Doncaster Rovers: ‘Going long’ suggestions are no slight on Fergie

Andy Williams and Aaron Taylor-Sinclair
Andy Williams and Aaron Taylor-Sinclair

Whisper it quietly – Rovers sometimes like to go long.

But that is not a slight against Darren Ferguson’s tactical approach. Far from it.

After his first game in charge – the away win at Shrewsbury – I suggested to Ferguson had mixed up their approach in each half, hitting the front early in the first period before building from midfield after the break.

He seemed slightly affronted that I was suggesting Rovers had gone ‘long ball.’ Playing long balls has earned a dirty reputation but it need not have.

When Rovers go long – as they have done to a certain degree in every game under Ferguson – there is no element of hit and hope to it.

It is not a lumbering centre half punting 50 or 60 yards, hoping to find a striker who will flick the ball on.

Rovers play intelligent long balls, looking to help Andy Williams and Nathan Tyson turn oppostion defenders.

It is an effective approach, one that helps them maintain their high intensity, high pressure approach.

Of course, they also play it on the floor, driven by the excellent form of Conor Grant.

In short, Rovers mix their approach really well and should be lauded for it. Don’t be offended Darren.

So, expect to see Andy Butler, Aaron Taylor-Sinclair and Craig Alcock lofting passes forward against struggling Crewe Alexandra on Saturday.

Rovers come into the game with superb momentum, in contrast to the opposition. Alex ended a run of three straight defeats – including a loss in the FA Cup to non-league Eastleigh – with a vital 1-0 win over fellow strugglers Oldham last time out.

Without a game last weekend due to their FA Cup exit, Crewe boss Steve Davies has had a fortnight in which to integrate loanees Ryan Lowe and Semi Ajayi into the side.

Young Cardiff City defender Ajayi and veteran Bury striker Ryan Lowe both made a big difference to Alex in their win over Oldham with a pair of composed performances.

Alex have struggled to string results together as they attempt to climb out of the bottom four. But they can include Sheffield United on the list of sides they have beaten this season.

Against the Blades in late October, Davies switched to a standard 4-4-2 for the first time in the campaign and has stuck with it since.

It seems highly likely he will deploy the same system at the Keepmoat on Saturday with Marcus Haber partnering Lowe in attack.