Rovers need to take that and learn the quite considerable and obvious lessons from it if they are to answer the major question facing them.