Notts County 4 Doncaster Rovers 2 – Checkatrade Trophy exit for Grant McCann’s side

Notts County v Doncaster Rovers
Notts County v Doncaster Rovers

Defensive frailty reared its head again as Doncaster Rovers were dumped out of Checkatrade Trophy in ignominious fashion in a 4-2 defeat at managerless Notts County.

A hat trick from Kristian Dennis and a Enzio Boldewijn set County on their way to the knockout stages with a brace from Alfie May offering only the mere hint of an unlikely comeback.

Rovers' defensive efforts have come under an intense spotlight in recent weeks but never more deservedly so than on Wednesday night at Meadow Lane.

In a tie in which they had the luxury of even a one goal defeat not eliminating them from the competition, Rovers contrived to give themselves a mountain to climb by half time.

The defending for all three of Notts County's first half goals was woeful. Lacking concentration, energy or alertness, Rovers were scythed apart with eyebrow-raising ease.

And they were done so by a side that surely harbour greater concerns, just 24 hours after dismissing their second manager of the campaign due to an unacceptably poor campaign in League Two.

Plenty of work is being done at Cantley Park to strengthen the defensive frailty. But, several weeks after the issue began, we are yet to see where that work is paying off.

The holes at the back are intensifying the spotlight on the front line.

Again, chances were created. Good chances, some of which should definitely have been taken.

But it seems unfair to overly criticise a vibrant, youthful front line when they lacked the support they needed behind them.

Grant McCann made eight changes from the side that drew 2-2 at Chorley in the FA Cup. Different players, same problems.

New signing Shaun Cummings made two important early blocks to keep out Notts County but there was no such close attention as the hosts took the lead.

Failing to clear a corner allowed the ball to drop to Dennis at the third attempt and he nodded past Ian Lawlor from close range.

Rovers threatened well, with the superb crossing of Danny Amos causing all sorts of problems for the County backline but there was no finish to match,

Amos himself hit the bar with a first time shot after May flicked on a corner while May was denied by Fitzsimons after racing through.

County doubled their advantage with a truly awful goal from a Rovers perspective.

Tom Anderson was caught out by a quick ball forward which Dennis collected and immediately played into the middle where Boldewijn was completely unmarked to turn in first time.

Ali Crawford skewed a header from six yards out after a fine ball in from Cummings.

And the chance was immediately rued as County added a third.

A Rob Milsom free kick was cleared out, but only as far as the midfielder, who sent the ball back in where Dennis rose unmarked to head through the hands of Lawlor.

Desperate times called for desperate measures and that involved McCann introducing two players he would probably have preferred to sit out the evening.

On came Mallik Wilks and Niall Mason with Cummings and Jermaine Anderson making way.

And five minutes into the second half Rovers had their lifeline, when ruthlessness in front of goal was finally discovered.

Bringing down Amos' deep cross with one touch, May smashed the ball into the far corner with his second.

Mason and May both put efforts wide as Rovers pushed, buoyed by the goal.

But the excitement for a potential comeback did not last long as County were awarded a penalty.

Tom Anderson bundled into Richard Duffy when defending a corner and Dennis stepped up to send Lawlor the wrong way from the spot and restore the hosts' three goal advantage.

It would last just seven minutes as Rovers found another lifeline.

Wilks crafted space on the left and delivered a fine cross into the middle where May nipped in to power a header home.

Relishing his chance to be the hero, Wilks was fired up for the occasion and almost pulled another goal back after a brilliant run from his own half was concluded with a fierce shot from the edge of the area which Fitzsimons saved well.

May twice went close to grabbing the goal that Rovers needed late in the game but their fate was sealed.

Notts County: Fitzsimons; Hawkridge, Duffy, Brisley, Jones; Patching (Crawford 74), Hewitt, Milsom (Evina), Thomas, Boldewijn (Kellett 64), Dennis. Subs: Pindroch, Vaughan, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Dunn.

Rovers: Lawlor; Cummings (Mason 46), T Anderson, Blaney, Amos; Blair, J Anderson (Wilks 46), Crawford; Beestin, May, Longbottom. Subs: Jones, Andrew, Prior, Ben Khemis, Morris.

Referee: Andy Haines

Attendance: 915 (193 away)