Match Analysis & Reaction: Doncaster Rovers 2 Stalybridge Celtic 0

James Coppinger leads out Doncaster Rovers on his record breaking appearance
James Coppinger leads out Doncaster Rovers on his record breaking appearance

“It’s just about getting through Saturday and hopefully getting a good draw - that’s all we’re looking for.”

Had he been hoping for much more from Doncaster Rovers’ FA Cup clash with Stalybridge Celtic then boss Darren Ferguson might have been left a disappointed man on Saturday night.

Doncaster's new signing Felipe Mattioni

Doncaster's new signing Felipe Mattioni

Ultimately it was job done for Ferguson and co as Rovers grabbed a routine win over the battling non-league outfit, even if it was a labourious task at times.

A brace from Andy Williams was enough to put the National League North side to bed in a rather dour affair at the Keepmoat.

Rovers were thoroughly professional, never dropping their effort levels against inferior opposition and never thinking that the job was done.

But the performance emphasised there is still plenty to be done to turn this squad into a cohesive unit capable of reaching the heights expected of them this season.

Andy Williams volleys in his second for Rovers

Andy Williams volleys in his second for Rovers

Perhaps fittingly, Saturday’s game will not go into the history books as a cup classic but rather as a landmark day in the club’s history.

James Coppinger surpassed Colin Douglas’ record of all-time appearances for the club - an achievement that cannot be overstated in the modern era of football.

It was a shame Coppinger’s incredible milestone did not come in a more high-profile contest. But it did allow him to take centre stage on the day, and few could begrudge him that.

He was honoured with a pre-match presentation and celebrated with an applause on 26 minutes, chosen for his long held shirt number. It will take a special player to claim that number when Coppinger eventually calls it a day.

Doncaster's Conor Grant skips past the tackle from Stalybridge's Aaron Chalmers

Doncaster's Conor Grant skips past the tackle from Stalybridge's Aaron Chalmers

On the pitch, there was no starring role for the man of the hour. He was solid enough in a developing midfield five but there was little to be exhilerated about and no fairytale goal.

The man taking the headlines from the standalone game was two goal Williams, who took his tally to six for the season and three in his last two games.

The first three months at Rovers for Williams have been a slog to say the least but he is beginning to look like the striker the club thought they had signed.

His first was a lovely first time strike, slotting the ball confidently into the bottom corner from just inside the area. And his second was down to sheer persistence and no hesitation at smashing home.

Earlier in the season Williams bore too much responsibility for running and crafting his own opportunities when it was clear he needed quality service more than anything else.

Under Ferguson, with a tight, creative midfield and plenty of energy on the flanks, Williams is much more free to operate in and around his 18 yard box hunting ground.

Rovers have yet to settle into the new 3-5-2 system Ferguson has recently implemented but there are signs it could bring the best out of them.

Debutant Felipe Mattioni - who was the only addition to the side that beat Colchester United a week earlier, in place of the injured Cameron Stewart - looks to be the marauding wing back Rovers have been craving for a good while.

The defensive side of the Brazilian’s game needs a good deal of work but he is an exciting player going forward.

The most exciting element of Rovers’ new system is the three central midfelders, all of which appear to have been freed to create and cause the opposition problems.

Harry Middleton looked as confident as ever on Saturday, sitting deeper but pulling the strings well and allowing Coppinger and Conor Grant time and space in which to operate.

It is a work in progress but the central three look to be key to Rovers’ future fortunes.

Another major positive was the return to action of Keshi Anderson who came off the bench in the second half. His first act was a surging run past a host of challenges into the box before being blocked off for a half-hearted penalty shout. It was an indication of what Rovers had been missing in the three previous matches.

It could have been a different game had Rovers not taken the lead after three minutes when Nathan Tyson surged past Wylie and cut back from the byline with Williams finding the bottom corner from 15 yards.

The goal gave Rovers a level of comfort and ensured calm as they struggled to break down a game and determined Stalybridge side.

Possession was conceded cheaply ensuring Rovers could never take a real stranglehold on the match until late on when Celtic’s energy levels had waned and the hosts had established a two goal cushion.

Celtic keeper Tony McMillan produced good saves to keep out Grant and Mattioni through the 90 minutes but real chances were few and far between until the game was effectively put to bed with the second goal on 68 minutes.

It came after Stalybridge could easily have equalised. Powerful centre half Jack Higgins looped a header towards the top corner only for Thorsten Stuckmann to keep it out with his fingertips.

And moments later at the other end, from Grant’s corner the ball was tossed around, Oliver Crowley missed his clearance and Williams pounced to volley in on the angle from close range.

The job was done and Rovers probably should have added to their tally with Anderson causing problems.

Next comes Monday night’s cup draw. Ferguson is hoping for a good one.

“I don’t want Salford away,” he said with a wry smile. “There’s some serious blokes up there.”

Rovers: Stuckmann 6, Lund 6, Butler 6, Taylor-Sinclair 6, Felipe 6, Coppinger 6 (Wellens 87), Middleton 7, Grant 7, Evina 7, Tyson 6 (Anderson 57 6), Williams 7. Subs not used: Marosi, McCullough, Forrester, Whitehouse, Main.

Stalybridge: McMillan 7, Wylie 5, Hughes 7, Higgins 7, Crowley 5, Farrell 6, Dixon 6, Chalmers 6, Wisdom 6 (Chippendale 67 6), Tames 5 (Wright 55 6), Johnson 5 (Simm 67 6). Subs not used: Osei, Hibbert, McKenna, Lingouba.

Referee: Martin Coy

Attendance: 3,991