The Masterplan: Doncaster Rovers deliver another hit penned by Darren Moore - Analysis of the draw at Sunderland

If Darren Moore wants time to focus on football matches rather than the transfer window, let him get on with it.

Saturday, 25th January 2020, 12:14 pm
Updated Sunday, 26th January 2020, 2:37 pm
Tom Anderson challenges Sunderland's Lynden Gooch. Picture: Frank Reid

The man with a plan drew up another masterful blueprint to handle one of the division's top sides and watched with plenty of satisfaction as it was followed almost to the letter.

And there was plenty to be satisfied with as Rovers battled out a goalless draw with a Sunderland side that had been in rampant form in the build-up.

There were times when Rovers threatened to take away more than just a point from the Stadium of Light. There were times too when they would have gladly accepted the stalemate.

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What was constant was a superb workrate and excellent organisation that drove the wonderful defensive effort plus the opportunities for threat, particularly in a first half that will rank among Rovers' best this season.

It started with an eyebrow-raising team selection - even before contemplating the fact only six substitutes were named - with Reece James pushing up from full back and into the advanced midfield three.

While the squad may be light on number and feeling the effect of injuries to regulars like Kieran Sadlier, the shuffle around was not out of necessity, but out of a plan.

James had been working in that position on the training ground all week, and impressive in doing so, drawing cheeky comparisons with some of Europe's best.

He backed up the glowing references with an excellent performance, both pushing forward and offering the cover that Rovers needed.

He was not the only one.

To a man, Rovers performed. Commitment and determination were superb, bringing to mind Boxing Day's stunning win at Peterborough United.

The obvious element lacking was the goal to win the game. Rovers pushed forward with intent and in good number but clear cut opportunities were few and far between.

When they did come, there was an absence of the quality needed to make the rare chances count. Thoughts of the necessity of additions to the squad in January are never too far away.

But this was another outing that delivered tremendous reassurance about what Rovers already have - barring what would be disastrous further injuries.

Starting from a defensive line that grows in stature with each passing week, Rovers demonstrated excellent organisation, bolstered by real composure which ensured they were never flustered by whatever Sunderland threw at them.

In the first half it saw them close down space across the pitch before pushing forward themselves with real aggression but always with assurance and calm.

Rarely was possession wasted as they patiently pushed through midfield, or looked to release the pace in wide areas with lofted balls into the channels.

The triangle of Ben Sheaf, Ben Whiteman and Madger Gomes in the middle of the park were vital as they used the ball wisely to both relieve pressure and put Rovers on the front foot.

The pressure changed in the second half as Sunderland emerged with greater intensity and drive, with Rovers dropping deeper.

It became harder to stem the flow, with Sunderland enjoying the extra space in the Rovers half to try to craft opportunities.

But they met with a Rovers brick wall. The incomparable Tom Anderson relished his battle with the towering Charlie Wyke, who barely got a sniff all night, before totally nullifying substitute Kyle Lafferty.

And others mopped up too. Reflecting the true story of a second half which seemed to be one way traffic, Seny Dieng did not have a real save to make until the final 15 minutes and was only really tested late with a drive from Duncan Watmore.

Anything less than a point would have been unjust over the 90 minutes where Rovers demonstrated their smarts, their commitment and their ability.

And though he was keen to avoid personal praise in the aftermath, it came via a masterplan from the humble gaffer.

Hopefully we will see the delivery of another of his well worked plots this week - but off-the-pitch is where it is most needed now.