Charlton Athletic 0 Doncaster Rovers 2: A lack of tempo but McCann’s men stroll into FA Cup third round – analysis

Andy Butler
Andy Butler

What a difference a month makes.

At the start of November Rovers turned in arguably their worst performance of the season in a flat and lifeless defeat to Charlton Athletic.

A month later, they eased to victory at The Valley to reach the third round of the FA Cup for the fifth time in six years.

The goals and ruthlessness that were missing a month ago were present, even if the performance itself was nothing to get too excited about.

Andy Butler and John Marquis both headed home in the second half to give Rovers a deserved triumph over a much-changed Charlton side that hardly seemed too disappointed about their fate.

Rovers had controlled much of the play and spent long periods camped in the home side's half, with the Addicks threatening only sporadically in front of a sparse crowd.

What Rovers did lack was their usual tempo and zippy play that would have likely seen them enjoy a much more comfortable afternoon had it been present.

But ultimately what they did was enough to move into the third round, where the big boys play.

ALWAYS DEMANDING

Grant McCann demonstrated after the game that mediocrity will never be enough for him - even if it happens to deliver the desired result.

Listening to the two managers speak after the game, Charlton boss Lee Bowyer appeared much the more pleased with how things had played out.

His team selection - with ten changes from their previous league game and nine from the clash with Rovers a month prior - suggested where the cup may lie in his priorities.

While McCann made it clear that the league is 100 per cent his top priority this season, he will not accept anything less than the best from his side in whatever competition they happen to play in.

The first word he used to describe the performance was disappointing.

Rovers did not play the ball with their usual energy and desire to get forward quickly. Players dallied in possession and passes into the final third were disappointing.

It meant that while Rovers were in control, they failed to give the Charlton side as torrid time as they should have.

And even though they won the game, McCann was not happy.

There may be some excuses for the lacklustre performance.

Charlton's weakened selection may have had a psychological effect while a crowd of less than 4,000 made for a very odd atmosphere which hardly got the pulses racing.

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This game truly ignited in the later stages, after Rovers had taken the lead.

Herbie Kane smashed a brilliant first time shot to sting the palms of Charlton keeper Dillon Phillips in the best effort of the first half.

But when Butler powered a header from a Danny Andrew corner which kicked off the floor and deflected in off Mark Marshall's chest on 66 minutes, there did not seem any doubt on the result.

Certainly so 11 minutes later when Butler rose to loop a header from a deep Andrew free kick towards the far post where Marquis made sure it crossed the line for his third goal in four matches.

After so much attention on Rovers' defending from set pieces, it was good to see them capitalising on dead ball deliveries at the other end of the pitch.

In the period which followed Rovers could and arguably should have widened the margin with substitutes Mallik Wilks, Ali Crawford and Paul Taylor all seeing chances saved by Phillips.

And Charlton finally came to life with Toby Stevenson somehow heading over the bar from six yards while Ian Lawlor produced a brilliant one handed save on his line after substitute Brendan Sarpong-Wiredu powered a header on goal.

It was a frantic finish the game itself did not really deserve and gave McCann more reason to be critical after Rovers almost let a Charlton side back into match they had no business being in at that stage.

NO MAGIC HERE

Rovers may have been on the wrong end of the FA Cup magic in the first round - the initial game with Chorley at least - but there was very little of it sprinkled on The Valley on Saturday afternoon.

A paltry crowd in a ground - much of which was closed - made for an awkward atmosphere, akin to that of a reserve team fixture.

A plethora of changes for the hosts and a repeat of a fixture from only a month prior are likely reasons why punters may have been discouraged.

But, whatever the causes, it does little to argue against the continued decline of a once proud competition.