Hardly the statement of intent required as toothless Doncaster Rovers edge through in drab FA Cup tie

If the FA Cup is meant to deliver magic, it must have forgotten its scheduled drop off at Glanford Park.

Sunday, 7th November 2021, 9:49 am
Ethan Galbraith tussles with former Rovers youngster Alfie Beestin. Picture: Howard Roe/AHPIX

Its first round tie was a painfully poor display of football between two sides struggling in their respective divisions who carried their form into knockout competition.

Hardly what was hoped would be written about Doncaster Rovers, for whom the game held particular significance with discontent at their plight this season only growing.

Rovers triumphed 1-0 over neighbours Scunthorpe United courtesy of one the most emphatically-finished own goals you are ever likely to see.

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Joe Dodoo fires on goal. Picture: Howard Roe/AHPIX

Richie Wellens’ side should have won by a much greater margin against an opposition that looked every bit fitting of the status of the EFL’s bottom side.

And it was down to their own familiar shortcomings that they did not.

At the moment it appears it would take the intervention of the most powerful of wizards to provide the magic to get the Rovers front line firing.

This was a golden opportunity for the attacking department to build some much needed confidence and pick up the goals they are so desperate for.

Joseph Olowu was forced off injured against Scunthorpe. Picture: Howard Roe/AHPIX

But they produced only a fizzle rather than a spark, demonstrating a tremendous lack of ruthlessness which continues to hold Rovers back.

There were certainly enough chances for an emphatic victory. But the execution of those chances was not anywhere near sufficient, ensuring that while Scunthorpe keeper Rory Watson was busy, he did not endure anything too taxing.

A fatal combination of hesitancy, lack of concentration and poor quality meant they never put the game to bed and ensured the final few minutes played out with nerves rather than comfort.

Though he has plenty of problems on his plate to deal with before League One action resumes in little less than a fortnight, top of the agenda for Wellens must be sparking his attacking ranks into life.

A considerable problem is the fact no forward player is currently on form.

There is no problem with Jordy Hiwula’s creative play and he consistently looks to be Rovers’ most threatening option. But he has been severely lacking in front of goal, as he demonstrated yet again.

Joe Dodoo - who played through the middle - is perhaps the one who appears to be lacking in confidence the most. He latched onto a sublime through ball from John Bostock in the first half but had no conviction in getting his shot away. Dodoo is a striker who sees far too many shots blocked or crowded out.

And Tiago Cukur’s contributions come in fits and starts. The Watford loanee has a concerning trend of drifting out of matches and it is preventing him from enjoying the dominance and confidence in the box his strengths should command.

Cukur too missed a golden opportunity to add to the score when he met a superb cross with a free header but placed it straight at the keeper with very little power.

Much emphasis has been placed on what Jon Taylor and Fejiri Okenabirhie can bring to the side on their eventual returns from injury.

But both men will need the contributions of each of the current front three to be much greater if they are to be able to fully make their own threats count.

While the lack of attacking threat from Rovers was undoubtedly the defining factor in Saturday’s game, unfortunately it was not the only point of concern from Wellens’ men.

The disruption of another raft of injuries on the day must be acknowledged.

But the strength of that as an excuse is hardly great against an opposition that was ripe for the picking.

Rovers possessed enough quality in their ranks to stroll down the M180 and strut back having got the job done with little fuss.

But you would not have known that in a scrappy first half that ensured the game was much more evenly balanced than it ought to have been.

Again, as they did at Crewe in midweek, Rovers started far too slowly and needed almost a full 45 minutes to take any semblance of control.

They met a side that worked hard, rushed and harried in a bid to level the playing field and no doubt looked to impress new boss Keith Hill on his second day in the job.

And Rovers lacked the composure to deal with that until after the break, when they finally established their dominance of the ball.

Their position had been strengthened when Ryan Loft drilled high into his own net from a Rovers corner seven minutes from the break.

The impact of the injuries on the day was minimised by the performances of those who stepped into the positions of those that limped off - which was easily the most positive point of the day.

Tommy Rowe was a revelation at centre half when he moved across the back four to replace Joseph Olowu. He was unflappable in the role and operated with as calm a head as he would have in the heart of midfield.

Replacing Rowe at left back was Branden Horton who grasped a rare chance for game time with both hands and turned in an excellent performance packed with attacking verve.

Cukur, John Bostock and his replacement Aidan Barlow also limped off on another costly afternoon in health terms.

Midfielders Ethan Galbraith and Matt Smith came to the fore after the break, controlling the middle of the park to keep Rovers camped in the Scunthorpe half and on the front foot.

But that lack of a killer touch in the final third ensured the control was a lot more sterile than it ought to have been.

Bigger statements than this are needed from Rovers to build faith in their ability to survive their current plight.

And they could desperately do with even a sprinkling of magic.

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In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Liam Hoden, editor.