What we learned about Doncaster Rovers this week

Alex Kiwomya
Alex Kiwomya

It has hardly been the most promising week for Doncaster Rovers.

They earned a scantly deserved point against Charlton Athletic at the weekend and followed up with arguably their worst performance of the season in the thrashing at Walsall.

So where do they stand now and what have we learned this week?

IT’S NOT GOING TO BE AN EASY RIDE

Darren Ferguson called on his side to pick up the results this week which would ensure they could enjoy the last 12 games.

Instead they capitulated so horrendously at Walsall to such an extent it brought to the surface worries about the fragility of their standing in League One.

It was a performance and a result that hammered home just how much work is left for this side to do to get over the finishing line.

And it showed concerns are valid that this side still possesses questionable mental strength. They folded when they needed to stand up and be counted.

They can still turn it around of course, and a win over Fleetwood on Saturday will do just that.

They just need to make sure they do and avoid a dogfight they have no business being part of.

SMART THINKING NEEDED WITH ALEX

And I’m not talking about Darren Ferguson here.

We all want to see more of Kiwomya on the pitch and see how his pace can add a new dimension to Rovers’ play. Ferguson can be trusted to integrate him more when the time is right.

But Kiwomya’s team mates must make sure they use him in the right ways too.

On Saturday against Charlton, there were far too many hopeful balls over the top and into the channels for Kiwomya to run onto.

He is fast but he isn’t a miracle worker.

Kiwomya needs intelligent, incisive service if Rovers are going to get the best out of him.

What he doesn’t need is one of his team mates flinging passes over the top, leaving him to create all the magic himself.

That would be an easy trap in which to fall and one which Rovers must guard against.

COPPS DECISION WON’T BE SIMPLE

There was a time only a few weeks ago when James Coppinger’s future was not so clear.

In a post-game interview he expressed doubts over the continuation of his career for the first time.

But last week he insisted he wants to play on – and hopes to do so with Rovers.

It seems like it will be a straight-forward choice. Surely, Rovers will be drawing up the new contract right now.

But it might not be as simple as that.

Coppinger, rightly so, is among the higher earners at the club.

So it will leave Ferguson with a cold, hard dilemma. Is the money that will be spent on Coppinger’s wages the best use of his budget for next season?

He has shown multiple times this season that he is still of tremendous value to the club but this is a squad in the early stages of development.

Hopefully, Ferguson has the decision taken out of his hands and the higher-ups at Rovers find a spare pot of money to retain a fantastic ambassador for the club while giving the boss chance to add to his squad.

OH COME ON! IT’S BEYOND A JOKE

Do you know how frustrating it is to have to keep writing about set pieces?

Probably as difficult as it is for Rovers’ players to sit through another ear-bashing from the boss.

But you would think those ear-bashings would succeed in making sure players are at least on their toes when defending such scenarios.

This shouldn’t be a tactical issue – not when Rovers mark men from corners. Stick with your man, keep your timing right and stop him.

At least make it as hard as legally possible from him to score. Don’t make it so easy, as Tom Anderson did for Charlton’s Patrick Bauer.

Ferguson has suggested he may have to switch to zonal marking to combat the issue but it really ought to not be necessary.

And you do worry how a group of players who cannot carry out the most simple of marking jobs will cope with an all together more complicated system.

FULL BACKS ARE A MAJOR ISSUE

It was more evident against Charlton than Walsall but it has, in truth, overshadowed most of the season.

Rovers simply do not have enough genuine cover in the full back areas.

It is hard not to feel sorry for Niall Mason, the ultimate utility man who had never played at full back before arriving at the Keepmoat.

And for Matty Blair, whose raison d’être is hardly defending.

Most of all, you cannot help but have sympathy for Tommy Rowe.

The devastating injury to the impressive Danny Andrew did not help matters of course.

But the failure to bring in another left back in January has hampered Rovers. As has the failure to add a right back at the start of the campaign.

There are options, but the likes of Tyler Garratt need gradual development while Craig Alcock seems increasingly suited to a central role.

This is something which must be addressed in the summer, particularly the right back issue.