Cool and composed Doncaster Rovers pass another test at Walsall

Mallik Wilks
Mallik Wilks

Think of a test you would like Doncaster Rovers to pass and there is a good chance they will do it.

After demonstrating the full extent of their steel and resolve in victory over Luton Town last week, Rovers answered another big question as they comprehensively swept aside Walsall 4-1 at the Banks’ Stadium.

On this occasion they were tested on their collective ability to keep their composure and cool in a red hot atmosphere where the home support were baying for blood.

Spurred on by perceived injustice at the hands of referee Antony Coggins, the Walsall faithful rarely stopped booing and jeering for much of the game. And more often than not they took their frustrations out on Rovers’ players.

What is demonstrated was how successful Rovers were against a side that was previously unbeaten this season.

Walsall had forgotten how to lose and neither their players – who looked more than a little rattled at times – or their disgruntled supporters did not handle well the growing sense they were about to taste their first defeat of the campaign.

Rovers could easily have been caught up in a niggly and ill-tempered affair which could easily have gone against them. But calmer heads prevailed and it helped ease them to what boss Grant McCann labelled ‘a statement win.’

It could not have gone much better for Rovers, even after falling behind to Morgan Ferrier’s close range header despite starting the game superbly.

They rode out pressure after the goal before surging clear in a second half of control.

THREE GEMS AND A PENALTY

Another strong attacking performance from Rovers was rewarded with three goals of the highest quality.

Their scoring for the afternoon was kicked off in more low key fashion with John Marquis slamming in a penalty – demonstrating superb composure after missing from the spot in the Carabao Cup clash with Scunthorpe – following an inexplicable handball from Luke Leahy.

The penalty on 34 minutes gave Rovers a platform for the second half and they took it.

First, Ben Whiteman played through a sublime ball onto which Mallik Wilks ran and powered in a shot from just inside the box with which Walsall keeper Liam Roberts had no chance.

Wilks has one thing on his mind when running with the ball. But after surging from inside his own half to deep into Walsall territory he opted to flick a pass to the supporting James Coppinger who clipped a shot over Roberts and in off the bar – in the style of Thierry Henry as the veteran claimed after the game.

And there was time for one more as the game ticked into added minutes. Substitute Alfie May galloped down the left and cut a pass across the box where Matty Blair took a touch and smashed into the near top corner.

COMPOSED BUT RELISHING IT

Not only did Rovers demonstrate cool heads in the heated atmosphere in the West Midlands, they seemed to thrive upon it.

Some individually certainly did. Namely Marquis and Wilks.

The attacking pair clearly love a wind-up act, with Wilks in particularly enjoying drawing a reaction out of opposition supporters.

It was no mere coincidence that Wilks delivered his most threatening performance for several weeks in such an environment.

Give him something to battle against and the on-loan Leeds forward is a decent bet for coming out on top.

And he showed maturity with his assist for Coppinger when probably almost all watching expected him to shoot after running 50 yards with the ball at his feet.

This is the Mallik Wilks we want to see. Even if opposition supporters do not.

WHEN ROVERS SCORE MORE

On the five occasions this season Rovers have scored more than one goal in a game, they have won.

If Rovers score twice or more, they win. Simple as that.

A defence which many were expecting to be vulnerable due to McCann’s desire to get plenty of men up the pitch has responded with a superbly resolute start to the season.

If the goals can consistently flow in twos – or preferably threes – Rovers could really be onto a winner.