Gary McSheffrey on performance benchmark, a direct approach and whether Doncaster Rovers are capable of replicating high energy game to game

Gary McSheffrey believes Doncaster Rovers’ form will turn if they set Saturday’s performance against Wigan Athletic as the benchmark for the rest of the season.

Tuesday, 18th January 2022, 2:11 pm
Joe Dodoo came in for criticism and praise from Rovers boss Gary McSheffrey
Joe Dodoo came in for criticism and praise from Rovers boss Gary McSheffrey

Rovers were much improved against the Latics, particularly in their effort levels and they pushed the promotion-chasers hard in the 2-1 defeat.

While the scoreline was not what was hoped for at the weekend, McSheffrey believes better results will come if they match their efforts as a bare minimum.

“I’ve said to the lads that Saturday was the benchmark,” he said.“When they see their individual and team stats, that is the benchmark for your workrate.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

“That was the benchmark for Joe Dodoo because Wigan didn’t really have a free header. It’s been far too often where Joe’s physical assets he’s not used them to his advantage.

“On Saturday he did.

“It meant that we were getting on second balls 40 yards from goal and sustaining a bit of pressure.

“That was the benchmark for Joe and it was the benchmark for the workrate of the team.

“I said if they do that, eventually with a bit of quality added and a bit of luck, our luck will change and we’ll start to get some rewards.”

McSheffrey has put greater focus into individual players’ physical output during training and matches, with close monitoring of running distances.

It brought a greater workrate against Wigan that helped them disrupt the opposition and lead to more play in the final third.

Heading to Cambridge United on Tuesday night, McSheffrey admits he is still concerned over the squad’s ability to replicate such physical energy across two games in quick succession.

“Physicality-wise, I cannot be overconfident that they can do it because we have players breaking down because they’ve not played to those levels before and they’re out of their comfort zones,” he said.

“It’s introducing them to the levels required and how robust the individuals are from that, time will tell.

“They are the bare minimum standards required in every game. Their bodies are going to have to get used to putting a shift in for every game because that’s what other teams are doing.

“Time will tell but I’d like to think professional footballers’ bodies are robust enough to deal with the load of games that are coming up.”

Rovers’ approach against Wigan was more direct, with balls played into lone striker Dodoo and other attacking players feeding off second balls.

McSheffrey had wished to prevent Rovers from becoming bogged down in midfield, which he believes has been a weakness of the side this season.

He hopes to evolve the style over time, with new additions this month, but says he currently must focus on the best approach for the players he has available.

“It will have to evolve,” he said. “We still want to move the ball quickly. Ball speed is key.

“Among the security, the safety and the no-risk, you still want players to put their foot on the ball and calm things down at times and find passes.

“That comes from people wanting the ball in areas.

“It’s always going to adapt and you also have to play with the players that we’ve got.

“The strikers for example, eventually get to a point where there’s no runs in behind. We have strikers who come to feet and come to the ball and it’s changing the runs of certain players and getting the wingers in who will run in behind.

“For us to set up that way, we haven’t got the players at the moment.

“We might have the midfielders to do it but you get to a certain point and there’s no runs in behind or end product, and you’re just going to get counterattacked all day.

“You have to play the hand you’re dealt and that’s what we’re doing at the moment.

“In the future we will adapt, we will mix things up and we will play a different way. I think you have to mix up every game and not play the same in every one.

“When we get the players we need we will mix it up.

“At the minute we have to play to the strengths of what we’ve got.”

*

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.