Liam Hoden: How will Doncaster Rovers respond from their most significant defeat yet?
It is fair to say last weekend’s performance against Oxford United was an anomaly as far as this season goes.
Rovers made uncharacteristic errors in areas where they have been particularly strong this term and struggled to get into their typically excellent passing rhythm in their own half.
Oxford deserve plenty of credit for the job they did in shutting Rovers down at the source – preventing them playing out from the back which then saw them creating attacks of their own high up the pitch.
It was not Rovers’ first defeat of the season but, certainly when it comes to a League One fixture, it could prove to be the most significant yet.
The losses to Blackpool and Portsmouth both came about with lapses very late in those matches, where costly moments of error decided those matches and offered Rovers very little time to recover.
This was different. This was the first time Darren Moore’s side have been comprehensively beaten over 90 minutes in the league.
A goal before half time, a goal straight after the break and another one to finish the job in the last quarter hour.
And it will be very interesting to see how they recover from this blow.
Both Portsmouth and Blackpool did a similarly good job as Oxford in looking to stifle Rovers but they still managed to look much the more threatening side.
That was not the case on Saturday at the Kassam Stadium when they were fully out-gunned by the opposition as well as frustrated on the tactical front.
Whether this has hurt the incredible confidence and composure in the Rovers side remains to be seen – and they will no doubt have tough questions to answer against a Bristol Rovers side flying currently, and one with a particularly mean defence to attempt to find the gaps in.
But everything we have seen so far would suggest they will shake themselves down and reset for Saturday.
The mistakes were easy enough to spot – defence too narrow to deal with opposition attacks on the wings, lack of support for full backs, not strong enough of a press on the Oxford midfield, too ponderous on the ball when playing out from the back.
And these issues will have been combed over with great attention in the ‘classroom’ at Cantley Park with meticulous Moore leading the lesson.
It might have been the first comprehensive defeat but Rovers cannot afford too many more if their confidence is to remain intact.