Doncaster Rovers: What we learned this week - stats special

James Coppinger
James Coppinger

For so long it looked like being oh so good but then the end brought disaster.

A day to remember quickly became one to forget as Rovers suffered derby day disappointment at Rotherham United.

Here are the talking points we’ve picked up over the last week.

LIES, DAMNED LIES AND STATISTICS

There are so many apparent trends with this Doncaster Rovers team that keep cropping up.

And a few of them did in Saturday’s heartbreaking defeat.

So I took a look at a few numbers to see just how damaging these trends are to Rovers’ fortunes.

The big one this season has been the amount of goals conceded late on in games.

Rotherham netted twice in added time on Saturday, taking the total number of goals conceded post-90 minutes to seven, which equates to 13 per cent of all goals shipped.

Moving the clock back slightly, and Rovers have conceded 13 times after the 80 minute mark, which is 25 per cent of goals conceded.

On the flip side, Rovers have netted ten goals beyond 80 minutes – 16 per cent of the goals netted in all competitions this term.

Then there is the number of points dropped from winning positions.

Had Rovers gone on to win every game in which they led at one time, they would have 19 more points on the board, which would be enough to sit them inside the top six.

From winning positions, Rovers have lost on three occasions – including Saturday – and drawn five.

On the other hand, they have earned ten points after falling behind in games – fighting back for two victories and four draws.

Without those ten points they would be in the bottom four and with plenty of ground to make up.

Certainly since the turn of the year, it cannot be argued that conceding goals from set pieces has not been an issue.

And Rotherham’s 93rd minute equaliser at the weekend came from a free kick.

Looking back over the last two months, nine of the 18 goals conceded in all competitions have come from set pieces or in the phase of play immediately after.

And the first five goals of the year came from set pieces.

Though statistics increasingly drive the topics of conversation around football, they don’t always tell the full story.

It is perhaps coincidence that Rovers’ major vulnerabilities are easily quantified, rather than say goals conceded when the defence drops too deep.

It is clear however just where the improvement needs to come.

A COPPINGER DILEMMA

Continuing on the stats theme, I received a lot of correspondence on social media slating Ferguson for substituting James Coppinger.

Ferguson explained afterwards – unprompted I might add – that Coppinger had been cramping up.

The issue of many of the complainants was that when Coppinger is brought off, Rovers concede.

So, I took a look.

Coppinger has been subbed off 15 times so far this season.

And in six of those matches, Rovers have conceded after he has left the field – a total of seven goals.

When Coppinger has been brought off, Rovers have conceded at least one goal on 40 per cent of those occasions.

I must admit, I’m not entirely sure whether or not there is direct correlation in that.

The fact is, as we’ve all said many times, Coppinger isn’t getting any younger.

And while supremely fit at 37, he cannot last 90 minutes week in, week out like he used to.

Tendonitis has affected him over the last few years and it is only through careful management of his game time that he can continue playing as much as he does.

In short, he is going to be brought off in plenty of games.

With Coppinger off the pitch, Rovers undoubtedly lose their most composed player on the ball.

His close control is frighteningly good and ensured he was the only player on the pitch on Saturday who could buy himself a moment’s peace on the ball.

But this conceding stat arguably points more to Rovers’ vulnerability late in games than the absence of their skipper.

CAPABLE OF DOING UGLY STUFF

The final outcome may not have been something any one could stomach – particularly with the circumstances.

But there was plenty of positives to take from Rovers’ performance at Rotherham.

It won’t have won any prizes for aesthetics but the approach worked for the best part of 92 minutes.

Trying to play their normal game against the flying Millers would likely have seen Rovers overwhelmed with the hosts’ relentless approach.

Ferguson knew that so he adapted, foregoing his own strong footballing principles in the process.

Picking up where they left off against Fleetwood the week before, defenders were simply instructed to get rid of the ball as quickly as possible and get it away from danger.

And midfielders looked to get the ball into the channels for John Marquis and Alex Kiwomya to chase, particularly up against Richard Wood.

While it ultimately did not bring the right result, it did show Rovers are more than capable of mixing it up.

Given there are still points required, suggesting they can be picked up by any means necessary is no bad thing.