Bristol Rovers 0 Doncaster Rovers 4: A rediscovery of ruthlessness helps breed confidence and arrogance in McCann’s men – analysis

Mallik Wilks
Mallik Wilks

You may have been forgiven for thinking Rovers had evolved out of their joyous early season style – but they have not done with it yet by a long shot.

In a superbly comfortable win in tough conditions at Bristol Rovers, they once again demonstrated attacking freedom in its truest form to blitz a plucky home side out of sight.

The challenges Grant McCann’s side have encountered this season have arguably helped them become a more resilient, tougher side as the weeks have passed.

At times focusing on finding such resilience has dragged them away from the one-track mindedness of their play early in the campaign.

But with an excellent performance at the Memorial Stadium, they showed the elements have never really gone away.

They did not have it all their pwn way, particularly during a first half in which beleaguered Bristol Rovers looked to be scrapping for their lives and making good progress doing so.

But it was a case of taking chances when they came and demonstrating the ruthlessness that has come in fits and starts for Rovers this season.

On that front, Rovers showed exactly why they occupy a place in League One’s top six while their hosts for the afternoon are in the bottom four.

A much-needed brace for the recalled Mallik Wilks plus strikes from John Marquis and Tom Anderson had the game done and dusted with an hour on the clock.

While Bristol Rovers toiled for opportunities, Rovers scythed them open and made it count.

This is a side with a great deal of momentum behind them and they are enjoying an excellent end to 2018.

CONFIDENCE WITH ARROGANCE

Afterwards McCann spoke of his players playing with a degree of confidence with arrogance and it was hard to disagree.

Confidence saw them stand up to pressure and endeavour from the hosts and never look anything but comfortable in the face of it.

When they did not have the ball, they never looked rattled – and that came against horrendously swirling and unpredictable winds.

And when they did have it, they demonstrated real composure to establish a semblance of control in midfield and build threatening attacks.

And that is where the arrogance came. Around the final third there was a real swagger, typified with a stunning breakaway goal to round off the scoring, capped with a nonchalant finish from Wilks – a player at his best when the swagger is present in his game.

CONFIDENCE BUILDING

If anyone needed a goal, it was Wilks whose Rovers career was arguably in need of a considerable boost.

Restored to the starting XI for the first time in five matches, after a slow start he managed to show just why McCann is keen to extend his loan until the end of the season.

He showed excellent alertness to head in after an initial effort from Marquis struck the bar.

That goal helped him sake off the shackles and show some of the powerful direct runs which saw him stand out early in the campaign.

So when he was sent galloping clear from half way after the break, few would have bet against the ball ending up in the back of the net. He surged ahead of his marker, held him off and calmly poked the ball through the keeper’s legs.

He only has to look to his strike partner to see what a goal or two can do for individual fortunes.

With a piledriver into the top corner from 25 yards, Marquis smashed home his fourth in five games to move onto 14 for the season.

He has emphatically ended a period of frustration in front of goal and the hope will be now that Wilks can do the same.

It was also positive to see Anderson flick home a header from a superb cross from Kane – back in his home town and bamboozling those who sought to close him down out wide.

Anderson’s height and heading prowess is of such value at the other end of the pitch, it could and probably should deliver more in attacking areas.

REAL RESOLVE 

Less than a month ago all the talk surrounding Rovers was of defensive vulnerability.

In their last six matches they have conceded just twice.

McCann was correct when he said taking away the worries about defending would set the entire side free. It certainly has done that.

The injury to Niall Mason will bring a fresh challenge to the new found resolve over the next month.

But Rovers look much more like a side capable of rolling with the punches. It bodes well.

READ MORE

Player ratings from Rovers’ win at Bristol Rovers