Familiar stories, no urgency, lessons required and sparse positives – talking points from Doncaster Rovers’ defeat to Hull City

Doncaster Rovers slumped to a disappointing and frustrating 2-1 defeat to Hull City and former boss Grant McCann on Wednesday night.

By Liam Hoden
Thursday, 3rd December 2020, 4:30 pm
Updated Thursday, 3rd December 2020, 9:06 pm

Here we look at some of the main talking points from the game.

FINE MARGINS

The same old, same old.

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Joe Lumley punches the ball clear. Picture: Andrew Roe/AHPIX

On a night when they were far from their best, Rovers could easily have left the KCOM Stadium with something to show from their efforts.

But the slightest of mistakes proved costly and ensured they departed empty handed.

It was a soft free kick, bought by former Rovers loanee Mallik Wilks, that led to the hosts’ opening goal. And there will be some questions about the organisation of players attempting to block Josh Magennis’ path to goal when he received the lay-off.

But the most costly of mistakes came with the winning goal.

Cameron John cuts back away from Hakeeb Adelakun. Picture: Andrew Roe/AHPIX

Rovers perhaps got a little too excited when Tyreece John-Jules fired in an equaliser nine minutes from time after Josh Sims’ superb run and ball into the box. Instead of steadying themselves, they seemed determined to go for the winner, leaving themselves vulnerable.

And a brief lapse in concentration from goalkeeper Joe Lumley ultimately did for them.

He seemed to have claimed a shot from distance but lost hold of the ball momentarily, allowing Tom Eaves in to strike the winner.

It was a shame for Lumley, who had helped keep Hull within reach with fine saves from the likes of Wilks and Magennis, and even kept the score at 2-1 after Rovers went behind.

Tyreece John-Jules slots in the equaliser for Rovers. Picture: Andrew Roe/AHPIX

But it was ultimately one lapse in concentration proved incredibly costly for Rovers – a familiar refrain.

NO URGENCY, NO DIRECTION, NO IDEAS

Defeat against the league leaders is not the end of the world - however used to prevailing in such tests Rovers have become.

It might not have been the crispest, most aesthetically-pleasing performance from an opposition team that Rovers have witnessed so far this season but there was a strength and might about Hull to back up their status as current kings of the mountain.

The disappointing factor was Rovers’ overall inability to trouble Hull for so much of a 90 minute period that felt more like a slog than a tête-à-tête between equals.

Having pulled the strings in the vast majority of games against top sides this season, their failure to establish any form of control will go down as one of the biggest disappointments of the campaign so far.

It started well enough, with Rovers calmly and patiently keeping the ball deep and gentling probing for opportunities to push forward.

But after falling behind, they frustratingly lacked the ability to step up a gear and really take the game to the hosts.

Hull were happy to sit off Rovers and deny them space in the opposition half rather than press high up the pitch. And it denied the centre halves options to hit.

When feeling spurred in action, passes became rushed and wayward, often being cut out or finding touch rather than the target.

There was improvement after the break but not of the levels we have seen in more recent games when they have been able to pull themselves back into contests.

John-Jules’ equaliser felt fortunate, as though Rovers taking a point away would have been unjust.

CLASS IN SESSION

It appeared initially to be a minor inconvenience but now it seems to have been much more significant.

‘We keep working’ is a mantra for Darren Moore between matches. Not hard running at Cantley Park but detailed, meticulous planning and fine-tuning for the sort of challenges Rovers will come up against every few days.

A man who consistently tells us that he is not satisfied with where his team are at craves even the smallest opportunity to try to make them better.

So his brush with a confirmed case of Covid-19 that led to a fortnight of self-isolation could not have been more frustrating for the Rovers boss - particularly as it denied him a clear ten day period for work as it fell during an international break.

And, with each passing game, that unfortunate turn of events looks more impactful.

Barring the comfortable win over FC United on Manchester, Rovers have not shown a strong tactical grip on the majority of any game since beating Lincoln City on October 31.

They have not shown the sort of dominance that characterised the early few weeks of the season since sweeping aside Ipswich Town on October 20.

They look in desperate need of some time in the classroom with Professor Moore.

Instead, their time at Cantley Park is as limited as it gets due to the relentless nature of the fixture list - something which has had an inevitable physical toll alongside the mental strain.

Fortunately for Rovers and Moore, there is a blank midweek ahead, with just the matter of a third game in six days to take care of first.

It is a chance for the lessons to begin again, the tactical tweaks and refreshers to be implemented. And a chance to get Rovers back on track.

THE POSITIVES

The biggest plus point on the night from a Rovers perspective was the impact of John-Jules off the bench.

He offered a much needed injection of energy, pace and quality of touch to Rovers’ play in the opposition half and helped them fight their way into the game after the break.

And it was great to see him grabbing a goal and showing the sort of ruthlessness in the box that Rovers have lacked at times.

Fitness permitting, the Arsenal loanee cannot be too far away from starting a game.

There was also plenty to be said of a defensive unit that kept Hull at bay for long periods and ensured pressure from the hosts was not overwhelming.

The centre halves stood as strong as has become expected of them. And Brad Halliday was handed the task of shackling Wilks, which he did well for long periods.

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