Things we learned this week: Why winning ugly is extra satisfying, a lesson ahead of summer recruitment and Alfie Beestin looks more and more like the heir to James Coppinger’s throne

Mathieu Baudry
Mathieu Baudry

The joy - and sheer relief - when John Marquis’s thunderbolt header hit the back of the net was palpable.

As it was at the final whistle.

Rovers’ 2-0 win over Bradford City was undoubtedly a victory of huge significance in the context of the season as a whole and also what has become a strangely stop-start month.

Defeat on Monday night would have almost certainly dumped Doncaster - who do not play again until Good Friday - into the midst of a relegation battle.

A draw would have done little to ease the sense of nervousness and anxiety created by the memories of two years ago.

But victory, although not enough to guarantee safety, clearly lifted a significant weight off everyone’s shoulders by moving Rovers onto 46 points with nine games still to play.

Survival is now within touching distance. Rovers are looking up and not down.

Here is what we learned this week.

NOT PRETTY, BUT PRETTY EFFECTIVE

Kudos to the wit in the Bradford end who started the chant ‘If you’re watching on the telly, turn it off’.

For 70 minutes, quite frankly, it was a dreadful watch.

But who cares?

Rovers found a way to earn three precious points without being anywhere near their best, and sometimes that can be even more satisfying than a perfect performance.

I, for one, am enjoying watching this Rovers team roll their sleeves up and do it the ugly way.

In the past I have worried about them being ‘too nice’. It’s great to see them digging in and showing another side to their game.

FLEXIBLE FERGIE

At times this season Darren Ferguson’s flexible approach with respect to formations has been thrown back in his face by frustrated fans.

But, with Monday’s game seemingly drifting towards a goalless stalemate, it showed its true value and the manager deserved plenty of credit for making the right calls at the right time.

He switched from a diamond to flat 4-4-2 and the extra width that gave Rovers helped them get their noses in front.

His introduction of Alfie Beestin also swung the pendulum in the home side’s favour.

‘BECKHAM-ESQUE’

John Marquis quite rightly took the plaudits for his excellent brace, reward for another tireless display.

But the ball in from Niall Mason for the first goal was a thing of beauty.

His Beckham-esque delivery from the right just begged for someone to get on the end of it and Marquis did just that.

With that in his locker, Mason can lay claim to a more permanent role at right back next season - something he would’ve done this season were it not for Danny Andrew’s unfortunate injury.

COMPETITION THE KEY?

Rovers have now kept three clean sheets in four games since the Walsall debacle and the only two goals they have conceded came in stoppage time at the New York Stadium.

Joe Wright and Mathieu Baudry have teamed up at centre back and performed admirably - perhaps aware that their places will soon be under threat from Andy Butler and Andy Boyle.

Rovers’ newfound defensive nous has coincided with the extra competition for places at the back and therein lies a valuable lesson when planning for next season - make sure there are at least FOUR senior, out-and-out centre backs on the books.

BEESTIN IS THE REAL DEAL

Again, lots of the chat in the press room afterwards with Ferguson focused on Beestin.

And it’s becoming quite amusing how he almost has to rein himself in and not big him up too much.

Rovers’ boss quite clearly thinks he has a serious prospect on his hands but does not want to put too much pressure on the 20-year-old.

During his half hour cameo against the Bantams, Beestin’s confident and composed performance suggested yet again that Ferguson may have unearthed the heir to James Coppinger’s throne. He wants the ball and protects it with a genuine elegance.

Indeed, the way Coppinger and Beestin combined to tee up Marquis for his second was delightful to watch.

Tellingly Ferguson spoke about the way the youngster has been accepted by his peers. His ability speaks volumes.